In 2012, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) introduced the language of “loss and damage” into the formal lexicon of climate negotiations. Adopted as Decision 3/CP.18, the UNFCCC committed to a mechanism that would address “loss and damage associated with climate change impacts”. Explicitly referring to those developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, loss and damage has grown in significance for those concerned with equity and justice as climate change has taken hold. In particular, it has become a battleground for those concerned with how the historic responsibility of the global north for climate emissions should be accounted for, with claims centring on compensation for damages already experienced, and funding to minimise future losses. How much finance, and how that finance will be supplied and accessed, have turned into central questions for how loss and damage should be addressed.
The most recent climate negotiations - COP27 at Sharm el-Sheikh - have been hailed as a breakthrough for loss and damage, with the negotiations making far more progress than many in the global south had dared to hope for. New arrangements, including a dedicated fund, were agreed. A “transitional committee” has been put in place to make recommendations to COP28 (December 2023) around how the new fund can be operationalised – including who pays and who benefits. As UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell suggested, this was a significant milestone: “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage - deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
Yet, despite this initial optimism, questions remain about the process put in place by COP27, and the willingness of global north countries to deliver on the promise of addressing loss and damage. As Climate Home recently reported, the deadline for negotiating blocs to nominate committee members to the transitional committee was 15 December 2022, yet by 31 January, only ten members had been announced. Just as significantly, already existing climate funds have not met the targets that were announced with much fanfare at their inception. Between now and COP28 a great deal will rest on the ability of negotiators to sit down and hammer out a mechanism that not only provides sufficient funds, but does so in a way that prioritises the interests of the most climate-vulnerable communities.
Speakers at this event will review the history of loss and damage and explore the prospects for justice and fairness through UNFCCC negotiations. Our contributors will reflect on the optimism that followed COP27 and offer their own views on the opportunities and hurdles that must be navigated on the road to COP28. In short, will 2023 be the year in which historic responsibility for climate change is finally acknowledged by the world’s major polluting nations?
George Carew-Jones is a youth activist with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, who at COP27 ran a campaign calling on the UK Government to support the creation of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility. Outside of UKYCC he works as a Research Associate on sustainable development at the University of Oxford.
Dr Keron Niles is a Lecturer at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies. His work focuses on problems that arise at the intersection of climate and energy policy. Dr Niles has been researching the link between industrial policy, international trade and climate change in the Caribbean since 2008. Within the last five years, his research has also focused on assessing cultural industries as a pathway to low carbon and circular economic growth.
James Fletcher was the Minister for Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology in Saint Lucia from 2011 to 2016. Under his leadership, the Caribbean’s ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ civil society campaign was developed. During the negotiations on the Paris Agreement in COP21, he was a member of a small group of ministers chosen to help achieve consensus on the Paris Agreement. In recognition of his work, James Fletcher was highlighted in Profiles of Paris as one of the people who played an important role in creating the Paris Agreement. He is the author of ‘The Fight for Small Island Developing States’ in the Cambridge University Press publication ‘Negotiating the Paris Agreement: The Insider Stories’, and the editor of ‘Where is the Justice? An Anthology of Caribbean Youth Perspectives on the Climate Crisis’.
In 2019, James Fletcher was selected by the United Kingdom’s Chevening Scholarship Program as one of 35 Global Changemakers. James Fletcher currently manages his own consulting company, SOLORICON. He is the author of the book ‘Governing in a Small Caribbean Island State’, and he also wrote the ‘Regional Strategic Action Plan for Governance and Building Climate Resilience in the Water Sector in the Caribbean’. Recently, he launched The Caribbean Climate Justice Project, which is an initiative aimed at increasing civil society awareness of the impacts of climate change and ensuring that there are appropriate responses at the national, regional, and international levels to issues of climate justice and just transitions.
Emily Boyd is Professor in sustainability studies and a leading social scientist with a specialist focus on environment and climate change. Her unique focus has been on the interdisciplinary nexus of poverty, livelihoods and resilience in relation to global environmental change, focusing on issues pertaining to cities, sustainable land use, water and deforestation in Africa, Latin America, South-East Asia and Europe. Her work has been published across the social and sustainability sciences with notable publications on resilience, adaptation and the politics and the new carbon economy. Her current research focus in on undesirable resilience, politics of loss and damage and intersectionality in societal transitions, including on transformations under climate change.