Taking Loss and Damage Seriously

9 Nov 2016

It’s been a big week for the future of the Earth. Last Friday, the Paris Climate Agreement - the result of the most complex, comprehensive and critical international climate negotiation – came into force. This week, the 22nd Conference of the Parties began in Marrakech as countries meet to attempt to breathe life into the Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in our history. Its early entry into force is a clear signal that all the nations of the world are devoted to decisive global action on climate change. This is a moment to celebrate.

However, there is much still to be done.

Smallholder farmers in some of the poorest countries are already feeling the impact of a changing climate, for them the Marrakech discussions are already too late. Loss and damage from climate change is already happening - and poor and vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of it. Farmers are being forced off their land in Africa as droughts become more extreme, rising sea levels and increased floods are stealing land in Bangladesh, and increasingly fierce storms are destroying homes and lives in the Philippines, Vanuatu, Haiti and elsewhere.  These impacts of climate change go well beyond what it is possible to adapt to and into the realm of loss and damage.

 


Photo: RESULTS UK

In recognition of this, the Paris Agreement established loss and damage as a stand-alone element, separate from adaptation, and provides support (finance, technology transfer and capacity building) to poor countries. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) was also enshrined as the main UN body on loss and damage. Over the next two weeks, there is much that needs to be done to turn the opportunity of Paris into reality (for a summary of RESULTS UK’s recommendations for Marrakech read our new policy briefing).

Firstly, discussions on the WIM must lead to more resources – political and financial – so that they can get more done. It has been working well, but far, far too slowly, given the scale and urgency of the problem.

Secondly, we need a definition for what loss and damage finance is, and estimates of how much is needed. The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), the UNFCCC’s uber-body on climate finance, has a definition of climate finance that only covers mitigation and adaptation and does not include loss and damage. The WIM and the SCF need to work together to agree a definition that doesn’t undermine adaptation finance, and to commit to exploring options to raise funds for loss and damage which are additional.

Finally, in 2015 the G7 announced InsuResilience, an initiative to increase by up to 400 million people in the most vulnerable developing countries who have access to direct or indirect insurance coverage against climate change hazards by 2020. This ambitious goal has so far has been focused on strengthening existing sovereign level insurance schemes, but provides one of the ways in which countries can be supported to deal with some aspects of loss and damage. In Marrakech, these efforts need to go further by the adoption of a best practice approach to insurance based on our pro-poor principles.

Climate Risk Insurance is an important aspect of any approach to loss and damage; however it’s critical that we remember it is only a part of the picture. It isn’t a silver bullet and needs to form part of an integrated climate risk management strategy and broader adaptation efforts.

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