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Loss and damage

Climate change is already impacting the lives and livelihoods of people and communities around the world. Countries are legally obliged to address climate-related loss and damage, through international bodies like the UN Warsaw Mechanism, with the effective participation of affected people.  


Climate change is already causing major loss and damage

  • Climate change is already having severe impacts, particularly on people in vulnerable contexts. 

  • These impacts often exceed the capacities of people and communities to adapt. 

  • Unavoidable impacts are referred to as loss and damage.


Loss and damage happens in different ways

  • Loss and damage arises from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and floods. 

  • It also includes “slow onset events,” such as sea level rise and land degradation. 

  • Permanent losses such as loss of statehood, or loss of land and ecosystems, also need to be addressed.


Action is legally required to address loss and damage

  • International environmental law says States should not cause harm outside their jurisdiction. 

  • The UNFCCC itself requires countries to take action to prevent dangerous climate change and obliges developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • In addition, the “polluter pays” principle provides a basis for establishing liability for harm. 

  • Countries and companies most responsible for climate change are therefore liable to redress it.


Actions should address economic and non-economic impacts

  • Developing countries are entitled to financial resources from developed countries to address loss and damage, as well as risk-sharing and risk transfer approaches to minimise impacts. 

  • It is equally important to address non-economic losses, such as loss of statehood due to sea level rise. 


Action is needed at all levels, with participation of affected communities

  • The communities most impacted by climate change must be enabled to participate directly in decision-making about loss and damage, and climate change more generally.

  • International bodies, like the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, must be strengthened, and actions also taken at the national and local levels to address loss and damage.


For more information see: 
Paris Climate Justice Briefs, Loss & Damage

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