Demanding urgent responses to the loss and damage caused by climate change

IIED and partners are getting the injustice of climate change loss and damage recognised in policy spaces and demanding action is taken to support those people most affected.

Article, 01 March 2021
Aerial view of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands

Countries most vulnerable to loss and damage face the devastating effects of climate change on their biodiversity and on their people's livelihoods and wellbeing (Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Climate change is causing devastation across the world, with the least developed countries (LDCs) suffering the worst of its impacts, despite having made the smallest contribution to the climate crisis.

Some of these impacts manifest slowly, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification and desertification, while others – cyclones, drought, flash flooding – hit hard and fast.  

The loss and damage from these impacts, including damage to buildings and infrastructure, destroyed crops and loss of livestock, may be repaired at a cost. Many impacts, such as death, damage to health, destruction of crucial ecosystems, and loss of cultural heritage and Indigenous knowledge, cannot be dealt with by spending money alone.

In international climate policy there is no universally agreed definition of ‘loss and damage’. But for the LDCs, these deep and irreversible impacts – while often intangible and unmeasurable – are very real and increasingly unavoidable.

They have passed the point of being dealt with through mitigation or adaptation.

Research highlights the urgent need to address loss and damage

Loss and damage needs stronger attention both at national policy level and at the climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It needs countries who have contributed most to the climate crisis to commit trillions of dollars of dedicated finance to deal with loss and damage, making sure that the money is channelled to communities so that they can define and manage the response.

IIED is working with people in LDCs to build awareness and improve understanding of lived experiences of loss and damage and to get the concept recognised as a priority issue in UNFCCC negotiations.

Research to gather more evidence of people’s experiences shows the multi-dimensional nature of the risks they face from loss and damage, the necessary combination of solutions that must be applied at different levels, and the cost of putting those solutions in place. Of course, not all loss and damage can be resolved by finance – destruction of buildings, artefacts and places destroys cultures and histories too.

The year-long project aims to create space for communities in the global South to talk with donors and decision makers about what they are doing, the solutions they have found and their priorities for action.

Through pushing for loss and damage to be top of the agenda in global policy forums, they want to re-emphasise the urgency needed to address their situations and future loss and damage elsewhere.

Blogs and animations share first-hand accounts of loss and damage

Through different content we have shared people’s personal experiences of loss and damage. In a series of blogs, listed below, representatives from Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands call on governments to acknowledge the realities of loss and damage, and to provide urgently needed financial and technological support to help the LDCs manage the fast-accelerating impacts of climate change.

And in a series of animations the experiences of these same individuals are brought to life. Three of the animations are accompanied by behind-the-scenes footage, where each character gives us insights into what motivated them to tell their story on loss and damage, and share their hopes that these personal experiences will drive policymakers to act.

Watch the animations in the playlist below or on IIED's YouTube channel. The animations are available in different languages, as listed below.

The film focusing on the Solomon Islands was a finalist in the 2022 Charity Film Awards.

Untold stories of climate change  - loss and damage in the LDCs