COP 23 | EU, Australia claim ‘insufficient evidence’ climate change singular cause of extreme weather

November 10, 2017 - 7:58 AM
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji speaks at the opening session of the 23rd Conference of Parties, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on November 6. COP23 is hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany. (Reuters)

BONN, Germany — The European Union and Australia told a global conference to discuss climate policy that discussions on finance should not be included in negotiations for loss and damage because “not every disaster is caused by climate change.”

Loss and damage refers to inevitable costs of natural disasters and slow onset events such as loss of lives during super typhoons and the sinking of islands due to rising sea levels, respectively.

Governments and key non-state actors are currently in Bonn, Germany for the 23rd Conference of Parties, or COP23, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Loss and damage was included in the Paris Agreement, the climate accord signed by 195 countries in 2015, but remains a controversial topic among negotiators as developed countries are wary of assuming liability for the causes of climate change.

The “loss and damage” article aims to strengthen country coordination on sharing knowledge about disaster risk reduction, coordination among stakeholders and enhancing action and support — including finance — to address loss and damage.

While saying they are willing to support countries tackling slow onset events through capacity-building and skills organization, developed countries have declined to engage in dialogue about additional finance for loss and damage.

Lack of correlation between climate change and extreme weather events

“There is no financial conversation yet on loss and damage,” said Pierre Candelon, a representative of the UNFCCC youth constituency YOUNGO.

Developed countries are careful to touch on the subject of loss and damage and often maintain that extreme weather events, such as the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico, cannot be directly attributed to climate change.

Some claim extreme weather events are only intensified by climate change but not necessarily caused singularly by it. They also argue that the devastation from these natural disasters depend on a variety of factors such as geography, infrastructure, as well as the strength of a country’s political institutions.

Climate change causes and worsens extreme weather events – US scientists

But in a report released in August by the US Global Change Research Program, scientists said that climate change drives droughts and storms more intensely.

For example, the report said human activity has contributed greatly to the warming of the Atlantic Ocean, which is linked to the increasing occurrence of hurricanes in the area.

Warsaw International Mechanism: an effect of Yolanda

State and non-state actors will be closely monitoring the executive committee tasked with drafting the rules of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage It will be the framework through which issues of irreparable damage caused by climate change throughout the world will be addressed.

The WIM was a response to the horrific images of the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Leyte and Samar provinces in November 2013, which coincided with the climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

Officially, more than 6,300 people died and more than a thousand remain missig, while four million were directly affected by the storm. The recovery and rehabilitation of affected communities is still ongoing four years later, many of the victims still living in resettlement areas plagued by substandard living conditions.

Common but differentiated responsibilities’

Loss and damage has always been a sensitive issue as it requires a reflection on the role of rich countries in polluting the environment.

Under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” developed countries are supposed to pay more to a fund that would address loss and damage.

Philippine climate delegation head Emmanuel de Guzman reiterated the message of President Rodrigo Duterte of holding developed countries accountable to their pledges to donate to developing nations.

“We are an insignificant emitter. We should be at the receiving end of finance and support,” he said.

Tragedy’ of Paris Agreement

The lack of a clause in the Paris Agreement that assigns accountability to high-emitting countries and companies is a “tragedy” for the Paris Agreement, Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy Ecology and Development said.

The Paris Agreement, a non-legally binding treaty, does not include measures for legal accountability.

Arances says civil society groups pushed for the inclusion of a legal component to the loss and damage clause. Unfortunately, he said, the Philippine delegation in 2015 backed down on the matter during negotiations.

Bargain to developed countries: provide action and support

“Compensation and liability” will not be included in the language of the rulebook as a compromise, Action Aid Global Lead on Climate Change Harjeet Singh said during an interview. He said it is more important to make sure that the contributions being made by rich countries is commensurate to the losses experienced by affected countries.

“The bargain is to provide action and support. If developed countries don’t address that then the discussion will come up again in a big way,” he said.

It remains to be seen if the subject of a global fund for loss and damage will be included in the coming negotiations.