COP18: NGOs propose mechanism for loss and damage

Earth scientists talk about a new geological era that they call the “anthropocene”, so named because humans have acquired the means to control the natural world.

A press conference just completed in Doha has introduced us to a new era that they call “loss and damage”, so named because humans have lost control of those powers.

Speakers painted a picture of the Doha bubble in which participants are being overtaken by events. “We are losing the window of opportunity every day and every minute,” said Harjeet Singh of ActionAid, “if you continue on this pathway, you will not be able to adapt.”

Kit Vaughan of CARE International observed that, whilst the science is heading for 4 degrees, the politics of mitigation and adaptation is heading nowhere until 2020 at the earliest.

Singh took this forward. “Because of failure in mitigation and adaptation, we have to talk about loss and damage,” he said. “Even in a one degree warming world, events are already happening.”

An NGO triumvirate of WWF, ActionAid and CARE has produced a report which argues strongly that the Doha talks should raise their game on loss and damage. Instead of confining their efforts to risk reduction, they should in addition face up to controversial issues such as migration and statelessness triggered by global warming.

The NGOs propose a new International Mechanism for Compensation and Rehabilitation for dealing with the full range of issues around loss and damage.

Yes, there are financial implications and it will be necessary to invoke the Climate Convention’s principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Kit Vaughan observed that some countries are seeking to strike this principle out of the negotiations.

“We have to get to grips with culpability,” he said, “the carbon footprint in sub-Saharan Africa is 0.3-0.5 tons and over 20 tons in the US. This is the biggest social injustice of our time.”


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