‘Loss and damage’ creeps in from the cold at UN climate talks

PARIS, Dec two (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Hurricane Katrina brought storm surges crashing into New Orleans in August 2005, Beverly Wright lost all her loved ones photographs, going back to her fantastic grandparents, in the flood.

“You cannot replace all of the memorabilia, or photographs you cherish and pass on from particular person to person,” said the executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “There are issues that can not be replaced monetarily.”

She gave this as an instance of “loss and harm” from climate alter, and told journalists at the U.N. climate alter talks in Paris that authorities are still figuring out how to address people’s loss of houses, neighborhood culture and family stability soon after they are hit by extreme climate or increasing seas.

New Orleans has changed since the Katrina disaster, she said. Some black households forced to flee their houses are still trying to go back but rents are now also higher and public education can be tough to access, she stated.

In the climate negotiations, there is nevertheless a lack of clarity on what “loss and damage” is, and how to resolve it.

That is 1 important explanation specialists say a permanent mechanism to deal with it must be anchored in the new global deal on climate modify due to be sealed at the Paris summit next week.

Humanitarian agencies say loss and harm is the harm that occurs when stresses produced worse by global warming – such as prolonged droughts and melting glaciers – are too extreme for folks to overcome.

“For too lengthy, reducing emissions and scaling up adaptation support has been hopelessly inadequate,” stated Sandeep Chamling Rai, an adaptation professional with green group WWF.

“This has resulted in worsening climate modify impacts that exceed the capability of individuals and ecosystems to cope.”

WWF and two help charities, ActionAid and CARE, urged negotiators in Paris to agree to extend an existing U.N. physique on loss and harm, set up in 2014, beyond its 2016 lifespan.

The Warsaw International Mechanism was established in the face of opposition from the United States and some other industrialised nations that worried it could be utilized to make them pay for the cost of climate harm.

The mood shifted soon after building countries – which see loss and damage as a important issue given that they are worst-hit – stopped linking it to compensation obligations.

Washington and the European Union now recognise the value of which includes it in the outcome of the Paris talks, but how to do that remains a sticking point.


President Barack Obama made a point of meeting with the leaders of five island nations while in the French capital this week to support open the summit.

Afterwards, Marshall Islands President Christopher J. Loeak said Obama had confirmed “he will stand with the island states as we enter the final stretch of negotiations on a new international climate agreement”.

Commentators took that as a positive sign on the loss and harm discussions. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists stated “the atmospherics … look to have enhanced”.

But negotiators have however to agree on compromise text on the issue, and may possibly not do so just before a Saturday deadline to submit a new draft deal before ministers take it up next week, he added.

At problem, said the European Union’s best negotiator Elina Bardram, is where loss and harm is placed in a “Paris package”.

Developing nations want it in the binding agreement that is anticipated to type the core of that package. But some wealthy nations have been pushing for it to be integrated in a set of accompanying decisions that will not have legal force.

Todd Stern, the U.S. specific envoy for climate adjust, told journalists on Wednesday that Washington is “supportive of the idea (of tackling loss and damage) broadly speaking” but would not “accept the notion of liability and compensation” getting element of it.

“We are creating progress,” he said, referring to the president’s meeting with tiny island states, but added the “conversation will continue for a although”.


Created countries have been swift to get behind the expansion of insurance coverage against climate hazards for the poor as a possible solution, with the launch of the G7 Climate Risk Insurance Initiative this summer.

But authorities in Paris stated that would only be a partial answer to the difficulty, and could not address the displacement of folks by increasing seas or melting glaciers, for example.

Farah Kabir, head of ActionAid in Bangladesh, said some of the vulnerable communities she functions with have had to move 30 times in 15 years due to erosion of crumbling river banks and cyclones.

“How do you compensate them for the loss of the graveyard of their mother or father?” she asked.

Farmers are becoming fishermen or rickshaw pullers due to the fact they can no longer earn funds from developing crops, and some have had to migrate to seek work.

“They are faced with so much uncertainty,” Kabir said. (Reporting by Megan Rowling editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate modify. Visit www.trust.org)