And why are we talking about it?
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy outcomes of COP27 – the UN’s climate summit held in Egypt in 2022 – was the historic decision to establish a Loss and Damage Fund.
The ground-breaking fund is designed to assist developing countries in responding to losses and damages.
As planning for COP28 accelerates, the topic of Loss and Damage will once again be high on the agenda for Governments around the world. But this is a complex topic, and, as we begin to explore the theme this month, here we start with an explanation of what is meant by Loss and Damage.
Losses and damages
In simple terms, losses and damages refer to the financial, social and cultural shocks coming from the inevitable climate impacts which can’t be ameliorated by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) or by taking measures to avoid impacts (adaptation).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) Working Group II Summary for Policymakers uses the term ‘losses and damages’ to refer to adverse observed impacts and/or projected risks of climate change. These impacts can be economic and/or non-economic.
Adverse impacts of extreme weather events and long-term climate changes (often known as slow-onset events and including effects such as sea-level rise and loss of biodiversity) create losses, including of human lives, land and loss of species. Damages from these events will affect, for example, livelihoods, infrastructure and ecosystems.
Economic losses and damages, such as the adverse impact on business or property, can be short or long-term and may also have global knock-on impacts beyond the immediately impacted region, for example to supply chains. Examples of non-economic losses and damages include loss of culture or identity and mental and physical health impacts.
Loss and Damage
The IPCC glossary definition of Loss and Damage references the political debate under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM).
Dr Richard Jones OBE, of the Met Office, said: “Adverse impacts caused by human-induced climate change – losses and damages – are being felt across the globe, but the worst impacts are often felt in those regions least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, but which are most vulnerable to extreme climate and weather events.”
The WIM was established at COP19 in 2013 with the aim of addressing these losses and damages including through finance, technology and capacity-building. The COP27 funding agreement also seeks to tackle Loss and Damage, and a transitional committee is working on recommendations on how to operationalise the new funding arrangements to drive support for those most affected by climate change.
A complex picture
It is likely that the recommendations of the transitional committee and COP28 will bring Loss and Damage back into focus, and once again highlight the complexities of this debate. The IPCC AR6 Working Group II report is clear that human-induced climate change has already caused losses and damages to both nature and people and that these will escalate with every increment of global warming. It also highlights the need for a combination of climate change mitigation and adaptation, but acknowledges that, whilst future losses and damages can be reduced, even limiting global warming to 1.5°C along with effective adaptation cannot prevent all losses and damages.
As we explore this topic further, follow #GetClimateReady to learn more.
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