Sri Lanka’s Role in Loss and Damage
By Ranga Pallawala 
(Durban) The entire world is looking at how Climate Change negotiations will turn around during the second week of COP17/CMP7 at Durban, South Africa building on the agreements made at Cancun, Mexico last year. The most important negotiation stream for many of us was Mitigation” as the “Kyoto Protocol”, the only binding agreement in the world to bring down the world emissions, has come to a critical stage. Whether the world leaders agree on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was baffling question for many.

The first week of negotiations moved forward progressively on Adaptation under various meetings and discussions. Adoption of a draft decision on a Work Programme on Loss and Damage was done in Saturday night by the negotiators. This programme was actually established at Cancun but adoption took place after one year. However, this programme still needs to be fortified with objectives and activities and finalized by COP18. “Loss and Damage” is often brought up at the negotiations by AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) which comprised of 39 small island nations with 4 observer states. Maldives is the only AOSIS member in South Asia Sri Lanka is not part of AOSIS but face similar threats with climate changes, especially with sea level rise.

“Loss and Damage” is defined at the UNFCCC negotiations as “the effects that would not have happened without climate change, have not been mitigated, and cannot be (or have not been) adapted to. Under this definition, sea level rise is the main climate change related “Loss and Damage” aspect mooted up at the discussions. The arguments on measuring the loss and damage due to other disaster situation is still vague but cannot be neglected. The small islands can be submerged with rising sea levels which will force the populations to migrate and will damage all the assets. The “Loss and Damage” arguments are supported by all the developing countries since it was brought up at COP14 in Poznan, Poland but developed countries including US were reluctant to negotiate on this. Therefore, the adoption of a draft decision on a “Working Programme on “Loss and Damage” is a significant achievement. The adopted decision on the work programme comprised of three main areas; assessing the risk of loss and damage, regional level expert meetings (and one by AOSIS) in 2012 and to invite parties to submit their proposals to include in the decisions at COP18. Sri Lanka must start work on these elements while doing lots of homework back in the country.

Sri Lankan delegation was keen on this topic as the representatives of “Ministry of Disaster Management” are first time taking part in UNFCCC negotiation process. Being an island with 1340km long coastal line Sri Lanka should work more on the adopted decision on a work programme on loss and damage. Sri Lanka’s main economic canters are situated along the vulnerable coastal line and recent development in tourism in the country also highly concentrated on coastal areas. Moreover, more than 50% of countries population lives along the coastal towns and cities. Therefore, it makes sense that Sri Lanka must support and work in collaboration with AOSIS countries to fortify the adopted work programme. SAARC, being an observer entity of UNFCCC, Sri Lanka minimize the disadvantages of being only in one negotiating block of G77 + China, through a collaborative effort within the SAARC along with other coastal countries in the region. Maldives, Bangladesh and even India would definitely support such initiative within SAARC. There are many academic and civil society organisations in Sri Lanka and in South Asia region working on issues pertaining to loss and damage such as disaster risk reduction and can be capitalize to make a significant contribution for a good work programme on Loss and Damage.