Warsaw Climate Change Conference: Incorporating Loss and Damage into the Agenda

The 19th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC took place last month in Warsaw. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. One of the decisions settled in Warsaw was the development of a new mechanism to deal with “loss and damage”. “Loss and damage” alludes to repairable damage or permanent loss caused by the impacts of climate change; such as changing landscapes, rising seas, economic losses, stronger storms or floods.

This new mechanism can be understood as an admission by developed countries that climate change impacts are unstoppable. Especially after the Typhoon Haiyan, which occurred in the Philippines some days before the UNFCCC Convention started. Naderev “Yeb” Sano, the Philippines negotiator, made a great impact on the different parties with his speech during the Conference. Moreover, he was on a hunger strike until the conference made important progress on the issue.

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

Mohamed Adow, an observer from Christian Aid, said: “In agreeing to establish a loss and damage mechanism, countries have accepted the reality that the world is already dealing with the extensive damage caused by climate impacts, and requires a formal process to assess and deal with it, but they seem unwilling to take concrete actions to reduce the severity of these impacts.”

An important aspect of the debate was the fact that “loss and damage” may constitute a third pillar for the UNFCCC structure. The UNFCCC is currently structured in two pillars. The first pillar is mitigation, based on cutting emissions and issue targets. On the other hand, the second pillar is adaptation, which is aimed at preparing for climate change impacts. During last years’ climate meeting in Doha, a number of parties called for a compensation mechanism in terms of “loss and damage”. The United States were against compensation mechanism, and the European Union was in favor of “loss and damage” under the context of mitigation and adaptation. Nevertheless, during the Warsaw edition, the EU has not stated “loss and damage” under adaptation and mitigation. However, other countries like China have called for “loss and damage” as a third pillar.

As a result of the discussion, it was decided to establish a mechanism to support most vulnerable countries with greater protection against loss and damage. Besides, parties have started to develop the “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage, which will begin next year. This new climate agreement will appear at the next UN Climate Change Conference in Peru, and a final commitment may be made in Paris in 2015.

Therefore, environmental protection should not only consist of mitigation as cutting emissions, valuation of harmful actions or behaviors or using economic instruments like taxes. Supporting the countries suffering climate change impacts is crucial to fight it. This way, developed countries should compensate developing countries for the disasters that they have speeded up.  Nevertheless, we should take into account that these international declarations do not establish a real framework of rights and obligations.






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