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COP27: Why is addressing ‘Loss and Damage’ crucial for climate justice?

The COP27 agenda will now include “matters relating to funding arrangements responding to loss and damage”, a breakthrough as it is the first time it has been on a COP agenda

A man walks the length of a sun-beaten road, roaring winds battering him with sand. Yet the sand should not be here. Desertification is consuming parts of Southern Ethiopia. Photo: Trócaire A man walks the length of a sun-beaten road, roaring winds battering him with sand. Yet the sand should not be here. Desertification is consuming parts of Southern Ethiopia. Photo: Trócaire

“A better deal for Africa will mean climate justice for a continent that accounts for only three percent of cumulative global CO2 emissions but bears the brunt of its effects,” – UN Ambassador Maria de Jesus dos Reis Ferreira

Loss and damage – compensation to climate-vulnerable countries already suffering from climate-related weather extremes – will be at the front and centre of discussions at COP27. At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, the United States and the European Union rejected calls for a fund to compensate for such losses. Campaigners are determined to see their demands for a loss and damage finance facility met at this week’s COP27.

Here’s everything you need to know about ‘Loss and Damage’:

What is ‘Loss and Damage’?

‘Loss and Damage’ refers to the impacts of climate change which are not avoided by mitigation, adaptation and other measures such as disaster risk management. It has both economic and non-economic costs and results from both extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts, as well as slow onset climatic processes such as sea level rise and salinisation. ‘Loss and Damage’ includes permanent and irreversible losses such as to lives, livelihoods, homes and territory, and to non-economic impacts, such as the loss of culture, identity and biodiversity. ‘Loss and Damage’ has a particular gendered impact, as women and girls can experience greater climate impacts due to factors including unequal access to resources, limited mobility and less access to decision-making.


Why is ‘Loss and Damage’ crucial for climate justice?

‘Loss and Damage’ is an issue that speaks to the heart of climate injustice. Whilst some of the poorest countries in the world who have contributed least to the climate crisis are experiencing massive losses and damage from climate impacts, they are being left to pay for a crisis not of their making. This is diverting much needed public finance for sustainable development into dealing with crises and is pushing countries further into debt. It is a matter of climate justice that richer countries including Ireland contribute to and support the development of this third pillar of finance under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

How is ‘Loss and Damage’ affecting developing countries?

Millions of people in the Horn and East Africa are experiencing crisis levels of hunger due to the worst drought in 40 years. The losses and damages in this context are profound, with a likely declaration of famine in parts of Somalia in the coming weeks. As people in Somalia face starvation, mass displacement, loss of livelihoods, death of livestock and for many pastoralists, loss of their way of life due to drought, successive years of flooding in South Sudan has caused the displacement of 800,000 people this year alone. Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan, represent 2.75% of the world’s population but account for just 0.1% of global carbon emissions. It is estimated that Ireland produces nearly 54 times higher emissions than Somalia alone and 59 times that of South Sudan.

What needs to be done?

Despite decades of struggle by small island states and countries most vulnerable to climatic shocks to deal with ‘Loss and Damage’, finance for rehabilitation, reconstruction and unavoidable relocation is currently missing from the financial architecture of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is a glaring omission and this third and missing pillar of finance must be provided, in addition to mitigation and adaptation finance, and in addition to Official Development Assistance. Communities need access to gender responsive, adequate and predictable finance that meets their needs. It is crucial that is provided in the form of grants and does not contribute to further unsustainable debt for the poorest countries in the world. Given the rising scale of climate-related damages documented by the IPCC there is no time to lose.

What role does Ireland have?

COP27 is a moment for Ireland to show global leadership, solidarity and political will. Trócaire calls on Ireland to support “Loss and Damage” as a permanent agenda item and to support the establishment of a “Loss and Damage” finance facility. These are the demands from our partners throughout the Global South, including the Least Developed Countries which Ireland has prioritised in climate action. We call on Minister Eamon Ryan to follow the lead of Denmark, and commit initial “Loss and Damage” finance, as a sign of leadership and a political signal of Ireland’s commitment to addressing “Loss and Damage”.

The momentum for progressive and practical global leadership on “Loss and Damage” is gathering pace ahead of COP27. Last week, the European Parliament called on the EU to examine modalities for a Loss and Damage finance facility demanded by developing countries, a strong signal for breaking a negotiations impasse. The Irish and the EU delegation at next month’s COP27 must act on the message sent by the European Parliament and agree to establish a new finance facility to address “Loss and Damage”. If the UNFCCC continues to fail to address “Loss and Damage”, its credibility will be undermined.

Why is ‘Loss and Damage’ so important?

Across all the 24 countries that Trócaire works in, we are seeing how the mounting effects of climate change are putting millions of lives at risk. Homes have been washed away by bigger and more frequent floods, livelihoods have been destroyed by long and recurrent droughts. People have been displaced and forced to rebuild their lives.

Climate Change by the Numbers

  • Twenty of the 21 hottest years since records began in 1850 have occurred in this century.
  • In 2020 and 2021, Africa recorded 131 extreme-weather, climate change-related disasters.
  • Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan, representing 2.75% of the world’s population but account for just 0.1% of global carbon emissions.
  • It is estimated that Ireland produces nearly 54 times higher emissions than Somalia alone.
  • Sub-saharan African countries will have to take on almost $1trillion in debt over the next ten years unless wealthy countries provide adequate finance to address the climate crisis.
  • A third of Pakistan is under floodwater after weeks of unprecedented monsoon rains, which only weeks earlier had been suffering serious drought. Yet, Pakistan has contributed less than 1% to global carbon emissions.
  • Comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity.
  • It is estimated that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, according to UN Environment. When women are displaced, they are at greater risk of violence, including gender-based violence.
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