Climate Justice and the Impasse of Loss and Damage Funds : Daily News Analysis

Date : 10/11/2023

Relevance –GS Paper 3 - Environment and Ecology

Keywords –– L&D, UNFCC, COP 23, CBDR


The urgency of addressing the climate crisis has never been more apparent. In the face of escalating climate change impacts, the international community has focused on two key aspects: adaptation and 'loss and damage' (L&D). Adaptation involves proactive responses to climate change, enabling communities and countries to prepare for and cope with climate-related challenges. On the other hand, L&D encompasses the irreversible consequences of climate change, including economic losses, human casualties, and environmental degradation.

Establishment of the L&D Fund

The call for affluent nations to acknowledge their historical responsibility for climate change dates back over three decades. At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2013, member countries agreed to establish the L&D fund. This fund aimed to provide financial and technical assistance to economically developing nations facing L&D due to climate change. Despite initial agreements, subsequent COP meetings faced challenges in operationalizing the fund, leading to a series of negotiations and discussions.

Challenges and Impasse at the TC Meetings

The impasse at the Transitional Committee (TC) meetings, particularly TC4 and the unexpected TC5, stemmed from several contentious issues. These issues included the host organization for the fund, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), climate reparations, and the eligibility criteria for fund recipients. Developing nations conceded to hosting the fund at the World Bank Financial Intermediary Fund for an interim period, but disagreements persisted, especially concerning financial commitments, equity, and liability. The lack of consensus during TC meetings highlighted the deep-rooted mistrust between developed and developing nations regarding historical responsibilities, hindering progress in global climate negotiations.

Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)

  • Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) is a principle within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that acknowledges different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change. The principle of CBDR is enshrined in Earth Summit 1992, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • CBDR is based on two elements of responsibilities- one is the common responsibility of all the states to cater to the concerns of environmental protection and sustainable development and the other is of differentiated responsibility enabling the states to act, for environment protection, in their national capacity and as per their national priority.
  • The principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ evolved from the notion of the ‘common heritage of mankind’.
  • The principle recognizes historical differences in the contributions of developed and developing States to global environmental problems and differences in their respective economic and technical capacity to tackle these problems.

Implications of the Ongoing Impasse

The ongoing impasse in operationalizing the L&D fund carries significant implications at various levels:

  • Diplomatic and Trust-related Repercussions: The lack of commitment from wealthy nations undermines trust in global climate negotiations, hindering collaborative efforts to combat climate change. This breakdown in diplomacy raises doubts about nations' ability to work together effectively on global issues.
  • Climate Justice and Suffering of Vulnerable Communities: Vulnerable communities in developing nations, who have contributed minimally to global emissions, bear the brunt of climate change. The watering down of the L&D fund exacerbates their suffering, threatening climate justice and increasing the likelihood of humanitarian crises, displacement, and conflict.
  • Economic Consequences: The absence of support through L&D funds can lead to economic crises in both developing and developed nations. Economic downturns in one region can have extensive repercussions globally, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the world economy.
  • Environmental Degradation: Limited capacity to address environmental degradation and loss of vital ecosystems can worsen environmental crises, causing irreversible harm to the earth. This degradation further exacerbates climate change, creating a vicious cycle of worsening conditions.
  • Security Implications: Climate-induced instability can lead to conflicts and tensions in vulnerable nations, potentially spilling across borders and creating security threats at a global scale.

Ensuring Climate Justice through L&D Funds

To achieve climate justice, it is imperative that rich nations fulfill their obligations to reduce emissions and provide financial support in line with fairness and equity. The L&D fund, as a critical component of global climate action, plays a pivotal role in addressing the irreversible consequences of climate change. By upholding principles of equity, justice, and solidarity, these funds can help vulnerable nations cope with the impacts and pave the way for a more sustainable and just future.


The impasse in operationalizing the L&D fund highlights the challenges in addressing the irreversible consequences of climate change. The ongoing mistrust between developed and developing nations, coupled with disagreements on crucial issues, has hindered progress in global climate negotiations. To ensure climate justice and mitigate the suffering of vulnerable communities, it is essential for affluent nations to fulfill their obligations and support L&D funds adequately. Only through collective and equitable efforts can the international community effectively combat the escalating impacts of climate change and pave the way for a sustainable and just future for all.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Examination

  1. How does the deadlock in the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund impact vulnerable communities, the global economy, environment, and security? Propose solutions for equitable support through L&D funds. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Examine challenges in establishing the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund, including host organization and financial commitments. How can international cooperation for climate justice be enhanced through L&D funds? (15 marks, 250 words)

Source – The Hindu