US Climate Envoy, John Kerry, at COP 26. Image credit: Tim Hammond/No 10 Downing Street, licenced under a CC-BY-4.0 licence.
In 1991, in meetings constructing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the small island state of Vanuatu introduced a proposal requiring wealthy countries to pay for damages related to sea level rise. More than thirty years later, countries finally agreed to establish a financing mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change. Scholars have observed the slow progress on loss and damage finance, but what tactics did countries use to obstruct negotiations? We answer this question using data from primary and secondary sources, observations at negotiations, and key informant interviews. Our analysis details four periods of obstruction and outlines a typology of fourteen tactics countries have used to delay progress. These tactics limited the issue’s scope, reduced transparency, manipulated language, and advanced non-transformative solutions. These findings contribute to the study of obstructionism in climate governance and can help loss and damage advocates better anticipate and respond to obstruction.