The intractability of loss and damage issues in climate negotiations

The impacts of human-induced climate change are manifested through losses and damages incurred due to the increasing frequency and intensity of climatic disasters all over the world. Low-income countries who have contributed the least in causing climate change, and have low financial capability, are the worst victims of this. However, since the inception of the international climate regime under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), loss and damage has been a politically charged issue. It took about two decades of pushing by the vulnerable developing countries for the agenda to formally anchor in the climate negotiations text. This was further solidified through establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) and inclusion of stand-alone Article 8 on loss and damage in the Paris Agreement. Its institutionalisation has only done the groundwork of addressing loss and damage however – the key issue of finance for loss and damage and other matters has remained largely unresolved to date – particularly since Article 8 does not have any provision for finance. This has been due to the climate change-causing wealthy developed nations’ utter disregard for their formal obligations in the climate regime as well as their moral obligation. In this article, we tease out the central controversies that underpin the intractability of this agenda at the negotiations of the UNFCCC. We begin by giving a walk-through of the concept and history of loss and damage in the climate regime. Then we present a brief account of losses and damages occurring in the face of rising temperature, and highlight the key issues of contention, focusing on the more recent developments. Finally, we conclude by suggesting some way forward for the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, UK in November 2021.


Md Fahad Hossain, Saleemul Huq and Mizan R. Khan

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