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Climate Change's Controversial Policy: Loss & Damage

Posted on 2 November 2022 by Guest Author

There's a climate change policy that governments have been debating for decades. The USA recently even tried (and failed) to have the words removed from the latest IPCC report (AR6 WGII). This policy is: "Loss & Damage".

Also called "Climate Reparations", Loss & Damage is a way of seeking climate justice in the face of disasters, and will be a major talking point at this year's climate negotiations - COP27 in Egypt. So what is Loss & Damage, why is it so important for climate action, and why have countries been arguing about it for so long?

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  1. I would add to the excellent presentation that some of the key questions include:

    What precedents exist for dealing with other forms of environmental damage? Can those who pay damages specify how the money is spent by the damaged populations? In view of the universal nature of the climate crisis and the size of the damages already caused and upcoming due to inaction can we afford not to have pretty good control of how the money is spent? Private insurance has a role to play for some cases, perhaps the most localized cases. Also, the government insurance might have roles. In the US the Price-Anderson Act limits the liability of power companies operating nuclear reactors to $450mill per reactor plus up to about 100reactors at $120mill each or $12bill. This money is either by private carriers or assessed as fees to the power companies, which might possibly be recovered later in their utility rates. There is also an arrangement for cases of US makers whose reactors are in foreign countries. See https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10821. Perhaps there are lessons there. I wonder if there are similar arngements for nukes in Japan or Germany. A downside of such insurance schemes is that they often take al ong time to settle, and we need action world-wide. China is ramping up its solar rapidly and has caused a drop in its costs which has contributed to adoption in the US and elsewhere, but has also installed and continues to install more coal powerplants. India is building coal fired powerplants too. Perhaps the role of already industrialized countries should be first and most urgently to subsidize renewables world-wide, to the extent that developing countries get them at a cost that undercuts the cheapest fossil plants by some modest amount. Such subsidies might count against past damages. Electrification network costs, which might be mostly independent of power source types and costs, ought to be borne by the developing countries and installed with future capacity needs in mind. (The future capacity is another problem. Should we all be looking to cap it or to make it indefinitely expandable?)

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  2. I would add that to the extent developed countries subsidize developing ones to establish renewables, the action ought to include establishing the production and installation industries for them in those countries, so they are self-sustaining.

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  3. walschuler @1. says: 

    "Perhaps the role of already industrialized countries should be first and most urgently to subsidize renewables world-wide, to the extent that developing countries get them at a cost that undercuts the cheapest fossil plants by some modest amount.".

    That's the argvument for a global carbon credit scheme. 

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  4. Walschuler and Art Vandelay have presented some valid points.

    There is more to consider regarding climate change impact Loss and Damages.

    Loss and damage, or reparations, is challenging (and challenged). It requires the development of adaptations by the highest harming per capita portion of the population. They need to make amends for harmful past, present and future actions they benefit(ed) from. They need to:

    • admit that harmful beliefs and related actions developed in the past and continue to be popular and profitable today. The past harm includes the injustice of developed perceptions of prosperity and status and the inequitable advantages that development created.
    • recognize the current continuing harm and harmful developed systemic problems.
    • understand that there will be future harm done that people need to be compensated for until the harmful beliefs and resulting actions are effectively limited. The improvement of awareness and understanding, especially among the wealthy and powerful, needs to be significant enough to ensure that collective governing will limit the harmful impacts.

    A key consideration is that undeserving beneficiaries of harmful beliefs and actions will try to delay corrections that reduce their perceptions of prosperity and status. Delaying the reduction of harmful pursuits of benefit makes the required future adaptation more severe. And that can make it harder to get support from people who understandably should suffer any required negative consequences.

    The delayed reduction of per capita impacts by the harmfully over-developed portion of the global population is building a more damaging situation, including more vicious fighting against deserved losses by undeserving (damaging) wealthy and powerful people.

    A major impediment to the understandably required corrections is the perceptions of prosperity and status hat developed via benefiting from unjustified beliefs that excuse harmful unsustainable beliefs, systems and actions.

    Admitting to the need for compensation for loss and damage due to climate change impacts understandably includes compensation for harm done by the past harmful development of perceptions of superiority. That is a slippery slope for the wealthy and powerful. Some wealth and power is legitimately obtained by developing sustainable improvements for humanity. But a lot of current day wealth and power is almost certain to be due to harmful actions and the promotion of harmful unjustified claims and excuses.

    Admitting to the need for Loss and Damage requires the current day wealthy and powerful to admit that they do not deserve their developed perceptions of status. And it requires them to decide how they will:

    • collectively penalize themselves to stop the developed harmful pursuits of benefit
    • adequately compensate and correct for all of the harm done everything that contributed to their acquisition of higher status.

    Regarding insurance:

    The wealthy profit from private insurance programs. They have been reported to harmfully operate private insurance to maximize their profitability. Their actions include declaring that the circumstances some people needing assistance are in make them ineligible for insurance. In addition, the harmful among the wealthy and powerful have a history of abusing their influence on leadership to limit government assistance programs or have those programs implemented in ways that they benefit from.

    The required adaptation is clearly the dramatic rapid reduction of harmful unsustainable pursuits of perceptions of prosperity and status relative to others.

    The obvious challenge is overcoming the developed powerful resistance to the required adaptation actions.

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  5. My comment @4 brings to mind additional considerations regarding the challenges of determining the Truth and proper Reconciliation of climate change Loss and Damages.

    An obviously challenging developed reality is that people who want to benefit, or who have benefited, from harmful beliefs and actions causing Loss and Damage cannot be allowed to influence the determination of how much Loss and Damage has occurred or the appropriate Reparations.

    And that challenging developed reality, harmfully developed human behaviour - not fundamental human nature, applies to far more cases of 'Benefiting from causing Loss and Damages' than the beliefs and actions causing continued climate change impacts.

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