Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

Climate justice, loss and damage and compensation for small island developing states

Sam Adelman * *

Keywords: climate justice, corrective justice, loss and damage, small island developing states, compensation, AOSIS, climate change displaced persons, Warsaw International Mechanism


Low-lying small island developing states are threatened by inundation from rising sea levels caused by anthropogenic global warming. Islanders face the prospect of forcible relocation without protection under international law and with few resources for resettlement. They are entitled to compensation for climate-related loss and damage in the interests of climate justice. The present article discusses the history of proposals for an international compensation mechanism under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change led by the Alliance of Small Island States. These calls led to the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts in 2013. Several proposals have been put forward about how a mechanism should operate and achieve its objectives. I argue that climate justice will be promoted through compensation for loss and damage. An international compensation fund offers a relatively simple and ethically satisfactory way of acknowledging the physical loss and psychological damage resulting from climate change and from the extensive violation of islanders’ human rights.

Author Notes

School of Law, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL. I am grateful to the external reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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