The Marrakesh Climate Change Conference was supposed to be the “Loss and damage (L&D) COP”, given the planned review of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) in 2016. While the Paris Agreement has secured the permanence of the WIM in the UNFCCC architecture, a number of operative issues still need to be fine-tuned to assure its effectiveness as a third pillar of climate action, besides adaptation and mitigation.
L&D 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. COP 19 established the WIM as a dedicated instrument for advancing knowledge gathering, coordination and support to address L&D stemming from extreme and slow onset events. Yet, the implementation of these functions, envisaged by an initial two-year work-plan, suffered from substantial delays due to disagreements on the composition of the WIM Executive Committee (ExCom) which were solved in June 2015 only.
COP 22 is now called to review the WIM “including its structure, mandate and effectiveness”. Informal consultations among Parties held last May identified, among the possible components of the review, the drafting of recommendations on the completed and ongoing work of the WIM, focusing on the gaps and limitations experienced. Some groups of Parties drew their attention on more substantial issues, including the possibility to strengthen the mandate of the mechanism and the need for appropriate resources to implement activities. While issues of liability and compensation persist in the background (see for instance the interpretative declaration some small island states presented with the ratification of the Paris Agreement), the impression is that of a collaborative effort to finally make the WIM up and running.
COP 22 is also expected to approve the framework for the WIM’s five-year rolling work-plan, which will build on the results of the two-year work-plan and will continue guiding the implementation of the functions of the mechanism. Interestingly enough, the strategic streams in the work-plan include a “Placeholder for finance-related topics”. The lack of more specific language on this issue signals the contested nature that finance-related issues continue to have in the L&D debate. For the time being, insurance has been the less controversial way to approach the topic and avoid calls for compensation. In June 2015 the G7 launched an Initiative on Climate Risk aimed at increasing by up to 400 million by 2020 the number of vulnerable people with access to direct and indirect insurance. On the same line, Barack Obama at COP 21 pledged a USD30 million contribution to climate risk insurance schemes in the Pacific, Central America and Africa. The money is meant to support the Pacific Catastrophic Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) and the African Risk Capacity programme (ARC), and to expand the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) to Central American countries. Yet, insurance schemes are hard (if not impossible) to apply in the case of slow onset event and when dealing with irreversible and permanent L&D, such as the loss of land, statehood, ecosystems, culture or traditional livelihoods.
Besides finance, another hot topic to be debated within and without the L&D framework will be that of human mobility. COP 21 requested the ExeCom to develop a task force on displacement whose terms of reference were agreed last September in Bonn. With Africa hosting the current COP and considering the on-going refugees crisis, there is little doubt the so-called “climate migrants” will be in the spotlight in Marrakesh. As Driss El Yazami, Head of Civil Society Activities for the COP22, underscored “environmental and South-South migration, as well as the asylum crisis, will undoubtedly be at the center of debates for decades to come.”
 Mace M.J. and Verheyen R. (2016), Loss, Damage and Responsibility after COP21: All Options Open for the Paris Agreement, Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, 25 (2)
(Image: Atols in Tuvalu. Photo credit: Tomoaki INABA/Flickr)