Deadly PH storm prompts stronger calls for disaster compensation

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2013 09:48 AM | Updated as of Nov 16 2013 02:25 AM

WARSAW, Poland—Calls to require countries responsible for climate change to pay nations struck by disasters grew stronger at this year's UN climate conference because of a storm that tore through the Philippines and killed thousands.

The Philippine delegation, led by climate change commissioner Naderev "Yeb" Saño, has been adamantly pushing for a mechanism for "loss and damage" compensation during the first few days of the talks, which are taking place on the heels of Typhoon "Yolanda" (International name: Haiyan).

With the Philippines, calling for this measure are developing countries belonging to the so-called G-77, many of which are vulnerable to calamities that experts believe are worsened by global warming.

'Loss and damage'

"What we are pushing for in the loss and damage mechanism is for us to be compensated for the losses and damage when we experience extreme events such as storms, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change," Saño said on Thursday.

Once this system is in place, developed countries that emit the highest amounts of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, would be mandated to pay countries that suffer from its effects.

In a recent report, the international group ActionAid stressed the importance of having a loss and damage mechanism, noting that climate change has become too severe to avoid massive destruction.

“Therefore, it is crucial to build a response that helps vulnerable countries and people to start addressing loss and damage from climate change impacts that cannot be avoided, and where the limits of the adaptation have been and will increasingly be breached,” it said.

Resistance, readiness

Saño and other advocates of the system admitted that it would not be easy to see the proposal become a reality because of resistance from countries that will be obliged to pay.

The US, for instance, is worried that poor nations would use this year’s climate conference to seek redress for the effects of climate change, reports The Guardian.

"It's really a big struggle because they don't want to comply and they keep backtracking here and there," said Farah Kabir, ActionAid's country director in Bangladesh.

According to Saño, the proposal has been on the table since previous conferences but has not made progress because of a lack of consensus to implement it.

However, Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec, the president of this year's talks, told reporters in a briefing that he sees a readiness among climate negotiators to work substantially for a loss and damage compensation system.

That was after a journalist asked him how the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change intends to address climate issues after Haiyan.

"I hope at the end of the conference 10 days from now, we will have a decision of the conference concerning loss and damage," said Korolec.

Preparing for future

Although many experts say global warming can make storms stronger, no disaster has been directly attributed to it.

Thus, one criticism of the proposed system is that it would be difficult to pinpoint which countries must pay, even those with the highest greenhouse gas emissions.

But Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio La Viña, who is in Warsaw for the conference, believes a direct link between climate change and extreme weather conditions would be established in the future.

"If in fact the modelling is correct that the weather is more extreme and typhoons are more frequent and stronger, then a loss and damage mechanism will be useful for a country like the Philippines," he said.

La Viña hopes to see even just a general agreement in the climate conference for countries to establish the system.

The details can be ironed out in the coming years, he added.

"We have to look at the science now and make a best guess what it means policy-wise, what it mean’s law-wise," said La Viña.

"Otherwise, if we wait, we’re doomed."