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Climate Change negotiations: Loss and Damage – Accepting Diplomatic Failure?

Published on 11 December 2012
Updated on 05 April 2024

One of the few widely praised decisions coming out of the recent climate change negotiations (COP18) is a text on “loss and damage.” It is generally hailed as an important acknowledgement of historic responsibilities and common but differentiated responsibilities. This is the first time that “loss and damage” from climate change is acknowledged in a legal text and it is the first time a pledge has been made to compensate developing states for loss and damage incurred from climate change.

However, the decision is a weak one. During the negotiations there was strong opposition from the US and others. The decision does not imply legal liability; it is yet unclear where funds will be coming from and how they will be distributed. When “loss and damage” was put on the agenda for the first time in the previous negotiations (COP17 in Durban), the aim was to set up an instutional mechanism at COP18. This has also failed.

Given the potential implications of loss and damage, this vagueness in the outcome of a global negotiation is unsurprising. However, it also raised another point for me.

Ronald Jumeau, negotiating for the Seychelles, argued: “If we had had more ambition [on emissions cuts from rich countries], we would not have to ask for so much [money] for adaptation. If there had been more money for adaptation [to climate change], we would not be looking for money for loss and damage. What’s next? Loss of our islands?”

Loss and damage seems like the acceptance of failure. This is quite a grim thought. Over the last years a subtle change from mitigation (the cutting of CO2 in the atmosphere below dangerous levels) to adaptation could be witnessed at the level of global negotiations. On that trajectory, loss and damage seems to be the next step in the face of a) failure of negotiations bringing about a successful mitigation regime and b) the inevitability of a changing climate and the suffering inflicted because of it.

Sources of funding and means of distribution are still unclear. And my hunch is that this will remain so for some time. At the centre of “loss and damage” is idea of being able to quantify the impacts of climate change. So, going back to Jumeau: how do you compensate for the loss of a state’s whole territory and all the implications that follow from it?

The quote was taken from: https://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/08/doha-climate-change-deal-nations


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2 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Diplomacy on its own is a
    Diplomacy on its own is a broad term that has implications for innttnaeioral relations – but it also is casually employed to describe effective interpersonal communication and negotiation skills. We focus here on Water Diplomacy to provide an environment for learning more about effective ways to approach water management problems that cross boundaries – which involves diplomatic skills that touch on both common definitions of the word (and adds additional considerations, in addition to these).With the Water Diplomacy initiatives – these forums, the RCN, and the PhD program at Tufts, etc – we are defining Water Diplomacy as a theory and practice of adaptive water management. This is an evolving process, and uses a definition of “diplomacy” that is both more broad (in terms of relationship between stakeholders, as you suggest) and also more focused (dealing specifically with water management). I think it might be important to separate general use of “diplomacy” from the use of “water diplomacy” – as general diplomatic strategy can vary significantly from the tools and techniques being developed for Water Diplomacy, and there are unique stakeholders and boundaries involved in water management problems, as compared to traditional diplomatic conflicts.

  2. Aldo Matteucci
    Aldo Matteucci says:



    good assessment. We could have come to this point decades earlier, had we not gunned for centrally-ordained mitigation. As for the quantification of “loss of state’s whole territory” – pray tell me: where is it written that states are forever? (only diamonds are) There is a huge difference between helping to adapt and entitlement to the status quo. Do I get compensated for growing senile? No, but you all may want to help me get over it…

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