The G77+China group of countries submitted a formal proposal to the Warsaw climate talks on the controversial subject ‘loss and damage’ making an early move to ensure that the negotiations end with some concrete decision on the topic, which has support across the spectrum of developing country blocks but little buy-in from the developed nations.

‘Loss and damage’ refers to the demand from the poorest and most vulnerable countries that they must be paid for the damage that will occur to life and property from the level of emissions already up in the atmosphere and which cannot be prevented even by adaptation.

The idea was firmly opposed till the last moment by the US and stiffly battled by other developing countries in talks last year till the rare absolute unanimity among the developing countries in the fragile G77+China group won the day and it was decided that a mechanism would be set up to address loss and damage from climate change.

The US and other developed countries have either opposed or been less than enthused by the idea as the loss and damage concept plays out as compensation or reparation in principle and could impose large financial liabilities on the developed countries for typhoons wrecking developing countries.

The formal G77 proposal says the UN talks at Warsaw should agree “that the international mechanism is established to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change from extreme and slow onset events in developing country parties, especially the least developed countries and small island developing states and other developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”

The proposal further elaborates on the international mechanism and what would its ambit and role, including channelling of funds from the developed countries to support poor countries.

The proposal talks of mobilising sufficient new and additional resources, establishing a liquidity pool for swift relief in cases of episodic events and/or catastrophic shocks, providing funds for actions to reduce risk, and where it cannot be avoided, provide for rehabilitation or compensation of permanent loss. It talks of developing a suite of options for financial measures, including social protection programmes and debt relief besides establishing a financial mechanism for redress, including for compensation and rehabilitation.

The proposal could now provide for the first formal negotiating text, which would be fought upon by countries to come up with a decision. A source in an African member country of the G77+China block said that the proposal was not as strong as some countries desired as it was a product of consensus between various diverse groups that sit inside the large block, such as that of the small island countries and the least developed nations. But, he said, it could provide at least a basis for taking the talks forward.

It was too early to see a full reaction to the proposal from the developed world, which is likely to emerge in talks over the next few days but it has been clear from the start that the unanimity of the G77+China group has put ‘loss and damage’ as priority issue to be addressed at the Warsaw talks.

The African negotiator said, “Let’s wait to see how the US and our other partner developed countries react to the meat of the proposal. This is not the stage anymore where they can come out against the idea in principle but we need to see how they respond more meaningfully at Warsaw. This is the issue along with finance at Warsaw for us all.”