Marking a win on 'loss and damage'

by Haseeb Md. Irfanullah | Practical Action - Bangladesh
Friday, 29 November 2013 07:00 GMT

A woman tries to retrieve her belongings after her house was destroyed by cyclone Mahasen, in Kuakata, Bangladesh, on May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

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The climate talks have their faults, but they are one place developing countries have a say

I belong to the group of more than 7.1 billion people of the world who have never been to a COP (Conference of Parties) on climate change, like the one that ended last week in Warsaw.

Nevertheless, my job and personal interest demand that I follow what is going on around the globe regarding climate change. It is really a tough job to keep up with the pace of these developments. Let us take the Warsaw COP19. My searches found a 13 percent increase in climate change literature between 10 and 26 November. (And this is just Google Scholar I am talking about!)

Sure enough, in this digital world you don’t have to be in the city hosting a COP to learn about what are going on in and around the conference halls. Live webcasts, webinars, e-discussions, interviews, blogs, vlogs, tweets, and e-mail groups can update you on each and every event. You just need to connect your mind and your smart phone!

As expected, discussions about “loss and damage” dominated the Conference. Hard negotiation among the Parties at the end delivered a 17-paragraph ‘Warsaw international mechanism’ to deal with the problem. Climate change funding met some targets, but left some major disappointment around earlier promises. And we all understood that there is still a long way to go to have an agreement by 2015 to limit climate-changing emissions and help poorer countries cope with climate impacts.

Many people have good reason not to be optimistic about the future of climate negotiations. The negotiations are often seen as a selfish game played by the rich countries. But as developing countries, we have no other platforms to place our proposals and arguments but this space offered under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Talking with Saleemul Huq of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) today, I realised that the Warsaw conference will be remembered as an event where developing countries came together to make their case – and succeeded.

Despite being subject to review in the future, the agreement to establish an international mechanism on loss and damage – as the third pillar of the UNFCCC after mitigation and adaptation – was a hard-fought win for developing countries. I am sure not many climate change experts believed this would happen in Warsaw.

Without doubt, making this newest international mechanism ‘work’ has a long way to go. I, however, wonder if the inherent link between loss and damage and adaptation might undermine the latter and move away attention from mitigation. Just wondering!

Haseeb Md. Irfanullah leads the disaster risk reduction and climate change programme of Practical Action in Bangladesh. He is available at haseeb.irfanullah@practicalaction.org.bd

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