Loss and damage is real and it’s happening now

Even though developing countries’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is very low, they suffer the impacts of climate change the most.
Hyacinthe Niyitegeka

The climate crisis is affecting communities in both developed and developing countries. However climate change has the most devastating impacts on communities from developing countries who have contributed least to the underlying cause of human-induced climate change. 

The science of climate change confirms that mitigation and adaptation measures have fallen well short of what is needed . According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, human-induced climate change is already increasing the severity of weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. “Without effective mitigation and adaptation,” the report warns, “losses and damages will continue to disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable populations.”

The evidence is clear. In recent years countless communities worldwide have born the burden of escalating loss and damage: 

  • In January 2022, Tropical Storm Ana struck Malawi, inflicting flooding, destruction, and numerous fatalities: 945,728 people were impacted, 46 people died, and 206 people were injured. The country also experienced the worst of the impacts of  Tropical Cyclone Freddy which hit in early March 2023, leading to the death of 679 people and negatively affecting more than five hundred people. Both cyclones devastated Malawi’s economy. 
  • In February of 2022, Cyclone Batsirai hit Madagascar, killing 120 people, destroying over 124,000 homes, and displacing an additional 30,000 people. 
  • In April 2022, significant climate-related loss and damage was incurred from heavy rainfall hit two provinces in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape killing 448 people, with over 40 reported missing and more than 40,000 displaced. The economic damage done was about $28 million. 
  • The 2022 intense flooding in Pakistan caused by heavy monsoon rains impacted over 33 million people and inundated one third of the country. 
  • Millions of people from developing countries have been affected by the increasing frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events including Typhoon Rai in the Philippines; the ongoing drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and Hurricane Ian in the Caribbean and USA.
  • In July 2021, flooding from heavy rains caused more than 220 deaths of people in different parts of Europe. 180 people died in Germany alone and rebuilding the towns and villages affected cost  €30 billion
  • Severe wildfires in Australia in 2020 killed almost three billion animals and devastated ecosystems. Wildfires also caused more than $110 billion in financial losses, burned over 5,900 buildings, and killed many people.

Even though developing countries’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is very low on a global scale, they suffer the impacts of climate change the most. On the other hand, wealthy countries who have historically contributed the most to the climate crisis have still not taken any significant action to deliver finance to address loss and damage nor provided adequate on-the-ground assistance to developing countries experiencing climate-induced loss and damage. 

It is very clear that if the world does not take serious and effective action, the situation will worsen.

Discussing all forms of loss and damage

It is crucial that discussions about loss and damage within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) cover all aspects equally and effectively. This includes loss and damage caused by slow-onset climate processes and extreme weather events, as well as the resulting economic and non-economic consequences. Capacity building, technical assistance and funding are essential elements for addressing loss and damage, but there are still gaps in getting all that is required to address it.

Tropical cyclone Batsirai nearing Madagascar, © UNICEF/NOAA

The work we do

The Loss and Damage Collaboration (L&DC) is an initiative of climate policy and art and cultural practitioners, researchers, scientists, engineers, activists, lawyers, advocates and decision-makers from both the global North and South who came together to work together to ensure that vulnerable developing countries and the vulnerable people and communities within them have the support they need to address loss and damage. 

The L&DC's mission is to ensure that all humans have the tools they need to thrive in the midst of global challenges like climate change. The focus of its work is on communities and countries in the global South because they are the most vulnerable to climate change and are experiencing loss and damage, both economic and non-economic in nature, most profoundly. 

The work of the L&DC includes a support centre for negotiators from vulnerable developing countries, advocacy and outreach, art and culture programs and projects on Loss and Damage finance and the Santiago Network along with working groups on non-economic loss and damage, human rights and human mobility and displacement. To drive the loss and damage agenda, the L&DC undertakes research, does advocacy and outreach, and curates and convenes discussions to bring stakeholders together across a broad range of issues related to loss and damage. L&DC has played a critical role in advancing the loss and damage agenda over the past three years since its founding and has an even more important role to play in spearheading a collective effort to ensure the most ambitious outcome of COP 28 and beyond. 

One of the goals of L&DC is to assist vulnerable developing countries in mobilising trillions to meet the needs at all levels, with clear commitments from developed nations and long-term cooperation and support; therefore, all stakeholders should collaborate to ensure that the needs of those on the frontlines of climate change are met. The L&DC key demands include: 

  • A Santiago Network for loss and damage that has adequate resources and capacity to deliver on technical assistance to effectively address loss and damage in developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change;
  • A Loss and Damage Fund that is fit for purpose and adequately resourced with  at least $400 billion a year to trillions. The finance should be new, addition, grant-based, predictable and sustainable;
  • A sub-goal on loss and damage under the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance and a goal that is aligned with the needs in developing countries; 
  • A global stock take that provides political signals to scale up climate action on all fronts to avert loss and damage through mitigation, minimise loss and damage through adaptation and address loss and damage. These signals must also provide the impetus to scale up funding for loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation. 

Scaling up support for loss and damage must not detract from the urgency of providing support for adaptation and increasing mitigation ambition at the level needed to limit global average warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The work of addressing loss and damage cannot be performed by a subset of stakeholders alone; rather, all humans regard climate change as an urgent crisis and leave no one behind. It is crucial to recognise that affected communities require sufficient funding to implement projects to address loss and damage. 

About the author

Hyacinthe Niyitegeka is a water scientist and a climate negotiator with experience working on climate policy in different contexts. She coordinates the Loss and Damage Collaboration, where she oversees day-to-day operations.

Header Image copyright © UNICEF/UN0583695/

Hyacinthe Niyitegeka

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