TODAY’S STUDY: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE DAMAGE DONE
Into Unknown Territory; The limits to adaptation and reality of loss and damage from climate impacts
May 2012 (WWF International, Germanwatch, CARE International and ActionAid International)
Climate change will inflict devastating damage to land, property, ecosystems and human life. Yet loss and damage from climate impacts gets far less attention than it deserves from climate negotiators and politicians.
The concept of loss and damage is increasingly im¬portant because we have not mitigated or adapted to climate change in time: whatever we do now, there will still be losses and irreversible impacts. Current emission reduction commitments are out of step with the scientific urgency of tackling climate change. We are likely to overshoot the critical 2°C threshold, putting the planet on a 4 to 6°C pathway of global warming. The World Bank estimates that even in a 2°C world, adaptation costs for develop¬ing countries will amount to a minimum of US$70 billion by 2020 and to up to 100 billion a year by 2050.1 These figures do not cover the costs of hard-to-measure issues such as ecosystem degra¬dation, misery, loss of life or capacity building, and the actual costs could easily double. Recent figures for potential damage to ocean systems in a 4°C world estimate the economic cost alone at US$2 trillion per year by the end of this century.
While globally we are now committed to permanent and irreversible loss and damage, we can still drastically reduce the extent of climate impacts.
Bigger and faster cuts to greenhouse gas emissions can reduce the amount of damage and resources needed for climate adaptation.
This paper contextualises issues around loss and damage as a result of climate change and demon¬strates the urgent necessity for a range of approaches to address it through scaled up adaptation and mitigation measures.
To ensure that climate impacts on loss and dam¬age are addressed, it is recommended that:
1. Developed countries. continue to urgently pursue mitigation strategies: the drivers of loss and damage must be tackled head on by shifting to low-carbon development pathways globally. Developed countries must increase their ambition level to more than 40% emis¬sion reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 and over 80% by 2050. Developed countries must provide finance, technology and capacity build¬ing to assist developing countries to invest in adaptation and disaster risk reduction and to transition their development onto low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways.
2. Decision-makers. must refocus existing approaches and massively scale up resources to address vulnerability, building resilience and adaptive capacity, especially of the most vul¬nerable people, communities and ecosystems.
3. Building on. existing architecture, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Cancún Adaptation Framework, climate-proofed disaster risk reduction needs to be dramatically scaled-up through infusion of financial resources.
4. The limits to adaptation4. are increasingly going to be exceeded and the international community, recognising the precautionary principle and the role of the UNFCCC, needs to discuss propos¬als for mechanisms that can address rehabili¬tation and compensation.
Currently the planet is not on track to limit danger¬ous climate change; in fact, it’s rapidly heading towards a world 4 to 6°C warmer by the end of this century compared to pre-industrial levels.3 Yet the global community remains uncertain as to how it will enter and manage this unknown territory of increasing climate impacts and related loss and damage.4 While there is an increasing acceptance of the necessity to reduce emissions and provide resources to enable vulnerable communities to adapt, there is no consensus as to what should happen when neither of these are enough to pre¬vent loss, damage and disaster.
Addressing loss and damage for those suffering at the frontline of climate impacts for which they bear little responsibility is a moral imperative but it is still to be agreed as a political priority.
The first Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, which established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, agreed that, “States shall co-operate in an expeditious and more determined manner to de¬velop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.”
However, in the last 20 years little was done by those most responsible to address the impacts of climate change. While the issue of loss and dam¬age was first raised in 1991, it gained momentum only in 2007 at the Bali conference (see below ‘A brief history of ‘loss and damage’ in the UNFCCC). In the climate conference at Cancún in 2010, countries finally agreed to launch a two-year work programme to consider approaches to addressing loss and damage. At the Durban climate conference in 2011, the work programme was structured under three thematic areas:
*assessing the risk,
*discussing the range of approaches to address
*loss and damage, exploring the role of the UNFCCC in enhancing the implementation of these approaches.
The work programme aims to be concluded in a few months and will be further discussed at the Doha conference (COP18) in November/December 2012. A loss and damage component to any new global agreement on climate change is critically important. In addition, there is still potential to reduce the extent of impact through mitigation and adaptation. The relationship between mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage is straightforward: bigger and faster cuts to greenhouse gas emissions now will reduce the amount of resources that are needed in order to adapt to climate impacts.
Communities and ecosystems are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. Limiting global warming to below 2°C, the global target, recom¬mended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and enabling at-risk communities to adapt to climate impacts as far as possible, limits the amount of loss and damage they will suffer.
Mitigation needs to be swift and deep, adaptation needs to be resourced wholeheartedly through public finance and focused on the most vulnerable women, men and children, rather than on the preserve of wealthy elites and their unsustainable lifestyles.
This document aims to raise the urgent necessity of addressing the issue of loss and damage and provides further essential context to the debate and discussions in the ongoing work programme on loss and damage. It explains why we need to tackle the challenge with interrelated actions, as neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can address the extent of climate impacts. The document contains recommendations for policy and decision-makers both in the UNFCCC and beyond. It refers to both the loss and damage mechanism, but also to how some climate impacts can still be prevented from becoming irreversible through adaptation and mitigation strategies. The text boxes bring the issues to life by illustrating the reality of climate-related loss and damage in particular contexts.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The report highlights that impactdamage.
For designing such approaches, it is crucial to identify the specific needs encountered in the affected developing countries, and to massively scale up responses by the international community. The following section outlines a range of emerging recommendations:
1. Prevention is better than cure
The drivers of loss and damage must be tackled head on. The current low ambition levels of emission reductions are taking us to a 4°C warmer world. We need a rapid global transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient development pathways. This includes measures to ensure the swift decarbo¬nising of economic activities in developed and emerging economies. Developed countries must agree targets of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and increase their ambition level to more than 40% and over 80% by 2050 All developed countries must move to the high end of their current pledges and show how their targets are consistent with decarbonising their economies by 2050. Developed countries must provide finance, technology and capacity-building to assist developing countries to invest in adaptation and disaster risk reduction and to transition their development onto low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways. Simul¬taneously, developing countries need to strengthen forward-looking planning and development to adapt and manage loss and damage-related expo¬sures and vulnerabilities.
2. Preparedness is critical: invest urgently in Disaster Risk Reduction
Governments need to get ahead of the curve; preparedness is critical. The disaster risk reduction community currently largely focuses on weather variability and has, consequently, given less at¬tention to slow-onset issues. The progress made in disaster risk reduction has laid the foundation and generated considerable learning for adaptation programming. For disaster risk reduction (DRR) to be successful in the changing climate, it needs to also focus on longer-term impacts, such as sea-level rise, desertification, loss of biodiversity, impacts on humans, etc in order to prepare for a 4°C world. The capacity of risk managers (at different scales) to include climate threats in their analyses and responses needs to be significantly enhanced. Building on existing architecture, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Cancún Adaptation Framework, climate-proofed disaster risk reduction needs to be dramatically scaled-up through provision of financial resources.
3. Managing uncertainty and unpre¬dictability requires new approaches
It is time to scrap the illusion that more information is all that is needed for people to cope with a 4°C world. Instead, decision-makers need to refocus their approaches to addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience and adaptive capacity, especially of the most vulnerable people, communities and ecosystems. Such new approaches, which recognise social-ecological systems and their interdependence, are urgently needed, instead of a very specific hazard focus and countermeasures on climate impacts. Development strategies must empower communities to deal with an uncertain and unpredictable world. Flexibility, regular reviews, adaptive management and learning must be seen as an integral part of planning and response.
4. Address loss and damage beyond adaptation
The limits of adaptation are going to be increasingly surpassed, especially in the world´s vulnerable countries, communities and ecosystems. Com¬pensation for harmful activities is a principle of law and a regulatory gap in the existing earth governance system. The international community, recognising the precautionary principle and the role of the UNFCCC, needs to discuss proposals for mechanisms which can address rehabilitation and compensation. Pricing compensation would let polluters factor in the true costs of pollution and could leverage additional pressure to scale-up mitigation, in particular in those countries with the largest historic and future responsibilities for causing climate change.
5. Scale up risk assessments
In-country risk and impact assessments need to be strengthened. Countries have different assess¬ment requirements for climate risk management. The recently agreed National Adaptation Plan (NAP), which, in particular, least-developed coun¬tries are supposed to undertake in the next years, could be one of the ways to integrate risk assess¬ment into the planning process. A system should be established to aggregate risk and impact assessments to the global level. Summarising the impacts in the UNFCCC process should inform and influence negotiations at international level, with regard to both the scale of mitigation as well as the scale of adaptation support and, potentially, options to address residual damage.
Pilot schemes could be launched to undertake national asset inventories that rank countries’ assets against their climate vulnerability. Assistance should be given to developing countries so they can conduct further assessments, for example through a detailed map of their geographic areas and communities at risk of catastrophic climate impacts under a range of scenarios to inform their national decision-making.
Capacity-building needs, especially for least-devel¬oped countries and small island developing states, should be addressed. Innovative approaches such as regional or global pools of professionals for risk management that could serve countries should be considered. The UNFCCC process can play an important role in mapping and coordinating such activities.
6. Adopt approaches to address loss and damage
National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and similar strategies should take into account potential failure of adaptation and risk reduction planning to avoid loss and damage. Climate risk manage¬ment is, therefore, a key component of adaptation plans and strategies. The loss and damage work programme could develop guidance and recom-mendations, closely coordinated with the NAP process, on how to best establish such climate risk management. New approaches that go beyond the national level should be developed. One example is an interna¬tional or a set of regional risk management facilities that could provide risk management and insurance for poor countries. Regional or global approaches should be discussed if they enhance cost effective¬ness and contribute to wider resilience-building. Importantly, such facilities should include elements of solidarity like support for the most affected while ensuring the accountability of the international community.
At this stage, a range of approaches to address loss and damage should be piloted at national level and also, wherever appropriate, at trans-boundary level. Developing countries most at risk should design schemes to aid the most vulnerable com¬munities and assist their rehabilitation or relocation, with support from the international community where required.
7. Scale up implementation and capacity-building through climate finance
Addressing loss and damage through mitigation and adaptation actions is clearly within the mandate of international climate finance. Developed countries promised to increase their climate finance in the years to come, without providing a clear pathway towards achieving the goal of US$100 billion an¬nually by 2020. A few channels already exist under the UNFCCC system, for the example the Adap¬tation Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund, which can be used to jumpstart action on loss and damage. The new Green Climate Fund, once it is fully set up, should be given capacity and filled up so that it can leverage the necessary quantum leap in financial support for poor coun¬tries. They must be able to go beyond a few small projects and allow for the implementation of forward-looking strategies (such as the NAPs) and broader programmes. Mechanisms to raise revenues from innovative sources such as from international aviation, maritime transport and financial transaction tax need to be pursued.
8. Anchor loss and damage as acomponent of the 2015 agreement
The ‘ultimate objective’ of the UNFCCC, “to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concen¬trations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”,41 is at risk. It is, there¬fore, all the more pressing that new international agreements recognise the dangerous impact that climate change is already having on at-risk com¬munities and ecosystems, and enact measures to both reduce risks of and respond effectively to the adverse effects. The Convention should provide the framework for addressing climate-related loss and damage and scaling up required actions, as outlined before. Loss and damage, with its different dimensions, will need to be a core part of the new global agreement on climate change and therefore needs to be considered seriously in the Durban Platform process towards developing a 2015 agreement.
The decision from the Durban conference stated the “need to explore a range of possible approaches and potential mechanisms, including an international mechanism, to address loss and damage”.42 Refer¬ence was also made to the approaches contained in the Cancún Agreements, such as a climate risk insurance facility, options for risk management and reduction; risk sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance, including options for micro-insurance; resilience building; and approaches for addressing rehabilitation measures associated with slow onset events.43 Substantial progress can be achieved through the UNFCCC work programme currently being implemented. The climate confer-ence in 2012 (COP18) in Doha needs to define further steps based on the outputs of the work programme.
9. Loss and damage above and beyond the UNFCCC
Climate-related loss and damage is too big an issue to be resolved only by an environmental agreement such as the UNFCCC. Issues such as human mobility or loss of territory will require consideration from other global bodies, including the UN Security Council and the UN High Commission on Human Rights Council. Nevertheless, the UNFCCC and science bodies such as the IPCC will continue to have a key role in informing other bodies. Govern¬ments and civil society must start raising the issue of loss and damage with bodies beyond UNFCCC in order to address it comprehensively.