Loss and Damage

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Climate-related Loss and Damage describes the negative economic, cultural, and societal consequences of climate change that have already occurred. This concept is based on the realization that no amount of mitigation and adaptation can prevent all the negative effects of climate change. Indeed, some irreversible losses have already occurred and would increase rapidly, particularly if global warming rises more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. While “damages” can, in principle, be reversed or compensated, “losses” are irretrievable and are also strongly associated with the risk to human life. 

Since its introduction in 1991 in the context of small island states, countries have increasingly addressed the issue within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), most notably in 2013 with the creation of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which aims to enhance related knowledge and activities. The development of this mechanism also strengthened the link between climate-induced migration and loss and damage by designating it as one of its strategic areas of work. 

The issue was most recently addressed at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP27), where countries agreed to establish a Loss and Damage Fund for vulnerable countries after years of effort on the part of countries in the Global South. Part of the agreement included the establishment of an interim committee to advise on the best use of these funds that will present its findings at the upcoming COP28. Many questions remain about how countries will qualify to receive the money, who will pay into the fund, and who will be responsible for its management.