Loss and Damage (L&D)

Loss and damage can be broadly referred to as the negative impacts of climate change materializing in vulnerable developing countries after mitigation and adaptation efforts have been undertaken.

Despite being one of the hottest topics to have emerged within climate negotiations in recent years, no commonly agreed definition is available for the concept yet. The literature review prepared by Work programme on L&D under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), broadly refers to “the actual and/or potential manifestation of impacts associated with climate change in developing countries that negatively affect human and natural systems’” (SBI, 2012). In particular, losses are described as those negative impacts in relation to which reparation or restoration is impossible (eg. loss of freshwater resources) and damage as the negative impacts which can be instead restored (eg. windstorm damage to the roof of a building). Other definitions make a step ahead, explicitly linking L&D with the inability to cope and adapt to climate change impacts (Warner et al., 2013).

The fluidity in the way L&D is conceptualized, also shows up at the negotiations level. Developing countries claim L&D to be something beyond adaptation and thus requiring additional instruments besides mitigation and adaptation, while developed countries conceptually include L&D within the scope of adaptation.

Discussion on L&D, formally initiated with the 2007 Bali Action Plan and later embedded in the Cancun Adaptation Framework (2010), has been campaigned by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) since the early 1990s.

AOSIS’ claims have mainly focused on the establishment of a compensation mechanism, able to refund developing countries for those unavoidable impacts materializing when both mitigation and adaptation efforts fall short.

COP 19 established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (Loss and Damage Mechanism), including extreme events and slow onset events, in vulnerable developing countries (Decision 2/CP.19). The Mechanism aims at : i) enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address L&D; ii) strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders; iii) enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building. The Mechanism will be reviewed, including its structure and mandate, at COP 22 in 2016.


References and sources

E. Calliari, Loss and Damage: a critical discourse analysis, FEEM Working Paper, 84, 2014. Accessible here in pdf.

Subsidiary Body for Implementation, A literature review on the topics in the context of thematic area 2 of the work programme on loss and damage: a range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, UNFCCC, Bonn, 2012.

UNFCCC Secretariat, 2/CP.19 Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts, United Nations Office at Geneva, Geneva, 2012.

K. Warner, K. van der Geest and S. Kreft, Pushed to the limit: Evidence of climate change-related loss and damage when people face constraints and limits to adaptation.Report No. 11, United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Bonn, 2013.

UNFCCC L&D dedicated webpage

Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative website