Open Access Article

Title: Problematising loss and damage

Authors: David J. Wrathall; Anthony Oliver-Smith; Alexander Fekete; Ebru Gencer; Marqueza Lepana Reyes; Patrick Sakdapolrak

Addresses: United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), UN Campus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany ' Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, 1739 NW 11th Road, Gainesville, FL 32605, USA ' Cologne University of Applied Sciences, ZS-04-01a, Betzdorfer Str. 2, 50679 Köln, Germany ' United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), 189 W. 89th St. Apt. 5J, New York, NY 10024, USA ' Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), G-102 HnB, Aguinaldo St. U.P. Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Metro Manila, Philippines ' Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 166, 53115 Bonn, Germany

Abstract: In the space of a few short years, the UNFCCC process has given birth to a new policy regime, the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, to prepare for the adverse consequences of climate change to vulnerable societies. The justification for this policy is that a residual domain exists wherein climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and public/private risk transfer mechanisms are insufficient for peoples and places overwhelmed by climate impacts. We link this domain conceptually to scientific research on climate change impacts, and specifically to research on limits to adaptation. The normative position of this academic debate is generally oriented toward the need for transformative adaptation. This paper aims to anticipate the challenges that the Warsaw mechanism will encounter achieving transformation in practice. Both policy design (as it is taking shape) and implementation face a set of interrelated conceptual and operational problems that challenge whether resources can and will address adverse consequences among the most vulnerable. In the end, loss and damage policy may suffer from the same limitations as adaptation policy: it is concerned with the reconstitution of vulnerable states of being, rather than their transformation into something more fundamentally conducive of wellbeing and development.

Keywords: climate change impact; social vulnerability; adaptation limits; compensation; risk management; loss and damage policy; transformation.

DOI: 10.1504/IJGW.2015.071962

International Journal of Global Warming, 2015 Vol.8 No.2, pp.274 - 294

Received: 30 Apr 2013
Accepted: 03 Mar 2014

Published online: 25 Sep 2015 *