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COP27: Why is addressing ‘loss and damage’ crucial for climate justice?
Graphic by Tom Prater.
INTERNATIONAL POLICY
29 September 2022 8:00

COP27: Why is addressing ‘loss and damage’ crucial for climate justice?

Multiple Authors

09.29.22
International policyCOP27: Why is addressing ‘loss and damage’ crucial for climate justice?

The death and destruction that can result from climate change is not evenly distributed around the world.

Those who have often contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions, because they are poor or live in the global south, often end up bearing the brunt of climate impacts. 

This is why, for many, the “loss and damage” caused by climate change is at its heart an issue of climate justice

As climate-justice activists and diplomats from developing countries gear up once again to push for loss and damage finance at the COP27 summit in Egypt, Carbon Brief has asked a range of experts about the role they think this issue has in the global struggle for justice.

  • Vanessa Nakate: “An agreement on finance for loss and damage is crucial at COP27. People are starting to understand why this matters.”
  • Nicola Sturgeon: “[Countries] need dedicated loss and damage support – separate and additional to finance for adaptation and mitigation.”
  • John Kerry: “The US recognises that increased efforts must be made to avert, minimise, and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.”
  • Bakoa Kaltongga: “Pacific nations have contributed the least to climate change yet are suffering existential impacts.”
  • Mohamed Adow: “Without a loss and damage finance mechanism the climate justice puzzle will be shamefully incomplete.”
  • Prof Saleemul Huq: “Developing countries are demanding that finance for loss and damage be included on the agenda of every COP henceforth starting with COP27.”
  • Mitzi Jonelle Tan: “My country, the Philippines, is one of the most vulnerable in the world. We are not running out of time. We have no time left.”
  • Alok Sharma: “The topic of loss and damage will undoubtedly feature at COP27 and I hope to see progress on this issue.”
  • Oladosu Adenike: “At CO27, we need to draw the line between action and negotiation. This COP should be for action alone.”
  • Ineza Umuhoza Grace: “We need to establish the funding to address loss and damage and this finance needs to be new, additional, accessible and adequate.”
  • Caroline Lucas: “At COP27, we must see the creation of a dedicated loss and damage finance facility to help climate-vulnerable countries.”
  • Conrod Hunte: “Our territories contribute the least to the climate crisis, yet we pay the ultimate price for our world’s carbon addiction.”
  • Elizabeth Wathuti: “The natural ecosystems that should be a life source have been pushed beyond breaking point, and the people tell me the only thing left to lose is hope.”
  • Yeb Saño: “COP27 will be a defining moment if there is a breakthrough on this issue.”
  • Teresa Anderson: “The UN climate finance system – which only channels funds for mitigation and adaptation – is outdated, set up in an era when climate-induced loss and damage was naively thought to be in the distant future.”
  • John Paul Jose: “Current assistance is nowhere near even providing a basic standard of living.”
  • Madeleine Diouf Sarr: “The failure of developed countries in the last three decades to act on mitigation and provide adequate adaptation support has exacerbated the climate crisis. It is too late to completely avoid all the negative impacts of the climate crisis.”
Vanessa NakateVanessa Nakate
Climate activist and UNICEF goodwill ambassador
Rise up Movement Africa

Vast areas of Pakistan are underwater because of the climate crisis. But Pakistan has emitted so few greenhouse gases, when you compare with major economies. Yet now Pakistan is having to pay the bill for the climate crisis.

This story will be repeated around the world, more and more frequently in the coming years. This is why an agreement on finance for loss and damage is crucial at COP27. People are starting to understand why this matters.

Nicola SturgeonNicola Sturgeon
First minister
Scotland

Loss and damage due to climate change is already a lived reality for many communities. The injustice at the heart of the climate emergency is that the poor and vulnerable will suffer first and worst – despite having contributed the least to creating it.

They need dedicated loss and damage support – separate and additional to finance for adaptation and mitigation – which is why at COP26 Scotland responded to calls from the global south community by committing £2m to addressing loss and damage. Our leadership encouraged others to step up, and contributions of €1m from the Wallonia government and $3m from philanthropies, led by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, followed.

But funding is only part of the solution. Through our work with partners in the global south, we aim to capture lessons learned from delivering against loss and damage, demonstrate good practice, and provide a template that can be used at scale. We will showcase practical action to the world as we convene a conference on loss and damage in the lead up to COP27.

John KerryJohn Kerry
Special presidential envoy for climate
US Department of StateN

Consistent with the Paris Agreement, the US recognises that increased efforts must be made to avert, minimise, and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.

We understand the depth of the impacts that climate-vulnerable countries are facing, as well as the priority that they are placing on loss and damage issues in the Paris Agreement process and have a strong interest in helping to address these issues in solidarity with vulnerable countries and communities.

The US is committed to engaging constructively on steps to avert, minimise, and address loss and damage both in the multilateral climate discussions at COP27 and beyond.

Bakoa Kaltongga Bakoa Kaltongga
Minister of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries and biosecurity, and special envoy on climate change for the Pacific
Republic of Vanuatu

Climate vulnerable countries are already experiencing irreversible loss and damage from the world’s failure to reduce emissions, causing climate change. Pacific nations have contributed the least to climate change yet are suffering existential impacts. 

Pacific island countries were the first to ratify the Paris climate accords, and have some of the most ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) on the planet. Vanuatu met its obligations under the Glasgow Pact from COP26 to revise and enhance its NDC, and expanded the scope and ambition, making adaptation a centrepiece of national sustainable development, while outlining concrete measures to address loss and damage.

The total cost of implementing the NDC through 2030 is around $1.2bn, which is conditional on donor financing. Vanuatu’s new NDC also commits to bringing the issue of climate change to the International Court of Justice, to seek a non-binding and non-contentious advisory opinion clarifying the existing obligations of states under human rights, environment and other international law to prevent climate harm within and beyond their borders. 

A coalition of more than 80 countries have endorsed the initiative, which aims to strengthen the nationally determined policy, technical and financial actions taken by states and thus to save the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Mohamed AdowMohamed Adow
Founder and director
Power Shift Africa

Addressing the climate crisis is a three-piece puzzle between mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Sadly, because of inaction by major polluters to mitigate their emissions decades ago, we ended up needing adaptation, to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change. But because adaptation finance has proved so inadequate many poor countries remain vulnerable to climate impacts they haven’t caused and climate change is robbing them of their lives and livelihoods.

The emergence of loss and damage as the third piece, and the increased focus as a distinct issue is primarily as a result of the failure to mitigate and inadequate support for adaptation efforts. If you’re a pastoralist in Northern Kenya and your livestock get decimated by devastating droughts or your home in Mozambique is destroyed by Cyclone Idai, these are not things that can be adapted to. They are permanent losses for which you deserve to be compensated.

Without a loss and damage finance mechanism the climate justice puzzle will be shamefully incomplete. 

Prof Saleemul HuqProf Saleemul Huq
Director
International Centre for Climate Change and Development

With the publication of the sixth assessment report of the IPCC it has become scientifically proven that impacts attributable to human induced climate change are now already happening and the era of loss and damage is now upon the world.

One aspect of this new era is the fact that while the problem is mainly due to the emissions of greenhouse gases by rich people and rich countries, the impacts are already falling mostly on poor people, even in rich countries, but mostly in poor countries. Hence, it is a matter of manifest climate injustice that must be acknowledged and rectified.

Thus, the developing countries are demanding that finance for loss and damage be included on the agenda of every COP henceforth starting with COP27. 

Mitzi Jonelle TanMitzi Jonelle Tan
Climate justice activist
Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, Fridays for Future

Climate justice means building a world where no one is left behind, where those most marginalised aren’t forgotten. If loss and damage is still not addressed at COP27 then we are once again leaving people behind. It means that we are still ignoring the fact that the climate crisis is already here, the damage has already been done, and so many have already lost their lives, their loved ones, and their way of living.

Global South: The “global south” is a term used to broadly describe lower-income countries in regions such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is often used to denote nations that are either in… Read More

My country, the Philippines, is one of the most vulnerable in the world. We are not running out of time. We have no time left. We need concrete mechanisms to ensure reparations from the global north to the global south are paid – reparations for the historical, ongoing, and future exploitation and loss and damages that we are experiencing. This is only the first step towards climate justice and we cannot settle for less.

Alok SharmaAlok Sharma
COP26 president
Cabinet Office, UK government

The impacts of climate change are tragically increasing, resulting in the loss of lives and livelihoods across the world. The mood music on loss and damage did change in the lead up to, and at, COP26, with a greater willingness from countries to discuss the issue, which resulted in parties agreeing to set up the Glasgow Dialogue.

We also reached agreement on the functions of the Santiago Network to provide technical assistance on loss and damage, and I hope we can see further advancements at COP27. The topic of loss and damage will undoubtedly feature at COP27 and I hope to see progress on this issue.

Oladosu AdenikeOladosu Adenike
Climate justice activist
I Lead Climate

In addressing loss and damage at COP27, talks must go beyond negotiation to real time action because we cannot keep negotiating our realities. My definition of addressing loss and damage is to stop the business-as-usual and make every commitment count. The $100bn climate finance annual commitment that was announced at COP19 in Copenhagen has fallen short and now we currently cannot keep up with the present crisis. Addressing loss and damage must start by phasing out fossil fuels and making polluters pay for every bit of their emissions, not in the form of polluters seeking validation in other countries that have low emissions in exchange for carbon credit. Therefore, every company, country and industry needs to go green. 

Also, loss and damage shows how vulnerable countries like mine (Nigeria) are at the frontline of the climate crisis. Just a single crisis might displace millions of people – you can imagine the cost of multiple crises, such as cyclone Idai and cyclone Kenneth that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar on two different occasions with total damage of $188m and $2.2bn, respectively, accompanied with the loss of lives and livelihoods. Likewise, in the Lake Chad region, over 10.7 million people have been seeking humanitarian aid. The danger of loss and damage is that it could become irreversible or irreplaceable and at this stage we are creating a path into “human extinction”.

At CO27, we need to draw the line between action and negotiation. This COP should be for action alone. Africa accounts for 4% of global emissions and Nigeria accounts for less than 1%, yet are faced with the greatest impact of climate change. So there is no climate justice without a loss and damage fund. Climate justice is the “last hope” for vulnerable countries like mine in the face of climate change.

Ineza Umuhoza GraceIneza Umuhoza Grace
Director
Loss and Damage Youth Coalition

Loss and damage is defined as the negative impact of climate change that is happening today, and it is the current injustice for our generation. Not only are the countries that did the least to contribute to climate change – especially through greenhouse emissions – at the forefront of dealing with the economic and non-economic impacts, but the youth generation has no future due to a proven record of climate inaction.

Addressing loss and damage and the limits of adaptation is how COP27 will be measured as either responsive – or following the depressive path of the international process on climate change. We need to establish the funding arrangement to address loss and damage and this finance needs to be new, additional, accessible and adequate. We also need to actively work with the grassroots communities in catalysing concrete action by operationalising the Santiago Network on loss and damage.

Caroline LucasCaroline Lucas
Member of Parliament of the UK
Green Party of England and Wales

Devastating floods have left vast stretches of Pakistan under water following unprecedented monsoon rains. More than 1,300 people have died and at least 50 million have been displaced.  

So many countries like Pakistan are being forced to bear the apocalyptic impacts of a climate emergency caused not by its own people, but primarily by major emitters in the global north continuing to burn climate-wrecking fossil fuels at will. This is a global injustice of enormous proportions. 

No country can handle a crisis of this scale on its own – the economic costs of loss and damage could be up to £580bn a year by 2030 – yet wealthy countries are utterly failing to pull their weight. We can’t have climate justice without a fair and equitable financial deal for the global south. So at COP27, we must see the creation of a dedicated loss and damage finance facility to help climate-vulnerable countries cope with the impacts of a planet in crisis.

Conrod HunteConrod Hunte
Deputy chair
Alliance of Small Island States

There can be no justice when big emitters spout hot air at climate talks then continue filling the coffers of the fossil fuel industry, while the people of small island developing states (SIDS) make further concessions and face very real, devastating losses at home. A loss-and-damage response fund under the UNFCCC is key to recovery and equity for SIDS. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report makes it clear that we are heading to a warming trajectory that threatens our very existence. Our territories contribute the least to the climate crisis, yet we pay the ultimate price for our world’s carbon addiction. At COP27 we must see urgent progress on loss-and-damage response finance. Prolonged dialogue is detrimental to the sustainable development of vulnerable territories – we need action now. Just like the industrialised world, we deserve to leave a legacy for our future generations, not just to survive but to thrive!

Elizabeth WathutiElizabeth Wathuti
Climate activist and founder
Green Generation Initiative

COP27 is a chance for global solidarity and cooperation to deliver a rigid loss and damage financial facility and bring justice to the most impacted countries. This year’s COP takes place in Africa and the outcome must mirror the needs of the continent. 

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The people who are least responsible for the climate crisis are bearing the biggest brunt. Loss and damage is happening right now. Yet, rich countries with the greatest historical emissions are not acting to help frontline communities cope with the devastation they are facing. This is what climate injustice looks like. 

I have met communities in my country, Kenya, who have been severely affected by the climate-induced nature, food and hunger emergency caused by droughts in the Horn of Africa. The natural ecosystems that should be a life source have been pushed beyond breaking point, and the people tell me the only thing left to lose is hope.

Yeb SanoYeb Saño
Executive director
Greenpeace Southeast Asia

The climate crisis is a matter of justice. Those who suffer from its worst impacts contributed the least to this crisis. Loss and damage is very vital to addressing the injustice brought about by the climate crisis. Progress on this item should serve as the yardstick for success for COP27. Establishing a mechanism for support is very important for the most vulnerable communities already experiencing different kinds of loss and damage due to adverse climate impacts, as it will make it easier for these communities to prevent further loss and damage and allow them to cope and bounce back to shocks that are brought about by such impacts.

Without a finance facility for loss and damage, this conference will once again fail to live up to what science and justice demand. Given that rich polluting countries continue to block this imperative, COP27 will be a defining moment if there is a breakthrough on this issue. 

Teresa AndersonTeresa Anderson
Climate justice lead
ActionAid

We are now in the era of loss and damage. Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, people are losing their homes, their crops, their livelihoods and their lives from floods, droughts, cyclones and rising sea levels. Women, marginalised people and people living in extreme poverty have done the least to cause the climate crisis but are the ones hit hardest by the impacts. 

The costs of long-term recovery after climate disasters are enormous, and countries are being pushed deeper into debt. The UN climate finance system – which only channels funds for mitigation and adaptation – is outdated, set up in an era when climate-induced loss and damage was naively thought to be in the distant future. The UN offers no support to countries and communities needing to pick up the pieces and rebuild in the aftermath of climate disasters. 

If the global climate framework offers no help to those most harmed by climate impacts, then what exactly is it for? It’s time for the UNFCCC to recognise the new climate reality, and for COP27 to agree to set up a new funding facility to address loss and damage.

John Paul JoseJohn Paul Jose
Climate activist

Global failure to limit the climate crisis necessitates loss and damage [support]. It is vital to limit the impacts of the climate crisis like the deformation of landscapes, livelihoods and biodiversity losses which have the potential to push millions dependent on nature into extreme, long-term poverty and cultural collapse, and to assist those who have lost everything to the climate crisis. The latter condition is becoming a frequent need as global cumulative emissions are still rising, wrecking lives across poor and vulnerable countries.

From now onwards, vulnerable regions need to submit yearly financial and technical assistance proposals guided by ground assessments, inclusive of various stakeholders, along with colonial reparations, as current assistance is nowhere near even providing a basic standard of living.

Madeleine Diouf SarrMadeleine Diouf Sarr
Chair
Least Developed Countries Group

The average person in a least developed country (LDC) has 23 times less emissions than a person in a developed country. Yet, our people are the most vulnerable in the world and the least capable of responding to the impacts of climate change. This year LDCs have experienced devastating loss and damage because of the escalating climate crisis we didn’t cause. Hundreds of lives have been lost in Bangladesh, Madagascar and Sudan, to name a few. And hundreds of thousands more were displaced because of climate change. Extreme weather events, increasing in intensity and frequency because of climate change, and the slow onset impacts of climate change are causing a huge amount of loss and damage. Our nations are struggling to develop and provide a safe environment and sustainable livelihood for our people. It is the most vulnerable families and communities, who have contributed least to climate change, who shoulder its greatest costs. This is not just.

The failure of developed countries in the last three decades to act on mitigation and provide adequate adaptation support has exacerbated the climate crisis. It is too late to completely avoid all the negative impacts of the climate crisis. Loss and damage is now unavoidable and our people are already paying the cost. COP27 must heed the IPCC warnings and address loss and damage now.

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