Conceptual and operational problems for Loss and Damage

Conceptual and operational problems for Loss and Damage

This paper aims specifically at addressing concerns implicit to loss and damage (L&D) policy as articulated by the most vulnerable countries. The paper aims to clarify the meaning of the policy paradigm of L&D, to warn of possible misinterpretations, and to raise conceptual and practical concerns. It also highlights L&D’s potential importance.

It begins by tracing the development of the concept, its use in risk-transfer contexts, and its use and definition in the UNFCCC. The paper then lays out some of the general challenges of the L&D approach, as applied by the insurance industry, disaster responders, and development institutions. Following this, the paper outlines important operational and conceptual challenges to applying the concept to the specific question of climate change impacts. The paper concludes with some general guidelines to policy makers for crafting L&D into a workable policy.

The paper concludes that L&D policy does not risk reintroducing a discarded paradigm, but rather it attempts to introduce the model that has served to safeguard highly industrialised economies and societies from environmental harm. It raises questions about what is not considered in this western paradigm for risk management if adopted more widely across the vulnerable developing world in the specific instance of climate change impacts.

The paper argues that L&D suffers a core challenge of adaptation policy, which emphasises maintaining the same conditions in the face of climate change. Currently, adaptation policy and the external resources made available are channeled through human institutions with specific political economies that have differential benefit for asset- and land-holding tiers of society (Adger et al. 2005). However, for the lower rungs of the social strata that slip into landlessness and impoverishment, adaptation is autonomous, undertaken with a diminishing set of resources, with external inputs for adaptation beyond reach (Agrawal 2010).

The authors conclude that more transformative approaches ought to be considered, which prioritise the most impoverished, marginalised and disenfranchised peoples –those most vulnerable to climate change (as well as global social, economic and environmental change in general).

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