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UN climate talks: Why is loss and damage so controversial?

By Ed King
RTCC in Doha

The success or failure of the Doha round of climate talks now seem to hinge on a proposal that states are compensated for damage caused by climate change.

It seems fairly straightforward, but is in fact fiendishly complex, as it could involve industrialised nations forking out huge sums of money to give to nations suffering from climate-induced typhoons, hurricanes or rising sea levels.

The Loss and Damage text presented to delegates on Saturday was the subject of a fierce row between the USA and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in the early hours of the morning. Some AOSIS delegates reportedly left a meeting with the US in tears.

There is a clear fear among developed nations that they would be asked to foot the bill for any number of extreme weather events. The 2010 Pakistan floods are estimated to have cost the country over $15bn.

Ironically, despite Washington’s opposition to this text, Hurricane Sandy could present it with its own ‘loss and damage’ bill of up to $60bn.

Equally, with the effects of climate change becoming increasingly clear around the world, the feeling persists that a mechanism is needed to ensure emergency funds are distributed to regions on the frontline of global warming.

Currently it is hard for scientists to directly link individual extreme weather events to climate change, and it is also clear that some states may have exacerbated their vulnerability, for instance by building on flood plains or destroying mangrove forests.

Earlier this week I spoke to Saleemul Huq from the International Institute for the Environment and Development, who explained why this issue had cropped up in Doha, and outlined what a potential solution could look like.

Saleemul Huq IIED from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

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