Identifying Countries that are Particularly Vulnerable to the Adverse Effects of Climate Change: An Academic or a Political Challenge?
In light of the scarce funds currently available for adaptation, some Parties to the UNFCCC have suggested a prioritisation between eligible countries on the basis of their vulnerability to climate change, and to develop a vulnerability index for doing so. Article 4.4 of the Convention commits developed countries “to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation to those adverse effects.” This raises the question as to what it means to be “particularly vulnerable”, and how it is decided which countries fall into this category. In the absence of an agreed method to measure vulnerability, the many facets to the concept give rise to many possible interpretations of what constitutes “particularly vulnerable”. Eventually, the decision on how to compare potential impacts of climate change on, for example, human life, physical infrastructure and biological diversity requires a subjective judgement as to which expected outcomes are “better” or “worse”. Academics or other experts cannot therefore provide an objectively “true” answer to this political question.