Workshop on Capacity Building of Policymakers & Practitioners on Loss and Damage Related to Slow-Onset Events

By Bhagya Wickramasinghe

This week of September is a key week which addresses world’s development agenda and the ways to move forward in addressing the grave impacts of climate change, termed as loss and damage under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. With 2015 being the year for a new legally binding agreement on climate change, and also the year of deciding the sustainable development goals for the global development which does not leave the vulnerable and marginalized behind, understanding the concepts relevant to this discussion, and impacts of slow onset events such as floods, droughts, sea level rise play a key role in developing policies to address these issues.

Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) in collaboration with Asian Pacific Network (APN), ActionAid International and Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) organised a workshop on loss and damage from slow onset events of climate change impacts in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 22nd and 23rd of September, 2015.

The inauguration and the initial technical sessions of the workshop were held on the 22nd of September, with technical sessions extending to the 23rd.  The inaugural ceremony was held with the participation of the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management Dr. S Amalanathan, Mr. Ranga Pallawala CEO Janathakshan (Gt. Ltd.), Ms. Visaka Hidellage Assistant Country Director of UNDP ,Ms. Nilmini Ranasighe Environment Management Officer of Ministry of Environment and Mahaweli Development, Mr. Sarath Ekanayake Secretary of CABRE and Board Member of CANSA-SL,  Mr. Indu Abeyrathne- Technical Expert from the Centre of Disaster Management representing the various stakeholders representing the government, private sector and the academia.

 Mr. Harjeet Singh International Climate Policy Manager from ActionAid, Ms. Vositha Wijenayake Policy & Advocacy Coordinator for CANSA, Jack Bolland- Regional Coordinator for ActionAid were present at the event as resource persons and technical experts facilitating the sessions.

The workshop focused on the international mechanism to address loss and damage. Mr. Harjeet Singh from ActionAid discussed the international policy making processes and the development of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and slow onset events. He also stressed on the emerging nature of the subject and the difficulty in coming to an international consensus on how to address loss and damage.

Mr. Jack Bolland discussed the importance of addressing loss and damage in the context of each country. The discussion resulted in a country specific discussion on the emerging health impacts and the issues faced by Sri Lanka especially in terms of the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) that spread through the North Central Region of the country, as pointed out by Ms. Vishaka Hidellage form UNDP.

The health impacts due to slow onset events due to climate change gained a focus in the discussions, in addition to impacts felt to the agriculture sector.

“Not having access to clean water, and chemicals being used on agriculture plays a key role in the increase on the number of cases of chronic kidney disease. More the impacts of slow onset events are felt, such as droughts and depletion of water resources, more the number of cases of health will increase. Current policies for development in Sri Lanka and the presidential manifesto of the President highlights health and agriculture as key sectors of focus. If these issues are addressed through policy, communities impacted by health issues, as well as agricultural issues will find solutions to them,” said Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of CANSA, Ms. Vositha Wijenayake.

The workshops further explained impacts of specific events and the possible mechanisms to indentify the country specific slow onset events. This was intended to facilitate to identify the needs to address gaps in policy and decision making.

“In terms of addressing loss and damage related to climate change, there is a lot of focus on insurance and compensation, as well as risk transfer,” said Mr. Harjeet Singh, International Climate Change Policy Manager for ActionAid.

He also noted the importance of choosing planned relocation and allocation rather than unplanned adaptation measures, which would include monitoring the changes of the sea level rise. A discussion on the significance of economic and livelihood diversification and building up climate resilience systems also emerged as solutions to addressing impacts of climate change to agriculture and economy of the country.

As steps to move forward in building solutions to address the issues of climate change impacts such as slow onset events and merging them with the development agenda of the country it was suggested that the findings of the consultation be presented to a larger group of stakeholders who will in turn contribute to the mapping of the way forward on the topic at national level, facilitated by the Ministry of Disaster Management Center and the Climate Change Secretariat.

About the Author:

Bhagya Wickramasinghe is the Co-ordinator for Sri Lanka Youth Climate Action Network and leads the restructuring of the network to ensure a participatory and active youth network in Sri Lanka. She is an Attorney-at-Law and a Lecturer in Law. She has an LLB and LLM from University of Colombo.