Framing Loss and Damage? Formal Party Session vs. NGO Side Event

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Today COP20 held its first meeting to discuss the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (LDM), which the Parties agreed to under decision 2/CP.19. This nascent Mechanism still has many unresolved issues. In Warsaw the Parties decided that in 2 years’ time they would review progress of the instrument, specificall, with an aim to finalizing the executive committee and workplan on the mechanism by 2015. In accordance with the decision, the interim executive committee has finalized a draft workplan. Here in Lima, the Parties are negotiating finalizing this workplan as well as the organization of the executive committee. Their decision must be finalized by Friday, which gives them only four days, and three formal half hour sessions, to finalize one of the most contentious issues from COP19.

Accordingly, today’s meeting focused on the timing and scheduling of the negotiations. Rather than deciding any of the substantive issues, the session agreed to homework to prepare for substantive discussions at tomorrow’s mid-day meeting. Specifically, the Parties are to (1) clarify their issues of concern in proposed workplan, and (2) discuss the composition and procedures of the Executive Committee. The first of these homework issues was specifically directed at the G77+China, because they stated they had a number of concerns regarding the overall big picture of the mechanism as well as specific issues in the draft workplan. However, they were not prepared to fully explain these concerns at the session. As Norway pointed out (and the US seconded), it is very difficult to respond to unknown concerns. So, the G77+China, agreeing with their “distinguished colleague from Norway on clarity,” stated they would be prepared by tomorrow on the issue. Thus, the Parties agreed to reconvene to discuss those issues rather than reopening LDM then and there.

The formal tone of the polite but disparate Party negotiations was offset by an NGO outside event “Adaptation & Agroecology: Women’s Strategies for Climate Change,” which also revolved around the concept of loss and damage. Here the tone was much more informal, and the panel presented a united position that systemic change was needed if people were actually to adapt to the losses and damages caused by climate change. Though the panel focused on women in food production, as one of the most vulnerable yet crucial people, the theme called for a more integrated approach to climate change discussions. Rather than giving mitigation the center stage, adaptation deserves its weight as well. Additionally, as loss and damage is the effects that go beyond those which people can adapt to, the panel voiced the need for loss and damage to become its own pillar under the UNFCCC and receive the attention it deserves.

The presenters were: Teresa Anderson from Actionaid International, Chris Henderson from Practical Action, and Manu Shrivastava from Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society. They passionately discussed their programs and involvement with women and communities in agroecology and highlighted a few case studies where women were facing climate induced hardships. Some of these case studies presented optimism by demonstrating the resiliency of women and new solutions they were developing. Other studies merely demonstrated the losses. Together the studies depicted a conceptual whole, and the panel emphasized this conceptual piece. They engaged the audience for more examples, questions, and discussions, then closed by reiterating the need for a systemic change. These case studies, they said, showed solutions were possible, but currently they were mere islands in a sea of chaos.

Image from Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society

Image from Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society

Whereas the Party negotiation focused on formal tasks such as timing, the NGO’s focused on narrative and concept. The NGO panel showed photos and criticized politics, but the Parties stoically mentioned concerns not yet prepared for open air. The NGOs talked about the losses and damages to individuals and regions, while the Parties spoke of timing and organization only. If one didn’t know the two sessions were on the same topic going in, they might have left equally unaware. But, the two are interrelated. The NGO sessions discuss work on the ground and influence the way Parties view issues. NGOs may have the space to articulate, without political niceties, the same concepts that drive Party platforms. Yet, NGO debates are framed within the UNFCCC decisions, and are driven by the national policies created in accordance with them. This seeming dichotomy between civil society and Party negotiations is actually what breathes life into COP functions, as the conference offers a ground for these two forms of sessions to occur one after the other with likely overlapping attendees.