By Reinhard Mechler & Thomas Schinko (IIASA) with Swenja Surminski (LSE)
(updated 17 December 2014)
As participants in the 20th Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention (COP 20) in Lima strived to prepare the grounds for a comprehensive climate agreement expected for COP 21 in Paris, negotiators faced key questions that revolve around responsibility and burden sharing.
These questions are not new and have played a key role in the policy and academic discourse on climate change since the beginning of the UNFCCC process.
On the mitigation of emissions, the debate has circled around burden sharing: How should emission reductions be distributed among countries and what are the distributional consequences? On climate impacts and adaptation, the debate has centered on the question of who should pay for adaption and impacts in the global South, given that the global North has been responsible for the bulk of historic anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and that the global South will be facing the most severe risks from climate change.
As a partial response, the Green Climate Fund (CGF) was established at COP 16 in Copenhagen to assist developing economies in addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation. The GCF is currently being capitalized by industrialized and emerging economies with the aim of raising 100 billion USD by 2020. At the UN climate talks in Lima the CGF has achieved – thanks to last-minute pledges by several countries – its short term target of mobilizing at least 10 billion USD for the next four years.
Negotiations covering impacts and adaptation have further proceeded, among others, under the umbrella of the Warsaw Loss and Damage Mechanism (WIM), accepted at COP 19 in Warsaw after strong debate as to its meaning and nature- some suggest this mechanism should be part of adaptation, others want it to focus on residual risks that remain after adaptation efforts have been taken.
As a contribution to the WIM discourse, we recently suggested an approach organized around climate risk management, involving the principle of risk layering. We propose that the WIM can build on this principle to distinguish between risk layers to be managed and residual risk layers ‘beyond adaptation,’ thus involving both equity and efficiency aspects: (i) Equity in terms of financially supporting countries particularly vulnerable to climate change in their efforts to manage risks and deal with the burdens ‘beyond adaptation’; (ii) Efficiency in terms of helping to identify best practice for managing risk through well-designed risk prevention, preparedness and financing measures that address high and low frequency climate-related events.
We argue that the risk layering perspective may contribute to taking the WIM discourse over the apparent red negotiation lines if financial support is coupled with well-targeted risk management efforts – such as coordinated nationally through national platforms for disaster risk reduction,
Notions of risk management have been fundamental for the WIM. In Lima the parties discuss whether to accept a two-year work plan, which was put together with input from policy, science and practice. The work plan would give a strong role to risk management and, among others, would seek advice on “enhanced understanding of how comprehensive risk management can contribute to transformational approaches.”
Transformational risk management approaches have been promoted by the disaster risk management community over the last few years in seeking a better balance between pre-event risk management and post-event relief and reconstruction (currently 15% of overseas development assistance goes into pre-event efforts vs. 85% into post-event). As a case in point, regional risk pools (mostly covering climate-related risks) have been springing up in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Africa. These efforts are first and foremost focussed on mutually financing risk, but can also be seen as a first step to a comprehensive approach for reducing and financing risks.
For example, the African Risk Capacity (ARC) pool provides quick finance to provide relief after drought events, and has aimed at linking these efforts to improvements in response planning and early warning. Innovatively, the ARC, initially capitalized by donor support and country contributions, currently explores to set up an Extreme Climate Facility for raising funding for any losses that can be related to climate change and may endanger the solvency of the ARC.
The idea is to monitor variability in a composite index of weather indicators over time and understand whether this variability can be attributed to climate change, which would then lead to a pay-out to the fund from this facility. While promising, the link to attribution is a key scientific challenge, and a number of principled and implementation-related questions for this particular facility as well as for the WIM in general remain open. These open questions will need further attention by science, policy, practice and civil society in the coming months in order to help achieve progress on the Loss and Damage Mechanism.
Reinhard Mechler, Laurens M. Bouwer, Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer, Stefan Hochrainer-Stigler, Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts, Swenja Surminski & Keith Williges. 2014. Managing unnatural disaster risk from climate extremes. Nature Climate Change. March 26, 2014. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n4/full/nclimate2137.html
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.