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Negotiators split on how to deal with growing climate loss and damage

by Laurie Goering | @lauriegoering | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 09:07 GMT

Delegates talk during a break in a plenary session on the second day of the 19th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Nov. 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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Dealing effectively with losses and damage from climate change will require a separate, permanent mechanism to replace reliance on country-by-country responses to disasters like the super typhoon that hit the Philippines, developing-world negotiators say

WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Dealing effectively with losses and damage from climate change will require a separate, permanent mechanism that would replace reliance on country-by-country responses to disasters like the super typhoon that hit the Philippines late last week, developing-world negotiators said at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw.

As extreme weather like Super Typhoon Haiyan becomes more frequent, “this ad hoc response is simply not adequate. It’s appreciated, always, but it’s not adequate,” said Juan Hoffmaister, a negotiator from Bolivia who is leading loss and damage negotiations for the G77 and China group at the talks.

“We are seeing dramatic impacts. We need something at that level (of an international mechanism),” he said on Tuesday.

But a range of developed-country negotiators said that while they support formal action on loss and damage, they see it as part of ongoing activities that should prioritise work on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate impacts, as well as advancing sustainable development.

A new means of helping the most vulnerable countries with climate loss and damage, while necessary, “shouldn’t duplicate and add another layer to an already fragmented institutional landscape”, argued Marianne Karlsen, a senior adviser for the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, during early talks on the issue in Warsaw.

Given the difference in vulnerabilities among countries and the wide range of possible actions to address loss and damage, “a single institutional response that is… one-size-fits-all would not be effective”, she said.

Still, “the time for addressing loss and damage is here and now,” she said, noting “we must seize this opportunity.”

At the Doha climate talks last year, negotiators agreed to create new “institutional arrangements” on loss and damage to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts they cannot avoid.

Those might include the problems low-lying island nations face from sea-level rise, such as the potential loss of their territory, as well as climate-related migration and gradual changes like desertification. There are also the mounting costs of responding to, and trying to rebuild after weather-linked disasters.

In early statements on loss and damage, negotiators agreed that losses from climate impacts are a growing problem - and one that needs action.


The U.S. representative said her country was contributing $20 million in aid to help the Philippines cope with the typhoon, was exploring issues around cross-border migration linked to climate change, and had agreed to give residents of some threatened island states such as Palau and Micronesia the right to live in the United States.

But a representative for Bangladesh insisted that a global, permanent means of addressing loss and damage was required, rather than individual actions by countries.

“We need a permanent solution, permanent response measures so there is no ad hoc humanitarian approach applied, and no uncertainty,” said M. Asaduzzaman, a negotiator and fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.  His country was facing climate impacts “day in and day out”, he added.

Malia Talakai, a negotiator for the Pacific island nation of Nauru, noted that a new mechanism is particularly important while emissions reduction commitments by many developed nations remain relatively unambitious, suggesting climate change impacts will worsen in the years ahead.

On Wednesday, the negotiating group is set to begin considering three proposals for a loss and damage mechanism or institutional arrangement, including one presented by the G77 and another by the European Union.

Antonio Canas, a negotiator for El Salvador, said whether the group can reach an effective agreement on an international loss and damage mechanism will determine if “this COP (Conference of the Parties) in Warsaw is really a successful one”.

Jessica Faleiro of the charity ActionAid, agreed. “This is about climate justice, protecting people and their livelihoods, and most importantly lives and dignity,” she said.

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