Lima climate summit: Commitment to deal with ‘Loss and Damage’ weakens

Least Developed Countries and civil society organisations call for an explicit inclusion of ‘Loss and Damage’ in the climate agreement being drafted

By Arjuna Srinidhi
Published: Friday 12 December 2014


As climate negotiations in Lima head into the final 24 hours, several key issues remain unresolved, such as differentiation and the scope of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

It is still unclear whether and how adaptation and “Loss and Damage” (L&D) will find place in the final agreement. L&D, in particular, is at a real threat of being dropped from the main text of the draft agreement, but Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Development States (SIDS) and various civil society bodies are fighting hard to prevent it.

A group of experts on L&D, comprising of negotiators, government officials and NGOs, came together to discuss issues and challenges in including these points in the Paris agreement.

Pa Jarju Ousman, minister of environment of The Gambia, pointed out that of the 10 worst kinds of extreme weather events, eight occur in LDCs. These countries also experience slow onset disasters such as ground water salinity, increasing frequency of droughts and sea level rise. He emphasised that mitigation is closely linked with L&D because insufficient mitigation will raise the cost of adaptation and the need for L&D compensation.

In a hard-hitting message, Sabine Minninger of Germany-based aid organisation Bread for the World said adaptation and L&D are not one and the same. Forced migration, resettlement on small islands threatened by sea level rise, increasing frequency of cyclones in Bangladesh and forced displacement to urban slums in Dhaka are not cases of “adaptation”. She insisted that countries with means must share the risk and be prepared for a mechanism that includes compensation for the losses incurred.  

Koko Warner, a lead author of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, said the Warsaw Mechanism for L&D can get all technical work related to indicators, channels for fund allocation, monitoring and evaluation done. But for greater political motivation and a clear commitment to respond to loss L&D, it must be part of the main text of the draft agreement.

The provisions on L&D being discussed under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Actions (ADP) have seen little consensus between nations. In discussions during the first week, developed countries were of the view that L&D should not feature in the agreement. 

Australia and New Zealand said they couldn’t support an agreement that separates the issue of L&D from adaptation. The EU and the US also seemed to indicate a preference for this stance by asking for the option to drop any mention of L&D from the ADP text being negotiated.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), LDCs, Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) and the African Group all came together to demand that L&D should be an integral part of the 2015 agreement.

While countries continue to haggle over the exact placement of the text, appropriate wording and nuanced references, extreme weather events continue to batter the world. An unprecedented 24 typhoons hit the Philippines in 2013, including the devastating Haiyan that led to the death of thousands of people and an economic impact of over $3 billion.  

It is, therefore, imperative that Lima climate talks end with a strong and clear articulation of how L&D is going to be dealt with. As summarised by Minninger, the Paris agreement must ensure that no one is left behind.


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