Lessons from COVID‑19 for addressing loss and damage in vulnerable developing countries
Loss and damage has been defined as the impacts of climate change which are not avoided by mitigation, adaptation and other measures such as disaster risk It has both economic and non-economic costs and results from both extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods and slow onset climatic processes such as sea level rise and salinization. Loss and Damage became officially recognized at COP 19 in 2013 after the catastrophic effects of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda) on the people of the Philippines made it apparent that vulnerable developing countries required significant levels of support in the face of such widespread devastation. In 2015, at COP 21, Loss and Damage was included as a distinct article in the Paris Agreement, separate from adaptation. This was an important milestone as developing countries have long stressed that loss and damage refers to climate change impacts that are “beyond adaptation”.
In most parts of the world, the most vulnerable people, communities and countries are already experiencing significant loss and damage from climate change impacts. In the same year that the coronavirus pandemic has raged, the climate crisis has not abated even if the attention of the world’s media has been consumed with COVID-19. Severe impacts of climate change have continued resulting in billions of dollars in losses and damages. In early April 2020, Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu causing widespread damage, leaving up to 90 percent of the population homeless. In late May, Cyclone Amphan crashed into India and Bangladesh, two countries that had been hit hard by the pandemic. In Bangladesh, the cyclone resulted in 13 billion USD in loss and damage to infrastructure alone. This came as the country was experiencing the economic toll of the global response to COVID- 19 which has had significant repercussions for the garment industry - among other sectors. Meanwhile, in East Africa above average rainfall throughout 2020 has resulted in widespread flooding forcing more than 1.5 million people to leave their homes.
One of the greatest lessons of the response to COVID‑19 is the importance of solidarity at all levels to support the most vulnerable cope with and recover from a crisis. This level of global solidarity is urgently needed to coordinate an international effort to ensure that vulnerable developing countries have the support they urgently need, including finance, technology and capacity, to address loss and damage arising from the impacts of climate change.
This analysis, jointly produced with our partner, Stamp Out Poverty, looks at where we stand, five years into the implementation of the Paris Agreement in securing the needed financial support for Loss and Damage.