COP23: The Issue of Loss and Damage
Under the Fiji presidency of COP23 in Bonn, Germany, we have heard many stories of the devastation faced by the Pacific islands during Typhoon Haiyan, Cyclone Winston and Cyclone Pam. We have heard how Fiji is already having to relocate entire villages permanently because of sea level rise and coastal erosion, and that water sources are becoming contaminated.
Small island states are the ‘canaries’ of climate change. Canary birds were once taken into coal mine shafts to test the levels of poisonous gas – if they died then miners knew the conditions were lethal. People of nations vulnerable to climate change are now those canaries.
The Paris Agreement has enshrined three pillars for action to combat climate change:
- Mitigation: To reduce emissions to keep global temperatures well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels, but with the ambition to limit it to 1.5oC);
- Adaptation: To adapt to the impacts these rising temperatures will trigger – more severe and more frequent droughts, flooding, cyclones and hurricane
- Loss and Damage: The impacts that the world cannot mitigate or adapt to.
Loss and damage
After each cyclone, you can wait for a humanitarian response to help you rebuild your home, you can build your home with stronger materials and in safer ways, but as the cyclones strengthen and become more frequent and less predictable, major changes must be done for survival. People have to be relocated, livelihoods are changed completely and massive reconstruction needed. For the world’s most vulnerable countries, this is an enormous financial burden on their GDPs and is particularly unjust, as other nations have caused the climate change impacts they are facing.
The outcome of the Loss and Damage negotiations at COP23 is disappointing. The Warsaw International Mechanism’s (WIM) executive committee, tasked with taking forward the Loss and Damage outcomes from Paris, must deliver a technical paper on financial instruments for loss and damage, as part of its five-year work plan. However, there is no proposal for this paper to consider additional and innovative financial sources; it will only look at available finance. With June 2019 as the deadline for finalisation of this technical paper and no assurances on a process for raising finance for Loss and Damage, urgency and commitment do not match the severity of climate-driven disasters on the scale that is needed to address loss and damage.