2018 has been marked by a number of particularly severe climate-related extreme events across the globe, well in line with IPCC findings showing that the frequency, intensity and severity of climate-related hazards are being adversely shaped by anthropogenic climate change. Increasingly, evidence is emerging that risks linked to those hazards have the potential to significantly affect lives and erode livelihoods across the globe, as well as push vulnerable people, communities and countries to their physical and socio-economic adaptation limits. Is climate change thus leading to instances ‘beyond adaptation’? The UNFCCC’s Loss and Damage policy discourse has given voice to these concerns over the last 3 decades, yet concepts, methods and tools as well as directions for policy and implementation have remained contested and vague.
The political, legal, economic and institutional dimensions of the issue of L&D, the normative questions central to the discourse and the political problems still to be solved, a focus on climate risks and climate risk management and salient case studies from around the world are the core of the new book “Loss and Damage from Climate Change – Concepts, Methods and Policy Options”. The book will be officially launched on Friday, September 28, 2018, h. 9:30 – 11:00 at the London School of Economics (Tower 2, 9th Floor) during an event organized by the LSE Grantham Research Institute and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), in collaboration with the Loss and Damage Network. Elisa Calliari, CMCC researcher at RAAS – Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategies Division, will participate while providing some insights of her work.
CMCC researchers Jaroslav Mysiak, RAAS Division Director, and Elisa Calliari (RAAS) contributed in fact with the book chapter “The politics of (and behind) the UNFCCC’s Loss and Damage Mechanism”.
“The issue of Loss and Damage”, says Elisa Calliari, “has been spearheaded by the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) since the early 1990s and has traditionally been tied to calls for compensation for the irreversible climate change impacts. Calls for liability and compensation associated with the L&D issue are a real taboo within climate negotiations because developed countries don’t want to open a “Pandora’s box” of endless requests of monetary compensation and remedy for increasing climate-related losses and damages around the world. This is arguably the main reason why it took more than 20 years for the L&D debate to be institutionalised under the UNFCCC.”
By adopting an international relations and political science perspective, the authors tried to enhance the understanding of the negotiation process and related outcomes while offering insights on how the issue of L&D could be fruitfully moved forward. “Starting from the so-called structuralist paradox”, says researcher Elisa Calliari, “we tried to explain the somewhat surprising capacity of weak parties to achieve results while negotiating with stronger parties. How did AOSIS assume a leading role in the decision-making under the UNFCCC while achieving important results such as the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D (WIM) in 2013 and a dedicated article on L&D in the Paris Agreement in 2015?”
The analysis unveils the key importance that the so-called “discursive power” had in the attainment of L&D outcomes. Framing L&D in ethical and legal terms appealed to standards shared or agreed beyond the UNFCCC context, including the basic moral norms linked to island states’ narratives of survival and the reference to international customary law.
“However”, Elisa Calliari explains, “the study argues that a change of narrative may be needed to achieve collective action on L&D and to avoid turning the issue into a win-lose negotiation game. Instead, a stronger emphasis on mutual gains through adaptation and action on L&D for both developed and developing countries is needed (as well as clarity on the limits of these strategies), ranging from more resilient global supply chains to avoided climate refugees and enhanced security. This way, action would not feel as a unilateral concession by developed countries to vulnerable ones: it would rather be about elaborating patterns of collective action on an issue of common concern.”
The book: R. Mechler, L. Bouwer, T. Schinko, S. Surminski, J. Linnerooth-Bayer (Eds.) Loss and Damage from Climate Change – Concepts, Methods and Policy Options, Series: Climate Risk Management, Policy and Governance, Springer, 2019.