Published 16/11/16   5:32 pm

Loss and Damage at COP22 – how do we top Paris?

After progress on climate finance and loss and damage at Paris, we must ensure that we make the right steps forward in Marrakech.

Julie-Anne Richards, who has been following the international climate negotiations for the past decade, writes from COP22 in this guest blog.


A quick background – loss and damage is a term for the worst impacts of climate change that typically hit the most vulnerable people. It’s when climate change goes beyond what it is possible to adapt to. If an increase in cyclones has devastated your region, it’s not possible to adapt to that. If droughts have become so frequent, and rainfall so hard to predict that you can’t grow crops anymore, it’s not possible to adapt to. If the land that you and your family have owned for generations is inundated by sea level rise, you can’t adapt to that either, you have to move. These, and numerous other impacts, are examples of loss and damage.

Wins from COP21 Paris

It took a long time for rich countries to agree to the existence of loss and damage. They kept wanting to bundle loss and damage (and the finance that it will need) in with adaptation. But at Paris, due to the effective advocacy of the countries on the frontline of climate change, including Bangladesh, Tuvalu, Maldives, Gambia and the Philippines, great diplomatic steps forward were made. Specifically, loss and damage was acknowledged as a stand-alone element, separate from adaptation in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The second big win from Paris was recognition that loss and damage would need “support” (aka finance) from the international community. The real reason that we had been fighting over loss and damage for so long, was that rich countries didn’t want to pay for the climate damage from their carbon footprint – so this is a big deal.

The third win is that the Paris Climate Agreement enshrined the WIM (Warsaw International Mechanism) as *the* UN body that deals with loss and damage. The WIM has listed finance as their number one item. This is great because it needs to be their number one priority. However, though they recognise the importance of financing loss and damage, they have not yet agreed exactly what work needs to be done next. Given how urgent the need for loss and damage finance is – they need to be moving far more quickly.

What we need from COP22 Marrakech

At COP22 countries have to agree a much clearer plan for the next year – one that will make significant steps forward on finance for loss and damage:

To start with we need a definition for what loss and damage finance is. The WIM and the top finance body of the UNFCCC, the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), need to work together to agree a definition that does not in any way undermine adaptation finance. Both are essential – but they are not the same thing (as recognised in the Paris Climate Agreement).

Next, we need to know how much loss and damage finance we need. At Marrakech, countries should mandate the WIM, and the SCF to assess how much loss and damage finance is necessary and how much is currently being provided.

The third step – which must happen in parallel to the first two – is that we need to start exploring how we’re going to raise the loss and damage finance we know is needed (conservatively, we need at least $50 billion a year). At COP22 countries should mandate the WIM and the SCF to explore options and come back with a plan to raise funds for loss and damage.

There are proposals for raising loss and damage finance from innovative sources such as aviation levies or a fossil fuel levy – these could raise more than $50 billion annually from the polluting industries causing the climate crisis. Additionally, this time last year 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change called for an international Financial Transactions Tax, which could easily help plug the financing gap for loss and damage.

What we need from 2017

We really need the WIM to work on all of these elements in 2017, so that when all the countries come together at COP23 in November 2017, we’re ready to put in place concrete steps to raise funds for loss and damage. This way the international community can live up to its responsibility to support the most vulnerable people facing the worst impacts of climate change. After all, this is a matter of justice – the people most affected have done nothing to cause the climate crisis they are facing!


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