From 23 to 25 July, the second regional expert meeting on loss and damage under this year´s UNFCCC work programme took place in Mexico City. Its aim was to increase the understanding of a range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. While the first expert meeting took place in Addis Abeba in June to address African aspects on loss and damage, this meeting covered Latin America and the Caribbean. Roughly 60 participants, representing more than 20 countries and 30 organisations, spent three days in Mexico´s foreign ministry, looking at existing approaches to address extreme weather events as well as slow-onset climate impacts. As an evolution from the Africa meeting, the meeting now was structured to allow exchange of experiences using different combinations of approaches to address loss and damage at the local/sub-national, national, regional/international levels.
The presentations comprised a range of inputs, from the region specific elements of the IPCC Special Report on extreme events (SREX) and a literature review undertaken in the UNFCCC work programme, to country case studies from Peru, Mexico and others. Approaches such as risk retention (a national fund to finance prevention as well as loss and damage), risk transfer (like a regional insurance pool), disaster risk reduction, and efforts to manage incremental climatic processes were discussed.
Experience weighted to managing extreme weather events
For Latin America, extreme weather events are prominent climate-related risk where many experiences have been gathered. In particular hurricanes and droughts have had devastating impacts in the past decades. Due to this particular experience, much of the practical evidence and experience in the region is in the disaster arena. Unsurprisingly, experts reported from many ongoing initiatives and shared a lot of experience on disaster risk management, including on domestic mechanisms to fund disaster risk prevention.
Gap: Managing loss and damage for slow-onset, incremental processes
While slow-onset events were addressed in a specific session, the gaps became apparent. They include lack of attention from policymakers and development planners, but also lack of systematic observation and monitoring of these challenges which could help assessing and - to some extent - preventing loss and damage associated with climate change. What became clear in Mexico is that the challenges arising from multiple slow-onset processes such as sea-level rise, terrestrial and oceanic temperature increase, ocean acifidication etc. have received significantly less attention so far among policymakers. But many participants highlighted that this gap has to be addressed much more seriously given the foreseeable devastating impacts in a world potentially heated by 4°C or more compared to pre-industrial levels.
Key recommendations included the need for more comprehensive approaches which integrate adaptation and disaster risk management to reduce loss and damage, as well as the need to increase and enhance political coordination and data sharing. Here the UNFCCC work programme has already helped to highlight these challenges and the gaps, and thinking towards a political decision in Doha at COP18 will need to figure out where international cooperation can help filling these gaps. Parties will also consider inter alia an international mechanism to address loss and damage and how it could look like.
A look ahead
The upcoming regional meetings in Asia (end of August) and the meeting for Small Island Developing States (to be determined) will provide an opportunity to take a closer look in some of the challenges encountered with slow-onset processes. Sea-level rise is already very apparent in many small island states in the Pacific. In Asia, Bangladesh is heavily affected by the rise of sea level as well as salisation of soils. The melting of glaciers in the Himalaya threatens the long-term water supply of countries like Nepal, Bhutan or India.
Overall, the UNFCCC secretariat and the Government of Mexico organised an event that resulted in a significant and extremely fruitful exchange of experience appreciated by all participants. The presence of negotiators and experts from other regions (incl. from Pacific islands, Europe and USA) also provided an opportunity to learn across regions. It has been rather a starting point and will hopefully help kickstarting further initiatives. On the political level, the task lies ahead to distill the most important aspects for the UNFCCC negotiations.
Sven Harmeling and Koko Warner