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The young research community explores loss and damage for COP22

By 11/11/2016

inevitable-innovation-by Robert Shaw

It’s astonishing that in 2016 the reality of human-induced climate change is still being questioned, but the scientific community presses ahead, and continues to carry out the research to tackle emerging issues. It’s more important than ever for researchers from North and South to work together to document in detail the plight and personal stories of people living on the frontline, where climate change is destroying livelihoods and communities – and then to propose solutions.

One of the more politically contentious issues that has emerged in recent years is how to deal with the loss and damage that will inevitably occur given that our efforts to mitigate and adapt have been inadequate so far. Loss and damage is politically sensitive because it opens the door to claims of liability and compensation from poorer affected countries to the richer polluting countries. Developed countries had opposed the inclusion of loss and damage in COP decisions until COP19 in Warsaw, Poland in December 2013 where all the countries agreed to set up the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage. It was given an Executive Committee and a two-year plan to examine the issues and report back at COP22 in 2016 with recommendations for next steps, including a new five-year work plan.

But WIM faced a problem: the lack of scientific research on the different aspects of loss and damage for them to take into consideration in their deliberations and recommendations. That’s where Resilience Academies have stepped in.

Resilience Academy

The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) together with the Munich Re Foundation (MRF) and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), based at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), have been running annual Resilience Academies that bring together young scholars from around the world, selected on the basis of a global competition, for a week-long Academy on topics related to climate change resilience.

The group of around two dozen researchers spend the first week-long Academy in Bangladesh, where they discuss the issue in depth, see the affects of climate change first-hand, and then agree on a series of research papers that they can collaborate on during the next year. The same group reconvenes a year later in Germany with their draft research papers to review and revise their papers for publication.

The first two Academies in 2013 and 2014 worked on the theme of Resilient Livelihoods under Climate Change, publishing a synthesis paper in Nature Climate Change and a set of 11 Working Papers.

When UNFCCC COP19 in Warsaw in 2013 set up the WIM (Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage) and charged it with assessing the science on loss and damage and making recommendations to COP22 in 2016, ‘Loss and Damage’ was chosen as the theme for the Resilience Academies of 2015 in Bangladesh and 2016 in Germany.

Two years later, a Policy Brief providing five areas of inputs to the WIM and ten research papers have gone on to inform the five-year plan on Loss and Damage that is to being decided at COP22 in Marrakech at this very moment.

The UNU–EHS, MRF and ICCCAD/IUB Resilience Academies of 2015 and 2016 have proven an excellent way for young researchers from across the world to engage in excellent research on a new, emerging and immediately relevant policy topic and to disseminate it to the key decision-making bodies, WIM and COP.

The final decisions will be known by the end of next week, but in the meantime the young researchers have gained excellent experience collaborating with new colleagues from around the world, conducting first-class research, and working directly with the decision-makers.

Read the Resilience Academy policy brief here.