The Santiago Network for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change (SNLD) was established in 2019 at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or Convention). The objective of the SNLD is to catalyse the technical assistance of relevant organizations, bodies, networks and experts (OBNEs) for the implementation of relevant approaches at the local, national and regional level in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
After two years of informal discussions during the pandemic years on how the SNLD might operate, Parties to the Convention agreed on the functions of the SNLD at COP 26 (Glasgow, 2021), including: contributing to the effective implementation of the functions of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM); ensuring that the technical assistance provided is demand driven; and facilitating access to action and support (finance, technology and capacity-building) for the implementation of this technical assistance. Further to this, in Glasgow, Parties decided that the SNLD will be provided with funds to support technical assistance and urged developed country Parties to provide these funds.
At the latest COP in 2022 (COP 27, Sharm el-Sheikh), not only were decisions made as to how the SNLD would be fully operationalized, but Parties agreed to establish new funding arrangements, including the establishment of a fund, for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to respond to loss and damage. A Transitional Committee (TC) was also established to provide recommendations for operationalizing the loss and damage funding arrangements and fund by COP 28 (Dubai, 2023). The first meeting of the TC from 27-29 March in Luxor, Egypt has just concluded, and the work of the TC over 2023 promises to have a very high profile, globally.
The work of the TC in 2023 will take place in a broader landscape of funding discussions under the UNFCCC as well as outside it. Increasing the current collective goal of providing USD 100 billion of climate finance annually by developed country Parties to developing country Parties is being discussed in a structured work programme that was agreed in Glasgow, the aim being for Parties to agree on a New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) with a floor of USD 100 billion annually by the end of 2024. Consideration of financing for loss and damage has been included in discussions under the NCQG work programme. Another ongoing process under the UNFCCC is the first Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement (GST), which will culminate at COP 28 this year. The objective of the GST is to measure progress in achieving the long-term goals under the Paris Agreement, which cover mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation and support (finance, technology and capacity-building). Parties have also agreed to include consideration of loss and damage in the GST process, providing the potential for directly linking loss and damage and the collective provision of climate finance under the Paris Agreement.
Among initiatives outside the Convention process, Convention Parties invited the UN Secretary General to convene the heads of international financial institutions to discuss funding for loss and damage. Parties also invited international financial institutions to consider the same at their 2023 Spring meetings and in June 2023, France will be hosting an international conference on a New Global Financial Pact, where one of the four main objectives is the mobilization of innovative financing for countries vulnerable to climate change. The meeting in France appears to be an effort to answer the call for action by Barbadian PM Mia Motley under her Bridgetown Initiative.
Given the pledge made by Parties in Glasgow that the SNLD ‘will be’ given funds for the provision of technical assistance to address loss and damage, consideration of the SNLD should be included in discussions this year and going forward on financing for loss and damage. However, despite this promise, the SNLD does not feature at all in the COP 27 decision that establishes the loss and damage funding arrangements and fund. The fact that the SNLD is not mentioned in this decision risks its being side lined in these ground-breaking discussions. This would be a great shame as, arguably, the SNLD has already mobilized support to developing countries for technical assistance to address loss and damage and has the potential for doing so at scale in the short-term, including responding to post-event situations.
This year Parties will agree on the host organization that will house the secretariat of the SNLD, including on the memorandum of understanding between this organization and the UNFCCC. They will also nominate members of the advisory board. OBNEs, upon the invitation of the Parties in 2019, have already reported on the technical assistance they have provided to developing country Parties in the areas of risk mapping, assessments and analysis; early warning systems; anticipatory action; risk finance, insurance schemes and contingency measures; policy and legal frameworks and plans; and nature-based solutions, among others. A fully operational SNLD no doubt will deliver even more in coming years.
As a more direct approach to integrating the SNLD into the work of the TC, a series of regional workshops are planned during April and May 2023 with the aim of engaging countries in identifying and synthesizing information and insights on their experience in addressing major impacts of climate change, in particular major loss and damage resulting from hydro-meteorological hazards and extremes, as well as specific needs for technical assistance at different stages of responding and addressing loss and damage. The outputs from the workshops will be used to better define and scope the typical technical assistance needs of developing countries in the context of the SNLD. The proposed work plan for the TC includes reference to these SNLD regional scoping workshops as related work that the TC can benefit from throughout 2023. Ensuring that the SNLD is considered throughout this critical year for discussing the financing of countries’ efforts to address loss and damage is of paramount importance.
Linda Siegele is an environmental lawyer and independent consultant. She has been involved in the UNFCCC negotiating process since 2005 with a special focus on the issues of adaptation and loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change in developing countries.
Heidi White is a lawyer and independent consultant. She supports both government and non-government actors to make progress in the UNFCCC negotiations on Loss and Damage with a particular expertise on the Santiago Network.