Given my interest in climate justice and issues of equity in climate negotiations, I’ve followed the “climate fates” of small island developing states with much interest, post Paris. Thus, I focused my attention on attending both official negotiations and discussions as well as side events on the topics of adaptation, and loss and damage, including disaster insurance, while at COP22. In this first Part, I discuss a couple of side events at the COP that dealt with loss and damage, and climate insurance. In a second installment, I will attempt to explain the concept of Ecosystem Based Adaptation, which aims to provide an innovative approach to tackling adaptation challenges in the context of climate change.

One of the first events I attended at COP22 was an official side event titled “What would an inclusive framework to address L&D look like?” The panel began with the premise that “loss and damage” (L&D) has varying conceptions, and that attempting to understand what this meant elicited a spectrum of views from experts across the globe. While some suggest that L&D refers to all potential climate change impacts that may be dealt with through mitigation and adaptation, others (followers of the “existential typology”) emphasise the need for new L&D approaches to address the unavoidable harms that will fall upon vulnerable countries. Importantly, those that do not believe L&D is restricted to mitigation and adaptation action under the Convention also ask that it be applied to impacts of all climate-related events rather than just those that can be attributed to climate change, and that a focus is maintained on addressing vulnerability at the community level.

Panelists went on to discuss the role of risk analysis in helping identify a policy space for L&D frameworks, categorising L&D approaches into two buckets – curative measures for unavoidable and unavoided impacts (due to technical/financial constraints, but otherwise avoidable), and transformative measures to avoid or manage intolerable risks. A presentation focused on national mechanisms that could be deployed further highlighted the linkages between L&D and risk management regulation and infrastructure, including both insurance as well as disaster management frameworks.

Several speakers pointed out the importance of moving beyond the attribution debate (“Was this caused by human-induced climate change?”) towards a humanitarian perspective – for example, the very real existential threat to low-lying islands and coastal nations like Bangladesh was recognised as a serious issue, whether all the damage could be attributed to climate change, or not. Speakers talked about the need for legal protection from international law and financing for forced displacement caused by climate change, and mentioned the Nansen Initiative, in this regard. Given the complete refusal to consider including “compensation” within the L&D framework at Paris, and unfavourable international migration and refugee law architecture, this suggested shift in attitudes was heartening, to say the least.

At another side event, panelists discussed the importance of providing insurance solutions for adaptation. The consensus emerged that climate risk insurance could in fact contribute to building resilience amongst vulnerable communities, and a classic example of co-benefits would be the increases in agricultural productivity that are often experienced after a drought insurance scheme has been put in place.

Importantly, a researcher from the UN University’s Munich Climate Insurance Initiative shared 7 guiding “pro-poor” principles that would help make climate insurance work for those most vulnerable; these are listed and briefly discussed below –

  1. Comprehensive needs based solutions – insurance schemes should be tailored to local needs and conditions, and integrated with comprehensive risk management strategies that improve resilience;
  2. Value to client/community – insurance schemes must provide reliable coverage that is valuable to the insured, which is crucial for uptake;
  3. Affordability – schemes must be made more affordable to increase coverage, and this is important to satisfy equity concerns;
  4. Accessibility – aligning efficient and cost-effective delivery channels with the local context is key for scaling up;
  5. Participation – inclusive, meaningful and accountable involvement of (potential) beneficiaries and other relevant local stakeholders – in the design, implementation and review of insurance products – creates trust and provides a basis for local ownership and political buy-in;
  6. Sustainability – safeguarding economic, social and ecological sustainability is crucial; and
  7. Enabling environment – actively building an enabling environment that accommodates and fosters pro-poor insurance solutions.

Finally, the panel wrapped up by discussing the value of climate insurance beyond compensation, highlighting other co-benefits such as the importance of knowing the “price tag” for risk through risk transparency, enabling increased individual/economic activity through providing a “safety net”, and building up research and data on the issue.