TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Oct14/01)
4 October 2014
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

The first step to operationalize the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was taken when a 2-year work plan was adopted by its Interim Executive Committee that met on 16-18 September in Bonn, Germany.

The work plan will now be delivered to the chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) of the UNFCCC for consideration by both the SBSTA and the SBI at SB41 in Lima, Peru in December. Alongside consideration of the work plan, the SBs will have to determine composition and procedures for the permanent Executive Committee.

Below is a report by Doreen Stabinsky who was an observer at the meeting. It describes the innovative process of consultation that garnered useful inputs incorporated in the work plan; the contents and modalities of the work plan; and an analysis of the outcome. Concerns and perspectives of the Parties at the meeting are also included.

With best wishes,

Third World Network

Initial work plan adopted by Interim Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage

By Doreen Stabinsky

The interim Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism, in carrying out its mandate to guide the implementation of the functions of the mechanism (decision 2/CP.19, paragraph 2), adopted by consensus the first two-year work plan for the committee at its second formal meeting (Bonn, Germany, 16-18 September 2014). The work plan will be forwarded through the subsidiary bodies to the 20th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for consideration and adoption in December.

Process with innovative features

The members of the interim Executive Committee were appointed according to the terms of paragraph 4 of decision 2/CP.19, with two representatives named for each of five standing bodies of the UNFCCC: the Adaptation Committee (AC), the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), the Technology Executive Committee (TEC), the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), and the Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention (CGE).

The current members of the interim Executive Committee are: Christina Chan (US – AC), Juan Pablo Hoffmaister (Bolivia – AC), Pepetua Latasi (Tuvalu – LEG), Matti Nummelin (Finland – LEG), Omedi Moses Jura (Kenya – TEC), Krzysztof Klincewicz (Poland – TEC), Georg Borsting (Norway – SCF – replacing Wilhemijn Verdegaal of the Netherlands), Paul Herbert Oquist Kelley (Nicaragua – SCF), Hilary Hove (Canada – CGE), and Thiago de Araujo Mendes (Brasil – CGE).

The interim Executive Committee (iExCom) held its initial meeting from March 25-28, 2014. It was unable to conclude its work at that time, so the meeting was suspended. It resumed September 16, and adopted its work plan on 18 September.

Over the course of the six months to develop the work plan, the iExCom adopted an innovative process to solicit input from observers and experts, creating a number of opportunities for their involvement.

At its first meeting in March 2014, discussions took place in plenary and breakout groups with observers’ participation, with the intent to generate input from the broad range of participants present. Breakout groups were chaired by iExCom members, who took responsibility for gathering and synthesizing the input generated, and then iteratively taking the input back to the larger group of participants for reflection.

The iExCom met electronically between the end of March and the 40th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SB 40) in Bonn in June to continue to refine the material collected at its first in-person meeting. It met informally in Bonn in June to continue the process, and to discuss the content of an information session for SB attendees, held 12 June. At the information session, the iExCom provided an update on the work of the Committee and issued a call for further inputs to the work plan. In response to the call for inputs, 17 submissions were received.

The iExCom continued to work electronically to consider inputs receive and further refine the work plan until its resumed session in September. On 17 September the meeting was again opened to observers, both in person and attending by webcast. The iExCom presented the most recent version of their work plan to observers, and over the course of the day gathered both verbal input from meeting attendees and written input by both attendees and those participating by webcast.

The Committee spent the evening considering the input received during the day. On the morning of 18 September, it presented its final version of the work plan to observers and by webcast, and adopted it by consensus.

Upon its adoption, many of the iExCom members reflected on the content of the workplan and the process that had led to its adoption:

Paul Oquist of Nicaragua, representing the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) on the iExCom, said that the process was very refreshing. He noted that the document had been produced by consensus, without imposition, through a Party-driven process without outside interference.

Krzysztof Klincewicz of Poland, representing the Technology Executive Committee (TEC), expressed his thanks for the opportunity for the positive experience, saying it had been a very constructive process, with deep analysis. He said that the iExCom was a positive experiment under the convention, bringing together individuals of different backgrounds, nominated by different bodies, and that the group had managed to create a shared vision. He said they all strongly supported the final outcome of the work. He also suggested it would be good if the positive experience could be cast on other parts of the UNFCCC process. He also said another positive element was the participation of observers.

Omedi Jura of Kenya, also representing the TEC, said it should be taken into consideration that this is a very loaded work plan that has to be unpackaged. There is space, entry points, opportunities for doing many things, and the work must just start. He recognized that there is always room for improvement, but what is important is what kind of practice the work plan can provoke.

Christina Chan of the United States, representing the Adaptation Committee on the iExCom, said that Parties had entrusted the Committee to develop the work plan. It was not an easy task; in fact, it was a very difficult task, which took more than two meetings. The committee had worked very hard over email and conference calls to get to this point. She said she had appreciated the input from observer Parties and organizations, particularly at the interactive first meeting. The technical expertise that the Committee received at the first meeting was instrumental to the quality of the resulting work plan.  She said the input continued through the summer with written submissions, with over 150 ideas contributed, and continued at the resumed meeting with oral and written interventions by participants at the meeting and watching the webcast. She thanked the participants for their dedication to the topic.

Chan also expressed appreciated to everyone on the iExCom, noting that they had not been in charge of deciding its composition. She said they had all taken up the challenge, done valiantly and with an extreme degree of professionalism. Her hope is that the work plan is approved and endorsed by the COP, as the work to deal with loss and damage is critical and there is no time to waste. She hopes that the time and effort put into developing the work plan is not put to waste.

Juan Pablo Hoffmaister of Bolivia, also representing the Adaptation Committee, congratulated the co-facilitators for guiding the committee in an unprecedented task, not only in nature, but also in the way that different bodies under the convention had been brought together. Modalities never before used were used to improve participation. He said it was regretful that some of these efforts had not been enough. He asked to keep in mind that this is only a two-year work plan, that there is a lot of work ahead, and it does not end here. He said it had been a pleasure to work with colleagues for whom it had been their first time working with loss and damage, and to see the genuine effort they put into wrapping their heads around a complex issue.

He hoped that the work plan helps Parties, noting that in Lima there will be a lot of other work on loss and damage to undertake, and also hoped that Parties would not have to spend time worrying about the two-year work plan but the longer work ahead for the mechanism.

Pepetua Latasi of Tuvalu, representing the Least Developed Countries Expert Group on the iExCom, thanked her colleagues on the Committee for their hard work and understanding to reach the two-year work plan. She recognized that everyone knows that loss and damage is not an easy issue to address or discuss, and that it is a technical and politically sensitive issue. She thanked observers for the inputs they had provided, which had helped the group reach this stage, saying she appreciated their contributions and efforts to work alongside the Committee.

Several observers also reflected on the content of the work plan:

Malia Talakai of Nauru, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), thanked the Committee for its hard work and for leading this part of the work. She said she had some comfort in looking through changes that had been made overnight, capturing some of the changes suggested in comments provided the day before. She noted, however, AOSIS’ disappointment in the wording of action areas 5 and 7 (more detail is provided below on the specific content of the work plan). No changes at all had been made to action area 5, despite the comprehensive comments that the group had provided.

In addition, AOSIS had highlighted concerns with the huge listing found in the footnote to action area 7, which focused on one particular type of finance that is a challenge for SIDS. She said if there had to be such a listing, the group would have preferred a listing that contained solidarity funds, seed funds, and premiums. While they value some reference to risk transfer tools, it is very hard for SIDS to pay insurance premiums. AOSIS did not favor or support the listing of loans and contingency loans, as their countries have high levels of debt. She noted no changes had been made to action area 7, and said it was problematic that although comments had been provided on behalf of 40+ countries their views have not been represented. She reminded the meeting that AOSIS is not represented on the interim ExCom.

Talakai further said that in spite of all those reflections and disappointments, she hoped that the work plan would set a good foundation for a way forward. She will take the document back to AOSIS for consideration.

Sven Harmeling, speaking on behalf of CARE International and Climate Action Network, appreciated that the work was participatory and transparent, and they appreciated to be part of the work of the first steps of building the mechanism. He said the work was something that could set a good precedent for the future work of the mechanism and other bodies. He congratulated the committee on the work, noting improvements made to the workplan such as indicative timeline and priorities for the first year. He noted they would have liked to have seen strengthened the link to the real causes of loss and damage, that is, a link to emissions, with different future scenarios of warming expected linked to various mitigation scenarios, and how mitigation actions might affect future loss and damage. He noted it is a gap in the workplan, as this is where loss and damage problems emerge, and mitigation agreements will affect ultimate levels of loss and damage.

Thiago de Araujo Mendes of Brazil, representing the CGE and co-facilitator of the iExCom, concluded the meeting saying the process to develop the work plan had been quite an innovative exercise, not only because of arrangements behind the mandate of the COP, to put representatives from constitutive bodies together to talk. The Committee had also deliberately decided to take a very extensive participatory approach in developing the final outcome. He noted that some colleagues not only inside but also outside of the Convention had counseled that they were a bit crazy to go in this direction, that increasing input would also increase immensely the amount of work on top of that which the Committee was already mandated to accomplish. He said he had no regrets for that, as he thought the final work plan was much better than the outcome from the first meeting of the iExCom, and this could not have been done without the participatory process that was adopted.

Mendes added that the participatory process in developing this work plan was not only innovative in nature, but also innovative in terms of the recent history of work under the Convention. Through this process, the relevant voices from stakeholders were included. He was quite certain the process to develop the work plan will generate strong support in terms of collaborative implementation of the actions designed in the document. By combining efforts not only from Parties and countries but also from the UN and other international organizations, regional centers, civil society, academia, and the private sector, we then have made a very strong case in terms of putting action on the ground, which in the end will give more results to people, institutions, and Parties.

With all this representation in the room, from academia, civil society, Parties, international organizations, we understand that we have a quite good chance that this work plan will have support in Lima, Mendes said. He added that the Committee knows that the work plan is not perfect, as nothing in this process can be perfect. It is a participatory and country-driven process combining different perspectives and interests. It is not possible to have 100% of all interests from each Party included. He said that despite that, there is a good chance that this work plan will be implemented and that we are pointing in the correct direction.

Next steps

The work plan will now be delivered to the chairs of the SBs for consideration by both the SBSTA and the SBI at SB41 in Lima, Peru in December. Alongside consideration of the work plan, the SBs will have to determine composition and procedures for the permanent Executive Committee.

Content and modalities of the work plan

The work plan contains nine “action areas”, with multiple activities identified under each action area. The action areas do not correspond directly with the functions of the Mechanism as they are defined in paragraph 5 of decision 2/CP.19, nor do the activities comprehensively and in a balanced way carry out the functions of the mechanism.(1)  There is much more emphasis in the work plan on initial information gathering and awareness building, and substantive elements related to means of implementation are noticeably lacking.

The action areas are:

1. Enhance the understanding of how loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change affects particularly vulnerable developing countries; segments of the population that are already vulnerable owing to geography, socioeconomic status, livelihoods, gender, age, indigenous or minority status or disability; and the ecosystems that they depend on, and of how the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage can benefit them.

2. Enhance understanding of and promote comprehensive risk management approaches (assessment, reduction, transfer, retention), including social protection instruments and transformational approaches, in building long-term resilience of countries, vulnerable populations and communities.

3. Enhance data and knowledge on the risks of slow onset events and their impacts, and identify ways forward on approaches to address slow onset events associated with the adverse effects of climate change with specific focus on potential impacts, within countries and regions.

4. Enhance data and knowledge on non-economic losses associated with the adverse effects of climate change and identify ways forward on reducing the risk of and addressing non-economic losses with specific focus on potential impacts within regions.

5. Enhance understanding of capacity and coordination needs to prepare for, respond to, and build resilience, including through recovery and rehabilitation, against losses and damages associated with extreme and slow onset events.

6. Enhance understanding and expertise – and their application – of how impacts of climate change are affecting patterns of migration, displacement, and human mobility.

7. Encourage comprehensive risk management by the diffusion of information related to financial instruments and tools that address the risks of loss and damage associated with adverse impacts of climate change, to facilitate finance in loss and damage situations in accordance with the policies of each developing country and region, taking into account necessary national efforts to establish enabling environments. These financial instruments and tools may include: comprehensive risk management capacity with risk pooling and transfer; catastrophe risk insurance; contingency finance; climate-themed bonds and their certification; catastrophe bonds; and financing approaches to make development climate-resilient, among other innovative financial instruments and tools.(2)

8. Complement, draw upon the work of, and involve, as appropriate, existing bodies and expert groups under the Convention, as well as relevant organizations and expert bodies outside the Convention at all levels as the ExCom executes the above elements of the work plan.

9. Develop a 5-year rolling work plan for consideration by COP22 building on the results of this 2-year work plan to continue guiding the implementation of the functions of the Mechanism.


Four aspects of the work plan and the process to develop it merit further comment and reflection:

1. The process productively included observers in the construction of the work plan.

As can be discerned from the numerous comments made by iExCom members during the closing of the meeting, the process followed was innovative and noteworthy. There was a clear intent on the part of the iExCom to take into consideration what they heard from participants. There were significant changes in wording and content of the draft work plan between the second and third days of the resumed meeting, reflecting the input provided by in-person and virtual observers on the second day of the meeting.

2. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage is more than the iExCom and its work plan.

The work plan made initial steps towards the building of the mechanism by providing for the establishment of at least two expert groups or panels:

  • A technical expert panel or group that could provide technical support and guidance on comprehensive risk management and transformational approaches (which could include issues related to action areas 5 and 7 of the work plan); and
  • An expert group to develop inputs and recommendations to enhance data and knowledge on reducing the risk of and addressing non-economic losses, including how to factor these into planning and elaboration of measures to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

The establishment of these first two expert groups should be interpreted as first steps to shape the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage – to make the work plan more than just the work of a Committee. Each action area contains activities that lead to the development of recommendations and next steps, showing the clear intent of the iExCom to avoid populating the work plan with just a set of activities, reports, workshops, technical meetings, but to begin work that will build a mechanism to provide coordination, coherence, and synergies; enhance knowledge; and enhance action and support.

Moreover, under action area 8, the work plan allows for the establishment of additional expert groups and panels by the iExCom as needed to carry out the work plan, and more broadly sets out a task for the iExCom of developing the relationships needed to carry out the functions identified in paragraph 5(b) of decision 2/CP.19.   Activities (b) and (c) under action area 8 are worth noting here:

  • Identify and establish appropriate channels and modalities to foster relevant partnerships, dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies with public and private sectors, at the international, regional, and national levels
  • Consider the establishment of expert groups, panels, etc., to execute its work, as appropriate.

Finally, under the action area on slow onset events, the work plan creates possibilities for further engagement of outside experts and relevant bodies outside of the Convention through activity 3(b):

  • Foster the establishment or strengthening of collaborative channels, building from existing efforts, to strengthen dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies to enhance, share and manage knowledge and understanding of slow onset events and approaches to address them.

In the final presentation of the work plan, Christina Chan (the US) explained the thinking of the iExCom on action area 8, noting the intention for the Committee to clearly lead the work, rather than to devolve work to other bodies under and outside of the Convention. She reflected on one of the functions of the Mechanism decided in Warsaw, to provide leadership and coordination, and, as and where appropriate, oversight. She said the intent was not to just have analysis that sits on the shelf, but to identify areas for coordination and coherence.

She said another important function of the Mechanism is to strengthen dialogue, promote cooperation, and emphasized the importance of the iExCom engaging with institutions at international, regional, and national levels to build two-way collaboration and leverage respective expertise and reach. She noted that the iExCom cannot do everything and it was important for the iExCom to have ownership and decision-making power to identify channels of interaction and collaboration and to foster partnerships.

She concluded her remarks by emphasizing that the iExCom has already established two different expert groups, explaining that this means that the Committee has the authority and power to establish whatever it needs to execute its work under the work plan.

3. The work plan is not perfect. It reflects a negotiated outcome on a difficult and politically charged topic.

Several aspects of the current work plan attracted significant comments and, as reflected in the AOSIS comments mentioned above, there is still disagreement on the content of action areas 5 and 7.

One phrase in the work plan that provoked comment is “transformational approaches” (action area 2); AOSIS asked for deletion of the term.  At the March session, the phrase “transformational adaptation” was included in the draft work plan; it should be noted that the wording “transformational approaches” is a hybrid term – closer to the use of the word “transformation” in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That said, there is no working definition of “transformational approaches,” which is a cause for concern among some observers.

Malia Talakai of Nauru, on behalf of AOSIS, provided detailed comments to the iExCom during the meeting on most of the draft work plan that was presented on 17 September. She began with general comments on what the group considered elements to be missing from the draft, including: a focus on science and expected impacts; an exclusion of regional level activities; and work to build and strengthen national institutions and capacities.

AOSIS was also concerned that in action area 2 the focus was solely about enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management. It was the group’s opinion that comprehensive risk management should be an overriding theme of the mechanism, and at the very least activities of action area 2 should be combined with those under action area 4.

On action area 5, Talakai noted that the activities proposed incorporate part of the AOSIS proposal, which was welcome. However as currently drafted the framing with respect to disaster risk management is problematic. She suggested the work on guiding principles for loss and damage and an assessment of needs would be better placed with finance and insurance, rather than disaster risk reduction. She suggested consolidating with action area 2.

With regard to action area 7, AOSIS was concerned that the long specific listing of financial instruments found in the chapeau and the footnote might be considered an endorsement of particular initiatives, and a tick box for links to risk reduction and risk transfer. She suggested it was unhelpful to have this specific listing in the set of activities in the work plan. The group wanted to see the references to bonds in elaborate forms deleted, questioning in general the benefits of bonds for small countries.

With regard to action area 9, on developing a rolling 5-year work plan for consideration by COP22, she noted that is was important to look forward beyond two years, but without further guidance and without knowing what the iExCom would look like, any indications of work beyond the two-year work plan should be placed in a COP decision.  AOSIS wanted to leave the door open for the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism and the iExCom to be expanded or changed at a later stage.

4. The work plan is necessarily incomplete.

There is a lot that is not in the work plan. It is just a two-year work plan; the measure of completeness is perhaps not whether this or that particular activity is included, but rather:

  • Whether it initiates processes that will begin to carry out the breadth of the functions established in paragraph 5 of decision 2/CP.19 (see footnote 1); and
  • Whether it begins the work of creating a mechanism – not a committee, but a mechanism that can gather the breadth of expertise needed from a range of institutions and develop both technical and financial support elements.

The work plan appears to make a good start towards enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches, including those addressing slow onset impacts. It also appears to make a good start towards strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence, and synergies among relevant stakeholders.

It is the third set of functions – found in paragraph 5(c) of decision 2/CP.19 – that are not well represented in the work plan. The real test of the process to operationalize the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will be how soon and how fully the international community can fulfill the functions laid out in this paragraph through the Mechanism, its Executive Committee, and its work plan.+

1.  Paragraph 5 of decision 2/CP.19:

(a)    Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts …;

(b)    Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders …;

(c)   Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, so as to enable countries to undertake actions pursuant to decision 3/CP.18, paragraph 6 …

2.  Specific examples of relevant institutions and instruments include, but are not limited to: the African Risk Capacity Insurance Company Limited; the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility; the Inter-American Development Bank Contingency Loans; the European Union Solidarity Fund; the Climate Bonds Initiative; the Green Bond Principles; Mexico’s National Disaster Fund; the IDA-17 Special Theme on Climate Change; the Pacific Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program; the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.