Monday, 09 December 2013 06:30

Confrontation, losses, damages and climate reality

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Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan_Trocaire/ Wikimedia CommonsIn early November, during the meeting at Chatham House in London, Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for the climate negotiations, expressed once again the refusal of the U.S. to agree on a mechanism of loss and damage  if this was based on the compensation due to the responsibility for historical emissions of developed countries. This same negative was expressed by European countries individually and as a block on the eve of the Conference of the Parties in Warsaw.
On the other hand, at the start of COP 19 a proposal by the G77 + China began circulating on the establishment of a mechanism of loss and damage focused precisely on compensation. Given the two entrenched positions, the negotiations seemed headed toward an intractable conflict in which neither side seemed willing to compromise. This situation was further aggravated when representatives of 130 developing countries decided to abandon the negotiations given the refusal of industrialized countries to agree and particularly Australia, whose delegates, dressed in shorts and short shirts, crossed out the negotiating draft while enjoying some snacks, according to several negotiators who were present. The failure of negotiations on Loss and Damage seemed imminent. However, in the last hours of the conference, it was agreed to create the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage . There is now a formal and explicit recognition that mitigation and adaptation are not sufficient in the present and that the international community moves toward an era of loss and damage. This mechanism can no longer be ignored or deleted from the agenda of the COP. This was achieved despite failing to include the specific role of the G-77 proposal, probably to save the negotiations in favor of a step forward. - "Nothing or something" - was heard to say to Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner in those last hours of the conference . The Mechanism of Loss and Damage of Warsaw is definitely "something." However, the most vulnerable countries to the most imminent effects of climate change were not satisfied with the results obtained. The political route is always slow and winding, but these countries do not have time. It is unfeasible to remain pending political goodwill when extreme events are not in the distant future or medium term but are happening in the present. So, we have a step forward in politics, a "something" that turns into "nothing" when the present reality strikes the most vulnerable, as with the Philippines, which became the icon of the new era of losses and damages at the COP 19 because of the damages left by Typhoon Haiyan passing through this country just days before the conference. It is estimated that the loss and damage and that left in its wake Typhoon reach $ 530 million . In the global scenario, it is estimated that in the last twenty years, the damage and losses by extremes weather events reach 1.75 trillion . These losses, of course, are not exclusive to the least developed countries. According to the insurance company Swiss Re , loss and damage in the U.S. from Hurricane Sandy reached 70 billion dollars in total damage and $ 35 billion in insured property. The era of loss and damage has begun and many of its effects go beyond any financial compensation. We can see the wide range of political and legal implications beyond economics. Quamrul Chowdhury, member of the delegation of the least developed countries at COP 19 mentioned, that "Climate-induced loss and damage is beyond adaptation. It crosses the boundaries of economic and non-economic losses and damages, to the socio-cultural front" At the same time the COP 19 was ending, New Zealand denied climate refugee status to  persons seeking asylum. The New Zealand court denied that climate change could be established as a matter of refugee status, because, asylum requieres persecution and direct human agency. Climate change is not presently contemplated in the International Refugee Convention. Not far away, the people of the Solomon Islands are preparing for an imminent evacuation of some of the islands that make up this small nation. For them, adaptation strategies like atoll agriculture or rain storage rain for drinking water are not sufficient to deal with the situation they face. At a rate of sea level rise of 8 mm of water per year, almost three times the global average, they face the situation of moving about 5,000 people from their homes in Ontong Java to the main island of Malaita, which already suffers from overpopulation problems. For all these people, the slow movement of the international political machinery becomes a death sentence, not in the future but in the present. Thus, we can see that the Warsaw conference yielded results and significant progress in several areas, such as the adaptation fund and the REDD + mechanism. However, the mechanism of damage and losses was probably the most unlikely success of all and probably the important victory. The policy path is opened to a mechanism that is accepted as a matter that surpasses any possible adaptation. This shows the two sides of the current reality of climate change negotiations: small and uncertain steps in politics and a unavoidable climate reality for many countries. The UNFCCC paradigm based on prevention and precaution is obsolete. The international community now enters the era of damages and losses, where this mechanism will not only be a process within the Convention, but will become the central paradigm in international negotiations as a result of political inability to "prevent dangerous interference with the climate system" as stated in the objective of the Convention in 1992.
Read 1636 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 18:52
Luis Fernández Carril

El Mtro. Luis Fernández Carril es candidato a doctor en Estudios Humanísticos con especialidad en Filosofía de la Ciencia por parte del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Ciudad de México. Se especializa en las dinámicas de conflicto en las negociaciones climáticas internacionales y en el análisis epistemológico de la climatología. Como complemento a su formación, ha recibido diversos reconocimientos del United Nations Institute for Training and Research. Además ha impartido diversas conferencias sobre políticas internacionales del cambio climático y publicado en revistas arbitradas internacionales.