Countries most at risk from the impacts of the climate crisis can best address the losses and damage many are already suffering as a result of climate change by using a diverse range of tools and types of finance, according to research published today by IIED.
The issue of loss and damage – the impacts of climate change that are so severe humans cannot adapt to them – has risen up the agenda in recent months as multiple examples play out in real time including a crippling drought in the Horn of Africa, flooding and landslides in South Africa and catastrophic storms in Central America.
These crises will only increase in scale and severity as the climate continues to warm, exposing billions of people to the ever-growing risk of losing their lives, livelihoods, land and culture.
'Addressing loss and damage: practical insights for tackling multi-dimensional risks in LDCs and SIDS', examines the wide range of ways that loss and damage can affect poor countries, and explains how those risks can be addressed by using diverse measures.
Massive increases in the scale of disaster response and recovery need to be combined with robust assessments of the risks of loss and damage so decision makers can understand and plan for the potential impacts of different hazards on poor and vulnerable people.
Early warning systems and responses in anticipation of extreme weather events are also key, combining meteorological monitoring, risk communications plans and clear roles and responsibilities to ensure communities are equipped to respond quickly to climate disasters.
Longer-term measures are also needed to address the risks posed by slow onset events like sea level rise and desertification. These include policy reforms, the use of physical infrastructure and other measures to help vulnerable people avoid the worst impacts of unavoidable climate shocks, building seawalls and dykes, cyclone shelters, floodproofing, changing building codes and drainage systems, making evacuation plans, designing social protection programmes, establishing insurance schemes or facilitating safe and dignified migration to new locations.
Civil society groups and representatives from vulnerable countries are fighting to get loss and damage on the agenda for the next round of international climate negotiations in Egypt in November. Richer countries who are most responsible for carbon emissions but suffer the least from climate change, continue to resist calls for compensation from those living on the front lines of the climate crisis.
Simon Addison, a principal researcher for IIED, said: “While arguments continue about who picks up the bill, the losses and damage due to climate change are mounting. Vulnerable communities around the world are already losing lives, land and livelihoods to climate change.
“There is an urgent need to address the risks and impacts now, and all parties – governments, finance institutions and civil society – must support the most vulnerable countries to develop robust strategies to address them, and to implement concrete actions using all of the tools and financial instruments available.”
The report found no single source of finance could address the full range of loss and damage impacts and risks. It recommends combining different forms of finance including debt relief, insurance, humanitarian assistance, philanthropy and domestic taxes, to deliver the right kinds of support in the right places at the right time to help those most badly affected.
Researchers found multiple examples of responses to loss and damage which are already saving lives, from a flash flood early-warning system for downstream communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya in India to resilient construction used to rebuild houses after Hurricane Maria tore through Dominica in 2017.