The Politics of Climate Change Loss and Damage (CCLAD) project seeks to shed new light on how norm construction, conveyance and contestation are influenced by social and political practices both at the international and national level.

The way in which normative principles matter in world politics is now a key – yet not fully understood- area of international relations research. The politics of loss and damage (L&D) related to climate change offers a paradigm case for studying the emergence of - and contestation over - norms, specifically justice norms.

At the national level, focusing on L&D allows for exploring the way national governments are dealing with and responding to the unavoided and unavoidable impacts of climate change. This emerging policy field includes work on climate-induced human mobility, non-economic losses (health, biodiversity, ecosystem services, cultural heritage), and comprehensive risk management approaches.

What is L&D?

L&D broadly refers to the residual negative impacts of climate change in vulnerable developing countries after mitigation and adaptation efforts have been undertaken. The concept was institutionalised within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2013 through the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism to facilitate understanding, cooperation and action on L&D. Yet, this policy area remains highly contested and there is little consensus about what L&D policy means or what it requires of the global community, of states and of the (current and future) victims of climate change.

Approach & Methods

Relying on an interdisciplinary theoretical approach and an ethnographic methodology that traverses scales of governance, CCLAD will elucidate the conditions under which a norm is likely to become hegemonic, influential, contested or reversed by introducing a new understanding of the fluid nature of norm-content. In particular, CCLAD will show how norms are partly constituted through the practices of policy-making and implementation at the international and national level.

The project builds on two interrelated research streams

Stream I

Norms and the Practice of Constructive Ambiguity at the International Level
This stream aims to show how the very idea of L&D is constructed and contested at the international level between the politics of enactment and the politics of implementation. It will explore the process of negotiating agreements and the work of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D. The research approach will be ethnographically-driven and rely on textual data, participant observation and stakeholder interviews.

Stream II

Cross-national Comparison of Climate Change Loss and Damage Politics.
This stream explores the cross-national politics of L&D policy-making to map variation in L&D policies and identify pioneering efforts and approaches in this emerging space. Using a framework that focuses on domestic factors – interests, institutions, ideas and identities – it will analyse approaches to L&D policy-making in a diverse set of case studies: Caribbean and Pacific small island developing states, Ethiopia, Senegal, El Salvador, Bolivia, the Philippines and European Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, and Finland).


Bringing these two streams of work together will allow us to show how and why policy practices shape the evolution of climate justice norms. From a theoretical point of view, this will improve our understanding of the life cycle of norms in international and comparative politics. CCLAD will also make an important methodological contribution through the development of political ethnography and “practice-tracing” methods. Finally, the project will advance our empirical understanding of the politics of climate change L&D across scales of governance.