The ‘national turn’

in climate change

loss and damage

governance research:

constructing the L&D

policy landscape

in Tuvalu

By Elisa Calliari & Lisa Vanhala
04 / 01 / 2022
Image Credit: Elisa Calliari

Loss and damage (L&D) is now a key area of climate policy. Yet studies of L&D governance have focused disproportionately on the international level while the national scale of analysis has been overlooked. Recent developments in the UNFCCC negotiations and a growing call for a ‘science of loss’ that can support policy-makers to address L&D suggest the need for a greater understanding of L&D governance at the national level. How do national policy-makers understand the concept of L&D? What types of policies have been developed, implemented and funded to address L&D? We study the paradigmatic case of Tuvalu to illustrate the value of turning to the national level of analysis, while recognizing that other countries might frame L&D and its relevance for the national context differently, and thus devise a diverse set of policy responses. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with national stakeholders and a systematic policy review using methods of interpretive policy analysis, we show that the concept of L&D was introduced in official documentation in 2012 and is not explicitly distinguished from adaptation. We find that managing L&D constitutes a complex governance system with competencies and responsibilities diffused across different national actors and multiple governance scales. As conceptualized by policy-makers and within policy documents, L&D is closely tied to issues related to national sovereignty, human mobility, infrastructure investment and protection of the Exclusive Economic Zone. We conclude by suggesting that there is a need for a ‘national turn’ in research on L&D governance to produce knowledge that will support policy-makers, but also argue that national level analyses will always need to be situated within a multi-scalar context.

Key policy insights:

• Conceptual understandings of L&D and how it is distinct from adaptation do not translate neatly into national policy-making practices.

• In Tuvalu, L&D does not feature as a stand-alone policy domain, but rather it is treated as a cross-cutting issue.

• National responses to L&D might involve action at the regional and international level.

• The establishment of the Santiago Network at COP25 provides new impetus for considering how to govern climate change L&D at the national level.

Licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

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