West deletes warming damages

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The Telegraph, USA

Paris, Dec. 5: Rich nations led by the US have ensured that a key UN-mediated loss-and-damage mechanism to counter the effects of global warming would lose its teeth in the climate-change agreement expected to emerge here next week.

The draft agreement, released today, has the words "compensation" and "liability" deleted from the text, nixing the possibility of holding the developed nations accountable for climate change-triggered disasters and forcing them to pay damages.

The mechanism was brought into the negotiations during the Doha climate meeting in 2012 under pressure from the developing countries. Since then, a key demand has been for the rich nations to accept liability for the rising number of climate change-triggered events and compensate the losses from them.

But in Paris, the focus has shifted to creating a mechanism "to address" loss and damage, which effectively puts the onus on nobody and talks vaguely of the future.

"India has a large coastline and we have a large number of inhabited islands. We need to properly anchor loss and damage into the agreement," said minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a senior delegation member from India.

Sources said both the developing bloc, including the G77 countries, and the emerging economies, including India, had accepted the latest position. But the deal is still stuck as the US has not accepted even the watered-down version of loss and damage. It wants the possibility of compensation ruled out categorically.

The current text talks of the "process to develop approaches to address irreversible and permanent damage resulting from human induced climate change". This, the US feels, can open up a future window towards compensation.

The text also talks of setting up a "climate change displacement coordination facility to help coordinate efforts to address climate change-induced displacement, migration and planned relocation".

"The G77 countries have climbed down... India was silent - but the deal is still stuck as the US is adamant," Brandon Wu, senior policy analyst with ActionAid USA, told The Telegraph.

"The developing bloc wants to keep the loss and damage clause in the Paris deal in some form, looking at the larger picture, and I agree with them but the developed countries will never agree to taking liability and compensate for climate change impacts. So, if the developing countries insist on that, the deal will fall off," said Sandep Chamling Rai, an expert from WWF International.

Experts say there's no point pushing for a deal just for the sake of it. "It would be likebiryani without meat," said a Bangladeshi expert.

The Sunderbans, in Bangladesh and Bengal, are one of the possible contenders for compensation as the region has been among the hardest hit despite contributing virtually nothing to climate change.

The world disaster report, released recently by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, emphasises that 87 per cent of disasters were climate-related during 2014.

It said there had been a 20-year-old trend of "climate-related disasters outnumbering geophysical disasters in the ten most disaster-affected countries in the world".

Overall, the Paris negotiations are moving slowly but analysts expect the talks to pick up speed once the political leaders take centre-stage from early next week.

Currently, the 50-odd-page negotiation draft is heavily populated by bracketed text, meaning governments have still not agreed on most of the proposed agreement.

"Although we recognise there are large differences in the text, the presence of world leaders will give a political momentum to these negotiations", said Si Wei, head of China's delegation.

Negotiators from 196 countries are trying to finalise a deal that will seek to curb the world's emissions of greenhouse gases to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The pact is also expected to contain text to guide countries on adapting and managing impacts that are already occurring.