Deadlock over Loss and Damage at the UN Climate Summit

Extreme flooding in June 2021 caused loss of life and infrastructure in Melamchi; experts say that flood was climate fueled. Photo: Barsha Shah

Kathmandu – Due promise to fully operationalize the Santiago Network was finally agreed upon, but it still requires clarity to make it work or function in the future.

At COP-27, the UN Climate summit in Sharm el-sheikh all parties agreed to operationalize the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage and provide technical assistance to countries and communities impacted by climate-induced extreme events.

The recent flood in Pakistan and the trail of devastation it left behind, was the main talking point which meant the  loss and damage became the official agenda at the UN climate summit for the first time. According to experts, all parties agreeing to fully operationalize the Santiago Network is a way forward, but dedicated finance should be delivered.

Santiago Network was established in COP-25 back in 2020 in Chile. According to UNFCCC, the vision of the Santiago Network is to catalyze the technical assistance of relevant organisations, bodies, networks, and experts, for the implementation of relevant approaches for averting, minimizing, and addressing L and D at the local, national and regional levels, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

It is not financial support for countries or communities in the frontline of climate change for the ones suffering from climate-related or induced extreme events.

Is it a way forward to addressing L and D?

Yes! but not at the level that countries like Nepal are demanding. Santiago Network was already delayed because it took more than two years to get all parties on the same page. Last year, at COP-26 in Glasgow, parties failed to come together on the issue.

Experts say, in the agreed text, human rights and the indigenous people’s concerns have been included. Climate  analyst and the advisor to the LDC chair, Dr. Manjeet Dhakal wrote, ”agreement on institutional arrangements to operationalise the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage to provide technical assistance is a positive move.”  ” Now, let’s step ahead for establishing an L and D fund to address the scale of climate impacts exceeding the adaptive capacity at COP-27.”

What about a dedicated finance facility?

It is very unlikely to get an agreement on a dedicated finance facility to address loss and damage caused by climate-induced extreme events, although  LDC group of countries are for commitment from developed countries to addressing  L and D under UNFCCC. Hafiz Khan, Loss and Damage negotiator for the LDC Chair said Thursday, ”Our demand– we need to establish a Loss and Damage finance facility at COP-27– We are not asking too much, our vulnerable communities, and our ecosystems need an immediate response.”

According to climate researcher Regan Sapkota, who is following the L and D discussion on the COP-27 agreement on dedicated financing facility, such a commitment is unlikely. ”But negotiators from developing countries are trying hard”, he said.

Countries like Nepal are demanding rich nations should pay compensation for climate-fueled disasters through dedicated finance facility. But developed countries are unwilling to create new finance facility, saying existing mechanisms will be more than enough to mobilize finance to address loss and damage also.

What is loss and damage?

UN says Loss and Damage is adverse impacts of human-induced climate change. UNFCCC further explains loss and damage as, ”Loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change can include those related to extreme weather events but also slow onset events, such as sea level rise, rising temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification.”

International independent organization- The Loss and Damage Collaborations- describes loss and damage as something that ‘ falls along a spectrum which begins with mitigating climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then progresses to adapting to the impacts of climate change, and finally to addressing loss and damage from those climate change impacts that are unavoided or unavoidable.”