As we approach the 18th Conference of Parties (COP) in Doha, a growing concern for climate and development NGOs is the matter of loss & damage as a result of climate change. [1]

Efforts to reduce emissions are currently failing to ensure that global temperature remains below sustainable levels. Adaptation efforts will not be enough to overcome the damage that is already being (and will continue to be) inflicted upon communities or the loss of livelihoods in some of the most vulnerable developing countries. These shortcomings directly undermine the potential for the countries in question to embark on low carbon and sustainable development pathways. In addition, as the threats of loss and damage grow, so do the number of countries that are faced with them.

In light of these conditions, the loss & damage discussion in Doha should clearly communicate the sheer urgency of overall climate action. COP18 also provides the opportunity to establish a long-term international mechanism that will address the questions and problems related to loss and damage. Elements will include additional funding beyond that which is already earmarked for mitigation and adaptation; comprehensive risk assessment to gauge the extent of loss and damage as a result of human-induced climate change; compensation and rehabilitation mechanisms which would include insurance schemes to protect and assist vulnerable regions and sectors exposed to potential losses in livelihoods, destruction of valuable resources, and forced re-location of families and communities.

Beyond these elements are the non-economic losses that no amount of funding can adequately address – loss of land, bio-diversity, family, culture and traditional livelihoods. These losses are immeasurable but the loss & damage discussion can bring back into focus the steps that governments (particularly developed countries) must do to ensure that they are as limited as possible and that the voices of the most vulnerable are clearly heard. Government delegates must take this seriously because words can no longer satisfy the concerns of communities at-risk that face the threat of such irreplaceable losses.

We cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. Without action on mitigation the current and future effects of loss and damage will be more severe and certainly irreversible. Thus, delegates must approach the discussions in Doha with this grim reality in mind at all times. The connection is clear. It’s what we will do about it that is not.

Notes


[1] Loss & damage broadly refers the whole range of damage and permanent loss due to climate change impacts in the most vulnerable developing countries and which can no longer be avoided by either mitigation or adaptation measures (Third World Network, July 2012, www.twnside.org.sg)