Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 3, pp 469–480 | Cite as

Justice for climate loss and damage

  • Ivo Wallimann-HelmerEmail author


This paper suggests a way to elaborate the ethical implications of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) as decided at COP 19 from the perspective of justice. It advocates three proposals. First, in order to fully understand the responsibilities and liabilities implied in the WIM, adaptation needs to be distinguished from loss and damage (L&D) on the basis of the different goals which should be attributed to adaptation and to L&D approaches. Second, the primary concern of the WIM should be compensatory justice. In case of climate L&D, three aspects of compensatory justice should be kept separate: corrective liability, remedial responsibility, and with regard to the resources available, fair remedy. Third, it is crucial to distinguish between recoverable damage and irrecoverable or at least not fully recoverable loss. This distinction is crucial because it informs the principles of fair remedy and because damage and loss may differ in their relevance for the stability and functioning of a human system.


Adaptation Measure Climate Impact Human System Potential Negative Effect Anthropogenic Climate Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Loss and Damage


Warsaw International Mechanism



Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the Annual Workshop of the UZH/ETH Zurich Network for Interdisciplinary Climate Change Research held in 2013 and a workshop entitled “New Debates in Climate Change Justice, Governance and Democracy” at the University of Warwick in 2014. I would like to thank the audiences of both these occasions as well as Hajo Eicken, Axel Gosseries, Gerrit Hansen, Christian Huggel, Simon Milligan, Edward Page, Fabian Schuppert, Daithi Stone, three anonymous reviewers, and especially Dominic Roser for very helpful and much needed comments, discussion and inspiration. I also would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of Stiftung Mercator Switzerland and the University of Zurich’s Research Priority Program for Ethics (URPP Ethics), without which the research for this paper would not have been possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Priority Program for EthicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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