Loss and damage from climate change

Over the past few years, disasters and shocks have increased dramatically worldwide. Ninety per cent of these disasters were in lower income countries, disproportionately affecting people living in poverty.

Current emission reduction commitments are far short of what the science tells us is necessary to tackle climate change. We are likely to miss the critical 2°C threshold, putting the planet on a 4 to 6°C pathway of global warming that will lead to devastating loss of and damage to land, property, ecosystems and human life.

Loss and damage to property, territory, lives and livelihoods are effects that would not have happened without climate change, which have not been mitigated, and which cannot be or have not been adapted to. Little has been said about the 'residual' damage that is likely to remain even after mitigation and adaptation and how developing countries will be compensated for the impact of climate change – impacts that they have not contributed to.

Slow onset events, including temperature and sea level rises, but also ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinisation, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification will cause unavoidable loss and damage, affecting millions in many countries. Yet loss and damage from climate impacts gets far less attention than it deserves from policy makers.

A comprehensive international mechanism is required to address both avoidable and unavoidable loss and damage.

  1. Rich countries must urgently implement ambitious mitigation targets and strategies and support developing countries to transition to low-carbon development pathways
  2. Decision-makers must re-focus existing approaches and massively scale up resources to address vulnerability, building resilience and capacity to adapt, especially of the most vulnerable people, communities and ecosystems
  3. Building on existing architecture, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Cancun Adaptation Framework, climate-proofed disaster risk reduction needs to be dramatically scaled-up through increased finance

Our work focuses on:

  • Strengthening community institutions so that they have the capacity and resources to reduce risks and recover from disasters and climate change impacts.
  • Empowering communities, particularly women, and their organisations to assess their vulnerabilities from existing and future risks
  • Mobilising and supporting them to participate in and influence decision-making processes and forums at national and international levels
  • Helping them build long-term resilience so disasters and climate change impacts do not threaten their food security and livelihoods