How Much Longer Can We Ggnore Loss and Damage?

3 December 2019

The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) was set up to address the devastating loss and damage in the most vulnerable developing countries. But 6 years later, it is clear that this international mechanism has become little more than a talk shop with minimal  on-the-ground benefit to the most vulnerable. 

When Typhoon Idai swept through Mozambique, the WIM was not delivering for those on the   front lines, those keeping the storm shelters open and battling flood water to deliver lifesaving supplies to people. Instead, a few Executive Committee (ExCom) members and technical experts were planning their next meeting in Bonn to formulate workplans and review papers. 

The WIM review event of 1 December showed that the current flagship mechanism from the UNFCCC on loss and damage has not yet been fully operationalized and is far from being fit for purpose. In reality, the event confirmed that the WIM has performed very poorly.

The Loss & Damage review at COP25 is critical to ensure that we enhance the WIM to tangibly respond to climate impacts in the real world and support those most affected in vulnerable developing countries. The coming days of negotiations are intended to review how the WIM has performed since its inception, and decide on how it must be enhanced and strengthened. 

ECO  applauds the open and inclusive approach of the Secretariat for the review, and appreciates that civil society and observers were not only invited to listen but also to participate on an equal platform with the Parties present. 

Positively, developing and developed countries agreed that loss and damage is far greater than the WIM, and that the WIM is much more than just the ExCom. 

Unfortunately, most of the Review discussion focused on the ExCom and its expert groups, and failed to consider how the WIM can actually enable action in communities or how it can mobilise the finance necessary to support the poorest and most vulnerable to avert, minimise and address loss and damage. 

ECO heard that right at the start and end of the meeting it was made very clear that Finance, Action & Support is the most critical area for improvement for the WIM.  

Interventions from Parties and observers emphasized that the ExCom has failed to recognise that the people paying the price for inaction are those who are least responsible for causing the crisis.  The review should have dedicated more time to discuss the availability (or the lack) of finance to address loss and damage.

Developing countries, especially those communities on the front lines of climate change, are already on  the edge. If they do not see any progress under the WIM then it is understandable that they may start exploring alternative pathways to seek compensation and climate justice.

 Vanuatu stated that it is “not afraid of the word “compensation”” and is already being pushed, due to WIM inaction on Loss & Damage, to explore legal justice pathways for climate finance.   

It is vital that here in Madrid, the Parties take the difficult decisions necessary to strengthen the WIM, and strengthen the multilateral climate regime. 

This includes establishing a Loss and Damage Finance Facility under the WIM, setting up a task force on action and support under the ExCom, establishing an implementation arm for the WIM to reach the national level, and ensuring that loss and damage has a permanent agenda item under both the COP and CMA. Loss and damage is a manifestation of the failure of the climate negotiations and a grim reflection of global inaction. How much longer can the most vulnerable hold hope, while we wait for developed countries to go beyond rhetoric and start supporting developing countries in their efforts to respond to the climate emergency?

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