Disaster Risk Reduction and the Ethics of Climate Change Loss and Damage – University of Copenhagen

Disaster Risk Reduction and the Ethics of Climate Change Loss and Damage


The issue of loss and damage as a result of climate change was acknowledged on an international level last year at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP 18 in Doha. This seminar examines the major principle behind international environmental law namely that of common but differentiated responsibilities as it applies to the UNFCCC. Implicit is the idea that developed countries should pay developing countries for loss and damage resulting from climate change.

This raises a number of questions relevant to the capabilities approach. Amartya Sen’s pioneering work on famines played a pivotal role in our understanding of disasters, helping to change our perspective from one which sees disasters as a fact of nature to one that emphasizes the role of society in causing vulnerability. This latter view is now central to disaster risk reduction debates.

In relation to climate change, the implication is that those countries in which loss and damage occur are partially to blame for disasters and therefore the loss and damage. This leads to the conclusion that developed countries should not pay for all loss and damage.

A second issue concerns the notion of `developing country´. With respect to aid, it is now being argued that India, despite its huge poverty (in terms of the Human Development Report’s multidimensional poverty index and others), is rich enough to take it off the aid recipients list. This is combined with the fact that India is now the third largest producers of greenhouse gases.

Andrew Crabtree examines this issue via a case study of the 2008 Kosi River flooding disaster in Bihar, India and extrapolates this to a climate change scenario. It will argue, much in line with Sen, that much loss and damage could have been reduced by changing social factors and that when examining tangible and intangible factors, capability assessments and the possibilities open to India, it should not receive aid or compensation for loss and damage.  


Andrew Crabtree, Roskilde University and Copenhagen Business School

Andrew Crabtree is Ass. Prof. in the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management at Roskilde University (RUC) and Ass. Prof. at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). His focus lies mainly in climate change, ethics and sustainable development.

Download the invitation (PDF)