Date    : 14th Nov 2016
Time    : 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Venue  : Mediterranean room

Dr Jan S Fuglestvedt, Research Director CICERO, Norway;
Prof Lavanya Rajamani, International Environmental Law, New Delhi;
Dr Saleemul Huq, Director ICCAD, Bangladesh; and,
Dr Friederike E L Otto, Senior Researcher, ECI, University of Oxford; High level representative Govt of Bangladesh

The talk highlighted recent advances and remaining challenges by relating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to both slow-onset events and changing probabilities of extreme events. The implications for Loss and Damage (L&D) between national policy responses and international law were also discussed among experts and audiences.

It started with a presentation on emission supply chain, giving an idea of the starting year effect of emissions. In discussing whether historical contribution could potentially result in L&D, it has been suggested that there is no single answer directly linked to responsibility. However, assessment of anthropogenic activities which induced climate change impacts was extensively studied to identify correlations between the activities and resulting impacts. The is currently running the largest climate modeling experiment which looks into factors contributes to climate change.

As there isn’t any concrete evidence to prove the direct linkage between anthropogenic activities and climate change aftermaths, it is, therefore, impossible to say that an event is entirely affected by human influences, but may also involve other external factors. The speakers also indicated that it is difficult to quantify contributions from the EU, the US or perhaps China at this point, which brings us to the next question which is the likelihood of an event to occur when individual countries are removed from the climate predicting model.

While most of the presentations centred around principles of contributions and responsibilities, Dr Otto elaborated on assigning contributions based on global mean surface air temperature (GMT) change via a fitted distribution method or derivative method by interpreting a number of plotted graphs to explain the correlation between probable root cause and impacts. Nevertheless, the research is deemed lacking strong evidence to conclude the relationship between anthropogenic contributions to climate change consequences, although the method on event attribution was used to identify and quantify increased risk through climate change.

It was also mentioned that the quantification of factors leading to climate change is not primarily scientific, but more of a moral and political choice, where historical responsibility lies in recognising harm rather than assign liability. On a national level, determining the contribution of impacts is tricky as there is a lack of integration between required information.

As the last speaker of the talk, Dr Saleemul shared a rather straightforward case reference on Bangladesh. The country itself runs a lot of adaptation plan, more than any other countries combined. He added that Bangladesh allocated 200 million dollars for disaster management, in particular, the “victim plan before the disaster”, which is now untouched. He then mentioned how science can unlock the conundrum on L&D and stressed that climate change impacts are happening which is why COP22 is essential to iron out the mechanism and can no longer be delayed to COP24, COP25 or the 7th IPCC report for more evidence. The debate on how to rightly define L&D is indeed complicated as natural disasters like cyclone and drought might be caused by temporal or localised factor.

In summary, there is no single correct answer to L&D due to many factors which are beyond science, as quoted by Dr Jan. Profesor Lavanya explained that at the moment, it is difficult to determine the solidarity of legal liability and scientific evidence in respect to L&D. Dr Otto called for consideration of non-scientific factors and comprehensive understanding of anthropogenic climate change impacts, and Dr Saleemul reiterated by stating that proactive adaptation plan could potentially reduce the impacts of L&D.

Written by Kelvin Diong
Edited by Choy Moon Moon