By Vositha Wijenayake –
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 Board Member of Climate Action Network South Asia, and various stakeholders representing the government, private sector and the academia.
The workshop focused on the international mechanism to address loss and damage, and discussed the international policy making processes and the development of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and slow onset events, as well as the emerging nature of the subject and the difficulty in coming to an international consensus on how to address loss and damage.
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. This is due to the fact that 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.
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. This is one of the key discussions that have been prevalent in the international forums in the last few years. Who needs to fund the losses and damages suffered by the victims of climatic impacts. While the developing world points the finger at the developed world, the answer remains yet to be determined.
In order to address impacts of climate change, and the losses and damages due to slow onset events such as droughts and floods it is important to choose options which are planned with the consideration of scientific data. While lack of water resources, impacts on agriculture leads many to migrate to different parts within and outside the original habitat, unplanned adaptation measures will only lead to aggravating the situation. Furthermore it is important that the discussion on the topic takes into consideration the significance of economic and livelihood diversification and building up climate resilience as solutions to impacts on economy and development. However it was noted that scientific data on the hasards, and accurate calculation of damages are missing at the national level.
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.