As the UN-mandated discussions on loss and damage were concluded on Friday, September 21, 2018 in Bonn, experts are weighing in on the outcome and what needs to happen next at the COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
Amidst the devastating storms in the Philippines, China and the USA, floods in Nigeria, India and record temperatures in many parts of the world, the United Nations body to address climate change impacts met in Bonn. The meeting addressed proposed recommendations for climate change displacement and undertook intense discussions on the scope of an important report on finance for loss and damage, amongst other issues. Civil society representatives present at the meeting were dismayed by a continued lack of progress due to blocking from rich countries on key issues.
The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) is due to celebrate its fifth anniversary which lends itself to the question “what has the WIM achieved in the last five years?” As the upcoming climate summit (COP24) will again be held in Poland, it is time for the country where the loss and damage mechanism began, to take responsibility for putting it back on track.
Climate change displacement
The meeting dealt with the findings of a year-long process mandated in 2015 at Paris to identify ways to help people displaced by climate change – whether it be people forced to move by increasingly violent storms, as we see in the Philippines, extreme floods like in Nigeria or people forced to move longer term by extreme droughts. The Task Force on Displacement, composed of a number of experts from the field of displacement, compiled a set of recommendations addressing the UN climate process, governments, UN agencies and others.
Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change and Resilience, comments: “The work of the Task Force on Displacement is the most comprehensive output on climate-related displacement under the UN climate process so far, and therefore also raises the bar for countries to take this matter seriously. Unfortunately, in three regards it fell far short from what is needed of meeting the needs of displaced people and at-risk communities.
“First, it misses to highlight the need to promote gender equality in actions to address displacement, despite human rights references which CARE welcomes. Second, it fails to highlight clearly the absolute need to get down with carbon emissions to limit global warming as an exacerbating factor. And third, it is almost silent on the matter of financial support to assist poor affected countries in dealing with displacement in a rights-based manner, and how developed countries and other contributors should scale up finance. Some developed countries have further resisted any meaningful discussion on raising support at the ExCom meeting.”
Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change for ActionAid, says: “While the UN committee acknowledged the rising challenge of climate induced migration, it failed to commit to concrete actions that will help the affected people. The whole world is facing unprecedented climate impacts and the urgent support is required by poor people in developing nations who are being forced out of their homes.”
Finance for loss and damage
The vulnerable people and countries facing the worst impacts of climate change urgently need more finance to help them to cope. A recent report showed that the majority of costs of loss and damage are paid by poor people and countries, including the example of Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica a year ago, and where only 23% of the loss and damage from the storm was provided in various forms of finance.
The loss and damage mechanism has an objective to mobilise finance for loss and damage – and it has been widely criticised for not meeting this objective.
“Even after five years of its existence, the committee has little to show in terms of providing money to the ones displaced by climate disasters. Rich countries continue to delay and obfuscate to stop vulnerable people getting the financial support they need to put their life back together after the disaster,” Singh adds.
At the meeting the Executive Committee was charged with agreeing an outline for a technical paper on finance for loss and damage. The paper was originally commissioned by the climate summit in Marrakesh in 2016 (COP22) to inform the review of the loss and damage mechanism scheduled for the end of 2019. Unfortunately, this initial preparation for the paper followed traditional lines – with rich countries blocking progress on including a genuine attempt to assess what finance is needed, and where such finance might be generated from.
“This technical paper was an opportunity to have an honest assessment of how much finance is needed by vulnerable people on the front line of climate impacts, and constructively consider new ways to generate this finance – like a Climate Damages Tax on the fossil fuel industry that is responsible for the majority of climate change,” notes Julie-Anne Richards, an independent civil society expert present at the meeting.
She adds: “However, rich country delegates pushed through a plan for a smoke and mirrors report to make themselves look good. They are eager to double count all of their existing aid finance as climate adaptation finance and now it seems they want to triple count it as loss and damage finance, without any plan as to how to actually increase finance and help those suffering the worst impacts of climate change.”
Next month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will report on 1.5oC of warming – the severe impacts of which should provide momentum to the climate summit in Poland in December – offering the impetus to countries to reset the perspective on addressing loss and damage.
At the December Climate Summit, governments will have the opportunity to set the scene for the review of the loss and damage mechanism in 2019 and agree stronger recommendations to address climate displacement and provide finance for vulnerable people who are being increasingly hammered by extreme climate impacts.