The following article is part of an Eco-Perspective special in which the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law is collaborating with the VLS COP22 Observer Delegation
By Beth Bootz
Earlier [in October], Hurricane Matthew left a path of destruction, ravaging Haiti and the southeastern coast of the United States. In Haiti, the death toll is uncertain, with some estimates in the hundreds or thousands of people. In addition to the rising death toll, those who survived are still feeling the hurricane’s effects three weeks later. The storm caused flooding and exacerbated poor sanitation systems in Haiti, leading to an increase in cholera cases across the country.
In comparison, the death toll and effects felt post-Matthew in the United States have been much less severe. While the southeastern coast is still experiencing severe flooding, the death toll is significantly lower, causing fewer than 50 deaths. The damages Haiti experienced were so much worse than the negative effects in the United States due to poverty and lack of resources. In contrast to Haiti and most of the developing world, the United States has the infrastructure and resources necessary to prevent many of the devastating effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters, such as emergency preparedness, early warning systems, and evacuation plans.
The disparate effects felt in the developing and developed world will only increase as the climate continues to change. Mitigation efforts alone will not be sufficient to prevent future loss and damage from climate change, making the loss and damage mechanism in Article 8 of the Paris Agreement even more important.
In order to reach the same level of preparedness as the United State and other developed countries, Haiti needs additional support. Article 8 provides the means through which Haiti—and other climate-vulnerable countries—can gain access to this support. Article 8 calls parties to enhance their understanding, action, and support for the effects of loss and damage from climate change, including areas like early warning systems and emergency preparedness. Research and support on implementing these types of mechanisms in countries like Haiti would go a long way toward reducing the devastating effects of climate change.
Looking forward to COP 22 in Marrakesh, the Executive Secretary recently released the agenda for the first meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1). Item three of the agenda invites CMA 1 to “consider and adopt decisions on the modalities, procedures and guidelines on the implementation of the Paris Agreement.” Under the same item, Article 8 and paragraphs 47 through 51 from decision 1/CP.21, which outlines the duties of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), are specifically mentioned. Now that the Paris Agreement is set to enter into force years earlier than expected, negotiations on loss and damage could potentially begin this year in Marrakesh.
In light of climate change, Hurricane Matthew is not an isolated incident. Extreme weather and slow-onset events will continue to devastate climate-vulnerable countries despite mitigation and adaptation measures—making loss and damage under Article 8 more important than ever.