Just earlier this month widespread loss and damage was caused by Hurricane Matthews as it swiped pass Colombia, Haiti, Dominican republic and ultimately ending its wrath of destruction in Florida, United States causing an estimated economic damage of well over US $6.9 Billion and loss of 1400 lives from across the Western Atlantic.
This category 5 hurricane proved to be the most destructive tropical cyclone to hit the region after Hurricane Sandy since 2012, particularly devastating for the small island developing nations like Haiti which bore the most burnt of this storm.
Small Island Developing States or SIDS, of which there are currently around 57 small island developing states recognized by United Nations many of which share similar sustainable development challenges including vulnerability to climate induced disasters like cyclones, coral reef bleaching and rising sea levels .
Recently some of the representatives and academia who have been campaigning and researching on climate adaption in SIDS met at the Asia Pacific Climate change adaptation forum or also known as APAN
2016 held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 17-19 October to highlight the successes and challenges faces by SIDS on how to access and manage climate adaption finance particularly in context of covering the much misunderstood topic of loss and damage.
Some of the key highlights that were shared by the panelist of the session, “International Financing for Climate Change Adaptation in Small Island Developing States” includes the general call for the more developed world to fulfill their obligation in assisting Small Island Developing Nations especially when it comes to compensating and being liable for the loss and damage suffered by these small and most vulnerable nations.
Loss and damage was highlighted as an issue that should be seen from a separate context as compared to adaptation itself, despite climate mitigation and adaptation the impact of loss and damage from climate related disasters are so severe and financing so scare that many low lying island nations like Samoa, Kiribati and Vanuatu are barely getting by for the loss and damage they suffer.
Linda Siegele, a climate lawyer based in London, England who is currently pursuing her PhD at the University College London, United Kingdom, went on to add, “What science is telling us is that we can’t adapt to every single extreme weather event, because there are limitations to technology, financial measures and human capacity to adapt. “
Linda who is particularly familiar with the climate change-related concerns of small island developing states because of her expertise as a negotiator at many UN climate change negotiating process since 2005 said, “that the most impacted and least responsible of the nations are often held liable for most of the threats they face, so much so that they are often shoved off the table when it comes to negotiating their own terms with the
Small Island nations were the leading voice for inclusion of the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit in the Paris agreement because of the threats they face to their existence. SIDS have limited territory and resources to cope with the long term loss and damage they suffer from the ever increasing extreme and frequent weather events like cyclones and hurricanes. There are certain situations of sea level rise, where the adaption measure of building a sea level isn’t enough and the inevitable loss and damage to the coastal region must be insured.
Stacy-ann Robinson, who happens to be a PhD Scholar at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia and recipient of Yale Fox International Fellowship is currently working on her thesis focusing on climate change adaptation in small island developing states.
According to her, “Serious amount of paper work is required when SIDS are required to apply for climate financing, so much so that once the PM Tuvalu said that they won’t drown by the rising sea level but instead would drown by the amount of paper work they have to submit”
“Better governed countries receive more funds, but this itself is a contradiction because better governed countries are more viable countries to adapt and mitigate the loss and damage they safe compare to countries which aren’t so better governed” says Mrs. Robinson
Loss and damage is taken out of the climate adaptation context because adaption isn’t always enough to direct financial needs of SIDS, for many in the development sector nowadays climate change is often viewed as a cash cow issue. So much so that the big money directed to many Disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects are now termed as climate adaptation financing, instead of assessing the loss and damage risk these small island states suffer ”, she adds.