Make a Birthday Wish for the Warsaw International Mechanism

COP 24 marks five years since the birth of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage at COP19 in Warsaw. What can we expect to see when the Mechanism comes home to Poland for its five-year anniversary this December in Katowice? Hopefully more than the same. A review of the WIM Executive Committee’s most recent meeting shows how the Mechanism’s core functions shape its current focus.

On October 15, 2018, the Committee released its annual report covering October 2017–September 2018. The report highlights how the Committee’s work during this period achieved the WIM’s three central functions:

  1. Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts . . .
  2. Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders.
  3. Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology, and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

This year, the Committee undertook efforts to move forward on finance, technology, and capacity-building for addressing loss and damage. The report specifically notes that the Committee’s work “has progressed toward the enhancement of cooperation and facilitation” in the WIM’s key substantive areas: (1) slow onset events (SOE), (2) non-economic losses (NEL), (3) comprehensive risk management approaches (CRM), (4) human mobility, and (5) action and support.

In March 2018, the Committee established three expert groups, one each on SOE, NEL, and CRM. The Committee also established a roster of experts to identify experts to fulfill these groups’ activities per the Committee’s five-year rolling workplan. Under this workplan, the Committee works within five cross-cutting workstreams in preparation for priority activites come 2019–2021; workstream A deals with SOE, B with NEL, and C with CRM.

Below is an overview of information on experts registered in the roster as of September 10, 2018. Without doubt, this roster brings together a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and resources to address loss and damage.

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In May, the Committee convened over 200 experts for the Suva dialogue (named in Fiji’s honor at COP23). This dialogue explored mobilizing and securing expertise and enhancing support—particularly finance, technology, and capacity-building—for addressing loss and damage, especially from extreme weather and slow-onset events. Based on information from these experts and other sources, the Committee enumerated 24 recommendations in its annual report. Still, these many recommendations differ little from ones past.

Not surprising that many complain about the Committee’s focus on process above all else. Specifically, critics lament how long it has taken to tackle the substance of SOE and NEL instead of only DRM. Indeed, whether the Committee is finally picking up speed here is the question of the day. After perusing the report, it becomes easier to understand why many remain dissatisfied with the Committee’s efforts.

For one, vulnerable people and countries facing climate change’s worst impacts desperately need finance. A recent report showed that poor people and countries pay the majority of loss and damage costs. For example, only 23% of the loss and damage costs from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica one year ago, came from finance.

Perhaps parties will take the chance to review and potentially reset the WIM at COP24 by issuing stronger recommendations to tackle the displacement and finance issues that continue to plague the world’s most vulnerable.