Loss and Damage: an inconvenient truth

2 May 2018

At “only” 1°C of global warming, extreme climate impacts €” exceeding the adaptive capacity of countries, communities, and ecosystems €” are already mounting. Loss and damage caused by climate change extends from slow onset processes like sea level rise, glacial retreat to extreme events such as floods, hurricanes, and tropical cyclones. Severe climate change consequences which the poor and vulnerable regions around the world already face.


A year of loss and damage: in July 2017 unusual heavy monsoon rains killed more than 1,200 people and affected around 43 million people in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. The same monsoon cyclone also killed 16 people and affected millions in Karachi and Pakistan. Accounting for more than one fifth of the world’s population with many critical ecosystems, this region will experience an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events in the future with further temperature rises.


Last September, in West Africa, floods caused by extreme rains claimed 25 times more lives than Hurricane Harvey with massive disasters hitting the region. In Sierra Leone, heavy rains killed more than 400 people. In Niger, 11 people died in the capital city of Niamey and 3 people died and more than 300 people were severely affected in the Tillabéri region. This flood also killed approximately 4,000 cattle and kept 157,000 people at risk of flooding.


In the Pacific, the region of the COP23 Presidency, the climate change losses and damages are unmissable. In 2016, Cyclone Winston was recorded as one of the largest and most intense tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere causing severe impacts throughout the South Pacific. In Fiji, over 60% of the population was affected, 22% of the nation’s housing was damaged with over 130,000 people being displaced. In Vanuatu, Cyclone Pam affected 70% of the population, displacing 65,000 people, resulting in 11 deaths and over 17,000 destroyed buildings.


South America was also not spared from loss and damage in 2017. El Nino caused torrential rains and floods in the eastern part of South America, displacing more than 1,400 people in Ecuador and over 8000 in Argentina. Hundreds of deaths have been recorded across Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. In Brazil, the Government declared the state of emergency for over 900 cities due to this extreme rainfall.


In the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma resulted in at least 38 deaths, 60% of Barbuda’s population became homeless and 99% of its buildings were destroyed. Hurricane Maria, a second powerful hurricane, hit less than a week after Irma. Maria claimed over 25 lives in Dominica and damaged more than 80% of the houses. Studies also predict that as climate change continues to escalate, the Caribbean is projected to incur the highest damage per unit of GDP on a global scale as a result of intense hurricanes.


ECO never fears stating the glaringly obvious: climate change induced losses and damages are already happening in every corner of the world.

Equally obvious, the scale of urgency and attention that has been given to loss and damage has been inadequate. ECO challenges the parties and the negotiator to not hide from the climate reality. Be brave enough, to reach decisions that provide vulnerable countries, communities, and ecosystems the resources to face the waves of future climate related disasters.

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