ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Addressing Loss and Damage from Climate Change Impacts

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Paris from 30 November 2015 to 11 December 2015, will need to resolve several long-standing issues pertaining to climate-induced loss and damage. This article lists the key issues relating to loss and damage. It then evaluates the potential for and limits of legal claims relating to loss and damage in general international law so as to contextualise their treatment in the climate negotiations.

Given the increasingly certain and disturbing science on climate impacts, glacial pace of the global climate negotiations and the cautious “intended nationally determined contributions” being tabled, it is rapidly becoming evident that greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and adaptation, even if an ambitious agreement is struck in Paris, will not be sufficient or sufficiently timely to prevent the worst climate impacts. The issue of “loss and damage”—the inevitable and unavoidable, loss and damage suffered by countries and communities due to the fallouts of climate change—is therefore likely to form a crucial component of the 2015 climate deal.

This note outlines the evolution of the loss and damage discussions in the United Nations (UN) climate negotiations and lists the key issues relating to loss and damage in the Geneva negotiating text (UNFCCC 2015a) for the 2015 climate agreement. It then proceeds to briefly consider the potential for and limits of legal claims relating to loss and damage in general international law so as to contextualise the treatment of these issues in the climate negotiations.

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