‘Loss and damage’ is a particular phrase the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change uses to refer to the consequences of climate change that go beyond what people can adapt to – such as low-lying nations experiencing a rise in sea levels – or when options exist, but a community doesn’t have the resources to access them – such as rebuilding after severe weather events, or weathering an extreme heatwave. The first mention of loss and damage by the UNFCCC was in 1991, but there’s been little movement on financing it in the decades since.
In this digital event sponsored by Fondation de France, we explore why that is – and what to do about it.
Moderated by Alliance digital editor Elika Roohi, the event’s speakers were:
- Eva Peace Mukayiranga: founding member of Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, Rwanda
- Heather McGray: director of the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, US
- Mohammad Shahjahan: deputy director of the Young Power in Social Action Project, Bangladesh
Here are some key takeaways from each panellist.
Eva Peace Mukayiranga
- ‘Loss and Damage Youth Coalition is a coalition of more than 300 youth from the Global North and South, aiming to pressure leaders to take action on loss and damage and we hope for a world where the impacts of loss and damage are addressed in an equitable way; a world where developed countries take responsibility for their outsized contribution to the climate crisis by treating it with a sense of urgency’
- ‘We focus on advocacy, lobbying governments both local and global leaders, and decision makers to scale up – to provide finance to vulnerable communities on the ground.’ They also send open letters, including one more recently to COP27 and made demands
- ‘Loss and damage is not a new concept, it’s something that has been around since 1991. Developing countries have been calling for finance for loss and damage but there have been neither solutions nor concrete action provided by global leaders. It’s not a new concept and in Rwanda we’ve been facing cyclones, flooding, erosion, drought, whilst also suffering from a lack of capacity to help our communities to address loss and damage’
- The best way to help is to support local actors and communities on the ground, to understand their needs when it comes to loss and damage, as it comes in different contexts and different realities in different parts of the world, so any support needs to understand the requirements in different countries and provide solutions that fit their needs
- Climate Justice Resilience Fund has been in place a bit ‘more than 5 years now. We were created at a time when climate justice was still nascent as a peaceable dialogue, there were fewer organisations and people who were using the term. So we’ve been really in some ways an innovating grantmaker, trying to explore what it means to support climate justice and how you do this’
- ‘We currently have funding from 4 different foundations, and when we complete our sixth year we will have a programme of about $20 million. Our strategic framework from the outset has us focused on some of the issue areas where climate change really touches people’s lives and livelihoods, and their human rights. We’re focused on food security and food sovereignty, access to water and of course these are issues that we’re seeing really take centre stage as climate change accelerates. We’re focused on livelihoods and the need for sustainable livelihoods which can help people thrive as the climate changes’
- ‘Our fourth issue area has been migration. This is where in many ways we are most closely linked to the loss and damage conversation. When people are losing their lands, their homes, when they’re forced to move, this is one of the most serious injustices that we see from climate change and we’re seeing it at a much larger scale, and we’re expecting it at an even larger scale as climate change progresses.’
- ‘This is how we enter the loss and damage conversation, and you’ll see that we’ve learned that this issue of migration, relocation and displacement is actually really connected with food, water and livelihoods. We’ve worked with YPSA as an example of what it really takes to address these issues – you can’t only work on one spot’
- CJRF are one of the earliest climate justice funds. Their budding conversations with Scotland’s climate justice moved into a partnership around loss and damage, and now CJRF are the fund that’s deploying Scotland’s commitment of a million pounds – the first wealthy country’s commitment on this issue
- In Glasgow, ‘we hosted a collaborative which is run by five core funder founders. It hosted a major event for philanthropy on the margins of the climate change talks. L&D became a central conversation in that event – activists were raising this issue as an important one, not only for last year’s COP but also for philanthropy and for climate justice more broadly
- What communities need and what they prioritise are not that intuitive to a global funder. In their work in the Arctic supporting native communities, what they want to see are huge cultural shifts and social connection, instead of just nuts-and-bolts relocation. ‘So we’re supporting work in the Arctic that maybe doesn’t necessarily look exactly like climate work, but it’s very linked and our partners have shown us how cultural revitalisation, work around art, around music, around language – this is some of what’s most important in the Arctic and where we’ve seen loss and damage activities are not intuitive of what many grantmakers think’
- Everyone comes to this issue from a different angle. ‘We collaborate with women’s rights funders, with funders focused on children, with people who’ve been working on global human rights and didn’t think about climate change for decades as a funder. But people are starting to see how climate change intersects with so many different issues, and those intersections are where the losses are emerging. When you’re losing your food security, when you’re losing your livelihood, there’s a whole range of funding expertise that come to bear on this, so organisations that have been working on agriculture for the last thirty years – that’s not just a technical question, it’s a question of justice and rights now, and of climate change impacting people’s rights.’
- YPSA is a voluntary, non-profit organisation for sustainable development contributing to Bangladesh’s goals for making a difference in the lives of the population since its establishment in 1985
- YPSA specialises in areas such as health, education, human rights and governance, economic empowerment and environment and climate change
- Under the environment and climate change arm, YPSA is implementing different needs-based projects, focusing on environmental improvement and population control management, the needs of climate-induced displaced people, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, ecotourism and water supply
- Climate-induced displacement is the best example of loss & damage that YPSA works on. Why do we focus on it? ‘It’s estimated that climate change could displace 260 million people by 2050. 40 million of these are in South East Asia. 1 in every 7 people will be displaced in Bangladesh by 2050. This year alone, we’ve had a flood in the North East which had displaced 500,000… After displacement, people become landless, homeless and assetless. They have livelihood insecurity and are denied access to basic rights – food, education, safe water, etc.’
- ‘Since 2018, we have had support from the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, and we have been providing different needs-based work and advocacy with climate-displaced people. We have been forming a development community team, as well as providing capacity-building support to this team and climate-displaced people. At the same time, we’re doing some advocacy with different stakeholders, including the government and local elected bodies so that they can provide needs-based support to climate-displaced people. At the same time, we’re providing needs-based support such as water and sanitation support, and finally we are also doing some relocation programmes, focusing on the sustainability of this.’
- Since COP26, there have been no critical outcomes from loss and damage issues. ‘But we cannot turn away from this commitment. We should start work from the ground zero because people are suffering and are in very vulnerable situations. So we are trying to mobilise philanthropic partnerships. This could be aligned to human rights funding.’
- ‘As you know, Bangladesh is a developing country and has not contributed to climate change. So we are always trying to convince developed countries to come and work as part of their compensation.’
- ‘There should be legal frameworks at an international level to deal with climate displacement as a human rights issue. There should be a universal framework for migration and resettlement under the UNFCCC.’
Our next event will take place in September on investments, sponsored by Mercer. Sign up to our newsletter for an update when registration for the event opens.