The term “Loss and Damage” is gaining momentum due to the increasing impacts of climate change and the frequency of extreme events.
Our planet has warmed by 1.1 degrees C since the pre-industrial revolution or before 1850, and we are already seeing the impacts of this warming in many parts of the world.
The most recent one is the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, submerging a third of the country. Months before the eventful flooding, an unprecedented heatwave also hit Pakistan and India, with temperatures reaching 49.2°C in Delhi and 51°C in Jacobabad, a city in Pakistan, between April and May. The scorching temperature has enhanced the melting of its ice and snow, contributing to the amounts of floodwater.
China is also facing intense heatwaves and droughts that dried out its lakes and rivers and affected their hydropower generation forcing the country to ration its power.
Rapidly reducing emissions is the key to limiting temperatures rise. However, collective efforts, especially from high emitting countries and industries, are insufficient to address the scale of climate change impacts, making some loss and damage inevitable.
According to the World Resources Institute, “loss and damage” is a general term used in UN climate negotiations to refer to the consequences of climate change that go beyond what people can adapt to or when options exist, but a community does not have the resources to access or utilise them. Loss and damage is and will continue to harm vulnerable communities the most, making addressing the issue a matter of climate justice.”
Chatham House’s article “What is loss and damage” explains that “The term loss and damage is commonly used in reference to international climate negotiations and its surrounding politics. It is a priority for many climate-vulnerable countries due to the severe climate effects they are experiencing. In some instances, for example, for small island states, they could pose an existential threat. As a result, Loss and damage can often be an emotive and difficult topic at UN climate talks.”
According to WRI, since the 1990s, when UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was formed, vulnerable countries have been asking developed countries to provide financial support to address Loss and damage but has been ignored since then. It is only during the COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021 that continued at the Bonn UN climate negotiations in Germany in June 2022 that developed countries have begun considering it. A handful of countries, including Canada, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Scotland, and the Belgian province of Wallonia, pledged support to help vulnerable countries address Loss and damage brought by climate change (Bhandari et al., 2022).
According to an analysis paper by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), LDCs can leverage their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to get the needed climate funding from developed countries by providing concrete evidence of their Loss and Damage in these reports (Bhandari et al., 2022).
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published an analysis paper, “Harnessing Nationally Determined Contributions to tackle loss and damage in Least Developed Countries, ” carried out for 173 countries.
The report looked at various factors affecting their vulnerability, including their institutions, poverty levels, disease prevalence, gender equality, natural hazards, and the state of their infrastructure.
The analysis shows that all 37 developed countries have relatively high GDP per capita and low risk of Loss and damage; the opposite is true for the 46 least developed countries (LDCs). The most at risk-countries identified are Burundi, Somalia, and Mozambique, while the least at risk are Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Ireland.
The paper estimates that the financing needed to address Loss and damage in developing countries ranges from US$116 billion to US$435 billion in 2020 and could reach US$1,132–1,741 billion in 2050. It also projects that under current climate policies, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will decrease on average by 19.6% by 2050 and 63.9% by 2100.
“Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are facing increasingly devastating impacts of climate change that are leading to Loss and damage (L&D). As LDCs revise their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), they should provide concrete evidence about L&D. This can help LDCs make a case for additional climate finance, technology and capacity-building support needed by them to tackle L&D. This paper analyses how LDCs are currently reporting Loss and damage in their NDCs and National Adaptation Plans, identifies gaps or issues in coverage, and suggests a framework for addressing these gaps” (Bharadwaj et al., 2022).
The report showed that the 69 counties identified as low risk consisted of 37 developed countries and 32 developing ones, and not a single Least Developed Country (LDC) was on the list. However, the forty-four countries under the high-risk category are composed of 38 LDCs, with only six developing countries and not one developed country on the list.
Ritu Bharadwaj, a senior researcher for IIED, says, “The least developed countries cannot afford to wait for losses and damage to occur when our analysis shows they are at huge risk. This group of countries and others most vulnerable to climate change could present the issue more effectively to build a stronger case for support and action required from the international community to address it. The LDCs could more effectively lobby for greater assistance on loss and damage by detailing its scale and nature in the plans they submit to the UN” (Poorest countries, 2022).
Bhandari, P., Warszawski, N., Cogan, D., & Gerholdt, R. (2022, April 6). What Is “Loss and Damage” from Climate Change? 6 Key Questions, Answered. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from https://www.wri.org/insights/loss-damage-climate-change
Bharadwaj, R., Addison, S., Chakravarti, D., Karthikeyan, N. (2022). Harnessing Nationally Determined Contributions to tackle Loss and damage in least developed countries. IIED, London https://pubs.iied.org/21081iied
Poorest countries at greatest risk of losses and damage from climate change. (2022, August 25). International Institute for Environment and Development. Retrieved from https://www.iied.org/poorest-countries-greatest-risk-losses-damage-climate-change