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loss and damage: fernando sanchez - bigLoss and damage resulting from climate change is not a new concept but it is a term that has been widely debated. Vanuatu, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, in 1991 made a proposal for countries to pay into an insurance mechanism to address their future losses due to sea level rise (SLR). Although it was not incorporated at the time, research on adaptation has inevitably led to discussions on impacts beyond adaptation and mitigation, including insurance mechanisms.

Work on loss and damage gained momentum after the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) where Parties called for increased understanding of risk management, risk reduction, risk sharing and risk transfer (terms now synonymous with the topic). After this, work presented at COP 16 led to the adoption of a work programme specific to address loss and damage impacts from climate change. This helped encourage Parties to call for the establishment of institutional arrangements on loss and damage two years later at COP 18.

Discussions on the issue reached a pivotal moment in 2013 with the creation of the Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage (WIM). The mechanism demonstrated the willingness of Parties to expand research on risk management components and gave them a two-year window to do so before re-evaluating the mechanism. At COP 20 in Lima, Parties agreed upon the composition of the Executive Body on loss and damage that will begin work on researching elements of the two-year work plan. One item not yet resolved however is whether loss and damage will become part of the new agreement that will be decided at COP 21 in Paris.

Despite the lengthy process of determining institutional arrangements for loss and damage at the international level, losses and damages continue being incurred by vulnerable communities. A recent report by UNU-EHS demonstrates losses occur through a number of different pathways. With research from nine different countries the report reveals losses occur when: 1) Coping and adaptation measures are not sufficient; 2) These measures have costs that are not recovered; 3) These measures are erosive and increase vulnerability; 4) No measures have been implemented whatsoever (Warner and van der Geest, 2013). Although identifying when losses occur and taking into consideration issues like gender inequalities is different in theory than in practice, there have been substantial efforts in the research to ensure gender considerations are made while building an evidence base of human impacts due to climate change. We are now at a point where empirical evidence on loss and damage is beginning to present impacts from an individual context, however it is also clear much more research is needed.

Image credit: Fernando Sanchez