Editorial: Why ‘loss and damage’ is so vital to the Global South

IssueDecember 2021 - January 2022
Comment by Milan Rai

You may not know this, but there was a whole 14-paragraph section of the Glasgow agreement dealing with climate-related ‘loss and damage’.

The Guardian reported that this was ‘perhaps the most bitterly fought section of all’.

The phrase ‘loss and damage’ first appeared when the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was being drawn up in 1991.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) asked for an international insurance pool to be created to ‘compensate the most vulnerable small island and low-lying coastal developing countries for loss and damage arising from sea level rise’.

This includes the possible disappearance of entire nations, and sanctuary for huge numbers of climate refugees.

Each country would contribute to the pool on the basis of their relative contribution to global carbon emissions and their relative share of global income (global gross national product or GNP) – on the basis of historical responsibility for the crisis, and of current ability to pay.

This idea of liability and compensation was refused in 1991 and has been refused by rich countries all the way to Glasgow.

At COP26, AOSIS and others were demanding a new, separate ‘loss and damages’ fund on a similar basis to the 1991 proposal.

The rich countries refused, saying only that they would finance some ‘technical assistance’ and have a ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ on the subject.

They prefer to think of ‘loss and damage’ in terms of assisting countries to adapt to sea level rise and other climate impacts – or in terms of ‘insurance’.

“Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget”

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