Climate-Related Loss and Damage: Finding a Just Solution to the Political Challenges

This position paper by Brot für die Welt – Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst discusses the need for the Paris agreement to show solidarity with the most vulnerable and to support them in dealing with the damage and loss associated with climate change. 


The last decades have seen a constant increase in climate-related loss and damage as a result of global warming. According to estimates by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), climate-related events caused and contributed to the death of 559,000 people between 1992 and 2012. According to data from the insurance company Munich Re, economic losses related to extreme weather events have quadrupled since 1992. In the IPCC special report titled Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, climate researchers warn that the frequency of extreme events will continue to rise.

Loss and damage associated with climate change has a disproportionate impact on developing countries. Two factors help explain this higher risk faced by many developing countries. First, geography makes them more susceptible to climate-related natural disasters such as storms and droughts, and the second factor is their greater general vulnerability. The link between poverty and vulnerability to the impacts of climate extremes can be seen in the high numbers of victims of extreme events, the fact that proportionally the greatest economic damage occurs in low-income countries, and in the great number of people displaced by climate-related natural disasters. Including the internally and the temporarily displaced, the Nansen Initiative estimates this affected 140 million people between 2008 and 2013. The potential disappearance of island nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati is another extreme case. Countries like Fiji, Kiribati or Salvador have since made improved climate risk management their top priority; they have implemented diverse measures, yet still require further support.

At the level of international politics, climate change-related loss and damage has been an issue for the past twenty years, in particular under the aegis of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, fearing damage claims, the industrialised nations have long managed to delay negotiations. It is only since 2010, and in particular since the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage in 2013, that negotiations have clearly gained momentum. For the poorest nations and the small island states in particular, this question will be a top priority during the climate conference in Paris at the end of 2015.

Progress in Paris is possible. Based on the results of an enquiry among experts, four central demands and the cornerstone of a possible compromise for Paris have been developed. The conference has the potential to finally anchor this politically controversial issue in the UNFCCC, which would make it possible to envisage and begin implementing technical solutions.

In the face of ongoing climate change, improving climate risk management is an ethical imperative and a key political challenge far beyond the UNFCCC. This document concludes with seven concise political demands.

Read the position paper here.

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