The Loss and Damage Mechanism: Don’t Leave Warsaw Without It!

19 November 2013

Last year, Doha decided that institutional arrangements ‘such as an international mechanism’ would be established at COP 19. Fulfilling this mandate is the biggest expectation here in Warsaw.

The world has entered the era of devastating loss and damage from climate change. The collective failure to reduce emissions and support necessary adaptation actions means that vulnerable communities, ecosystems and countries increasingly face irreversible loss and damage. Typhoon Haiyan, which may have affected more than 9 million people in the Philippines alone, is a stark reminder of the damage brought by major storms.

In 1992, developed countries agreed to take the lead in addressing climate change under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and agreed on the precautionary principle. Yet they continue failing to take sufficient action in line with the latest science.

While the UNFCCC has existing mechanisms and instruments on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and clean development, there is no specific mechanism to address loss and damage. However, loss and damage cannot simply be subsumed in existing frameworks; it requires a dedicated international mechanism.

The current draft text on institutional arrangements to address loss and damage that was discussed by Parties yesterday focused on areas of convergence.

There needs to be agreement on the mechanism that sets the foundation of a comprehensive response to loss and damage.

Therefore, Parties should address some of the important pieces that are currently missing in the text, such as the provision of support for rehabilitation activities, insurance, social safety nets and compensation.

The proposed mechanism on loss and damage must not just be about developing financial measures to address the impacts that cannot be adapted to.

It must also be about generating knowledge and finding new ways to deal with non-economic effects such as loss of biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, human mobility, cultural heritage and ancestral burial sites.

Over a hundred civil society organizations and individuals have signed a call for the immediate establishment of a mechanism on loss and damage in Warsaw.

They say the developed countries, in particular Australia, Japan, Canada, the US and the EU, should not stand in the way of establishing an international mechanism on loss and damage. Low mitigation ambition and insufficient support for adaptation are already exerting unacceptable pressure on vulnerable countries, communities and their resources.

Tackling loss and damage is about climate justice. It is about protecting people, their livelihoods and, most importantly, their human rights and dignity. It is time for those who are mainly responsible for climate change to act here in Warsaw.

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