2022 has witnessed thousands of people getting killed and displaced in a spate of unprecedented extreme weather events across the world.

South Asian experts raise pitch for loss & damage to be part of COP27 agenda

Extreme weather events across the globe reflect an urgent need to include loss and damage in the upcoming COP27 agenda, the absence of which will render the conference futile, say experts

At this year’s UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General António Guterres raised the alarm on loss and damage, describing it as a “fundamental question of climate justice, international solidarity and trust” – adding that “polluters must pay” because “vulnerable countries need meaningful action”.

Experts in South Asia raised the same concerns and called for loss and damage to be a part of the upcoming UNFCCC COP27 agenda in a recent webinar, calling it a matter of climate justice. “To put the whole issue of loss and damage into perspective, it’s a story of thirty years of inaction. It’s about injustice and violation of human rights. It’s about the greed and apathy of rich countries and corporations who have handed death sentences to people who have not caused the problem in the first place. This is about climate justice. So, when we go to these climate conferences, we go there to demand climate justice, because this is not an issue that has been caused by the majority of developing countries, but they are the ones who are suffering,” said Harjeet Singh, head, global political strategy, Climate Action Network International.

This year, exceptional heat and droughts have broken records, wilted crops and caused deaths worldwide. Flooding has also led to thousands of deaths, and swept away homes and infrastructure. Some countries such as Brazil and Pakistan have suffered at both ends of this scale, with little time to recover from one event before being hit by the next. 

Although the impacts are global, they hit the poorest hardest. People in low-and lower-middle-income countries are around five times more likely than people in high-income countries to be displaced by sudden extreme weather disasters. Countries with lower GDP per head are at greater risk of permanent impacts from climate change—losses and damages—than richer nations, due to existing poverty, disease prevalence, gender inequality and the state of infrastructure.

However, in some hopeful action ahead of the upcoming UNFCCC COP27, developed nations such as Denmark and Germany are seemingly stepping up on Loss & Damage. “Denmark’s government put money into the “Global Shield” of Germany, but it will take a long time to operationalise. Several funding mechanisms have previously been set up, such as the adaptation fund, and Green Climate Fund. Hence, setting up a loss and damage fund will not be impossible. The magnitude of the funding can be explored further but it is about the principles and we must make the polluters pay for that. Hence, it is important to highlight the issue of loss and damage in COP27 this year,” said professor Saleemul Huq, director, International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD).

Shreyansh Jain, business strategy consultant, Accenture, clarified how loss and damage finance is different from mitigation finance and adaptation finance. “While adaptation finance contributes to minimising loss & damage, mitigation finance contributes to averting L&D. L&D finance is, therefore, a third dimension and typically includes the adverse impacts of human-induced climate change that can neither be averted nor avoided by mitigation and adaptation. So while developed countries definitely fall short of their commitments, they try to greenwash or inflate their commitments by confusing L&D finance by these terms,” Jain explained.  

Emphasising the need to include gender justice, which is often ignored in climate change discussions, Farah Kabir, executive director, ActionAid, Bangladesh, said, “It is important to promote gender and youth agenda while asking for loss and damage finance and they need to be accessible. Incidents such as the recent flood in Bangladesh, left girls to drop off from school or marry off at an early age. These all are the consequences of climate change”.

Experts also said that along with calling for international attention and support, developing countries should be prepared with implementation plans when the funding comes through. “We also need to get prepared at sub-national level if that money for loss and damage comes through. We also need to do our homework. Because even if that money materialises but we do not know what we need to do with it, we will end up spending it on other things other than addressing the challenge,” warned Anurag Danda, senior advisor, climate change adaptation, WWF.

However, concerned about the fact that loss and damage is still just a provisional agenda item that any country can veto from the official UNFCCC COP27 agenda in Egypt, experts claimed it would be a failure of the entire UNFCCC dialogue process if such a situation arises.