COP27: The Governance Challenges for Santiago Network for Loss and Damage

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The idea of establishing an implementation arm of Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM), was put forward by the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) at COP25, held in Madrid in 2019. It was quickly accepted by other groups like AOSIS, AGN and AILAC. Hence, G-77 and China moved with the common position to negotiate with the developed country Parties. However, due to the consensus among all the Parties of UNFCCC, negotiations in Madrid resulted in establishing the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD) at COP25/CMA2. SNLD is mandated to catalyse technical assistance to vulnerable developing countries through relevant Organizations, Bodies, Networks and Experts (OBNEs) to implement required approaches to address loss and damage.

The decision of COP25/CMA2 that established SNLD, did not provide required policy guidance on the specific functions and institutional structure of SNLD. Subsequently, COP26 held in Glasgow agreed on the six key functions of SNLD under the overarching functions of WIM. The decision, alongside the establishment of mandate for financing SNLD are significant steps forward in its operationalisation. The same decision, therefore, mandated further the Parties and Chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) of UNFCCC to work on designing institutional structures of SNLD and to agree on such structure at COP27/CMA4 in 2022. It also called for submissions from Parties and relevant stakeholders to provide innovative thoughts and ideas on the institutional structures of SNLD to deliver its functions effectively.

Many Parties and other relevant organisations already submitted their views and thoughts on the governance aspects of SNLD, in response to the call made by COP26/CMA3.  Diverse ideas have been offered in these submissions. Some of these innovative thoughts on the governance structure of SNLD predominantly influenced the discussions in the workshop held in Copenhagen from 4 to 6 May 2022. The workshop was organised by the secretariat of UNFCCC, under the guidance of the chairs of SBs, with inputs from the Executive Committee of Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM ExCom) in accordance with the  Glasgow decision. The workshop was structured based on the key elements laid down by the call made in Glasgow for the aforesaid submission.

In the discussions of the workshop on operational modalities of SNLD, the first element of the call for submission recognised the significant need for mobilising demand-driven technical assistance in responding to the needs of the vulnerable communities Discussions on need-based approach identified the immediate need for technical assistance to conduct comprehensive need assessments in vulnerable developing countries. Such seed assessmets are crucial as they can determine the needs for technical assistance and other support for addressing loss and damage which vulnerable developing countries can communicate to SNLD to access the required assistance.

Some Parties shared their views on operational modalities of SNLD considering it as the implementation arm of WIM and suggested designing it carefully to meet the technical assistance  and the associated finance and capacity building needs. It was recognised in the workshop that a financial mechanism for SNLD is needed for accessing finance from the existing funding entities of UNFCCC and other innovative sources of finance. Even though funding for SNLD was not in the workshop agenda, Parties and experts discussed the mandate for financing for SNLD provided by Glasgow Climate Pact and highlighted how to design an innovative financial mechanism for SNLD to operationalize it effectively. Discussion in the workshop identified some lessons learned from similar existing networks including Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN), and suggested to ensure simplified direct access to technical assistance and its associated support by vulnerable developing countries.

The second element of the call for submission underscored the need for establishing an advisory board under the UNFCCC to oversee the SNLD. Views shared by the workshop participants on structuring such advisory boards can lead to form this body with diverse membership including from Parties, WIM ExCom and Network members, which will be mandated by and accountable to COP/CMA. The workshop discussed the memberships of SNLD and identified the need for diverse memberships of local, national, regional, international, and sectoral organizations including academia, NGOs, private sector, public sector, research organisations and so on.

The fifth element of the call for submission identified the need for a dedicated and permanent secretariat for SNLD to serve as its convening body. It may be housed by a competent UN agency to play a coordinated and integrated role to deliver the functions of SNLD.  In case the secretariat is housed at any UN agency other than UNFCCC, there will be the need for a regulatory mechanism between UNFCCC and that UN agency to ensure  transparency and accountability of the secretariat. Some  Parties suggested UNFCCC to act as the interim secretariat and to explore a competent agency for hosting a permanent secretariat.

The workshop also discussed the third and the fourth elements of the call for submission on the roles of WIM ExCom and its expert groups, the national contact points and other relevant stakeholders. Participants highlighted the role of WIM ExCom in providing policy guidance based on their works and to ensure synergies and coherence between SNLD and WIM ExCom. Some participants suggested placing WIM ExCom members, particularly from LDCs, to the proposed advisory board of SNLD. The discussions also recognised the critical roles of national contact points and other relevant stakeholders from national, regional levels to ensure country driven need-based approach to meet the needs of vulnerable developing countries.

It is worth noting that the workshop was a good opportunity to exchange views among the Parties and other relevant stakeholders,  It also helped enhance  understanding which led to convergence on some innovative ideas related to the institutional structure of SNLD.  Further discussions and negotiations on these crunch issues at SB 56 will lead to some recommendations  for adoption at COP27 to be held at the end of this year in Egypt. Therefore, vulnerable developing countries, particularly LDCs, should take clear positions and appropriate strategies to engage effectively at SB 56 to take place in June 2022 for designing a well-structured SNLD.

Originally this article was published on August 3, 2022 at Dhaka Tribune

Adv Hafij Khan is a Climate Change Lawyer, and the Negotiator at UNFCCC. Prof Dr Saleemul Huq is the Director, ICCCAD and S M Saify Iqbal is a Research Officer, ICCCAD.