While the COP presidency seems to be pushing for the operationalisation of the Santiago Network on Loss & Damage (SNLD), with a subsequent COP/CMA decision endorsing the arrangements, other parties argue that the arrangements should be formally negotiated and decided at the COP first (and then implemented). Can the SNLD be put into operation before a formal COP decision on the issue is taken?
The SNLD was established as part of the Warsaw International Mechanism by the CMA in decision 2/CMA.2 at the COP25/CMA2. However, this decision lacks sufficient detail to allow for the operationalization of the SNLD.
The COP/CMA will need to make a secondary decision, similar to that made by the COP to operationalize the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), outlining the terms of reference for the SNLD and the modalities and procedures necessary to operationalize the SNLD.
Establishment of the SNLD
The SNLD was established at COP25 by the CMA as part of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) in Decision 2/CMA.2. The decision provided for the establishment of the SNLD with the purpose of the SNLD being to avert, minimise and address the “loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, to catalyse the technical assistance of relevant organizations, bodies, networks and experts, for the implementation of relevant approaches at the local, national and regional level, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.
Other than providing for the establishment of the SNLD, Decision 2/CMA.2 provides very little detail on how the SNLD will be operationalized. The only additional details included in the decision which specifically relate to the SNLD are as follows:
- that “organisations, bodies, networks and expert… engaged in providing technical assistance to developing countries” as part of the SNLD are invited to report to the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on their progress;  and
- that the Executive Committee is requested to include that information reported to them in their annual reports.
Is the decision of the CMA sufficient to operationalize the SNLD?
The decision of the CMA acknowledges that “further work is needed to effectively operationalize the functions” of the WIM. Arguably, this includes the SNLD, which has the distinct function to catalyse technical assistance for the implementation of approaches in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The decision notes that further consideration of the following issues, amongst others, is required at COP26 to enable the effective and efficient operationalization of the WIM more generally:
- Guidance in relation to “timeliness, relevance, visibility, coherence, complementarity, comprehensiveness, responsiveness and resourcing and the delivery and usefulness of [WIM]’s products and outputs”;
- Communication of outputs from the WIM; and
- Identifying “modalities for fostering the sharing of relevant knowledge and experience among practitioners and vulnerable countries in an interactive and practical manner”.
In particular, the last point is part of the mandate and functions of the SNLD.
Hence, there are still a number of further substantive decisions required for the operationalization of the SNLD. These potentially relate to, for example, the institutional arrangements for support, the relationship with other WIM components or SNLD membership criteria. In an intergovernmental, party-driven process, such decisions, unless explicitly delegated to other bodies and or institutions, are usually the responsibility of the Parties themselves. This is confirmed by the most recent practice of the UNFCCC process related to the establishment and operationalization of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) – a process which we consider to be similar to that required to establish and operationalize the SNLD.
We note that there were 3 decisions required to establish and fully operationalize the CTCN, 2 of which are relevant for the purposes of this response. The first decision, similar to Decision 2/CMA 2, provided for the establishment of the CTCN without many further details being provided in relation to its operationalization. The second decision outlined the details required to enable the operationalization of the CTCN, most notably through providing terms of reference for the CTCN. The terms of reference address the following, which were considered necessary for the operationalization of the CTCN:
- Roles and responsibilities;
- Organisational structure;
- Reporting and review; and
- Term of agreement to host the CTCN.
We consider, in light of the process undertaken to establish and operationalize the CTCN, and the lack of details included in the decision establishing the SNLD, that the decision is not sufficient to operationalize the SNLD. An additional decision by the governing body of the Paris Agreement, the CMA, is required at COP26 to outline the terms of reference for the SNLD, and the modalities and procedures necessary to oerationalize the SNLD.
 Decision 2/CMA2, Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts and its 2019 review, para.43 available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cma2019_06a01E.pdf
 Decision 2/CMA2, para.43.
 Decision 2/CMA2, para.44.
 Decision 2/CMA2, para.45.
 Decision 2/CMA2, para.6
 Decision 2/CMA2 para.12