Activist countries

How Rich Countries Are Undermining Climate Liability and Compensation Efforts

You may have heard the vague term “loss and damage” when discussing climate change, especially as activists and advocates pressure world leaders to increase funding for those most affected. by the crisis. But what does that mean?

This is the subject of the latest episode of Climate Citizena new four-part podcast series developed in collaboration between Global Citizen and The climatic capsule which covers topics such as climate justice, biodiversity and crisis mitigation.

Prof. Saleemul Huq – Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, Professor at the Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB) and Associate of the International Institute on Environment and Development (IIED) in the UK – joins host Brock Benefiel to explain.

The first thing you need to know, says Huq, is that “loss and damage” is a euphemism for a more traditional phrase – liability and compensation.

Liability implies that someone or something is responsible for damage (in this case, climate change), while compensation implies a need for restitution. Loss and damage, on the other hand, involves harm that will be accounted for, but not attributed to any particular party.

How did we move from the directness of “liability and compensation” to the ambiguity of “loss and damage”?

Rich countries, led by the United States, have made explicit reference to liability and compensation in international climate negotiations, according to Huq.

“They are very afraid of the notion of liability and compensation,” he said. “In fact, they have made the words ‘liability and compensation’ taboo. We are not allowed to use those words.

“But what we’re asking for now is actually not liability-based compensation,” he said. “It’s just solidarity. People are dying right now. You know, in recent days, the island of Madagascar and the country of Mozambique were hit in a few days by three successive cyclones that killed more than 200 people. They completely lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Now, where is the feeling of solidarity with them? »

Huq explains in the episode that climate action has gone through three distinct phases over the past 30 years. The first phase focused on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The second phase focused on coping with unavoidable consequences. The UN estimates that $1.8 trillion in adaptation spending would avoid $7.1 trillion in climate impact costs.

While we are still partly in the adaptation phase, we are moving into the third phase, he said, which focuses on recovering from climate impacts. This is the era of “loss and damage” – of calculating the real damages of climate change.

“Loss refers to things that have been completely lost, such as human life,” said. “Lost is gone; it will never come back.

Already, climate impacts cause around 150,000 deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. Other losses include islands and coastlines engulfed by the sea, crops destroyed by extreme weather events, and human habitats turned into inhospitable deserts.

The daily cost of losses from natural disasters around the world increased sevenfold between 1970 and 2010, reaching $383 million per day. Three of the costliest disasters in modern history were the 2017 hurricanes which were made worse by warming temperatures.

“Damage is something that can be repaired,” Huq said. “So if your house is damaged, it can be repaired. The road can be repaired. If a slope is damaged, you can repair it. The damage can be repaired if you have the money to do so. Something that’s completely lost, you’ll never get it back. And all of this is measurable. We can measure it. Everyone does it. You can measure the loss of crops, the loss of livelihoods, the loss of homes and homes – we do this all the time, regardless of climate change.

Huq pointed out that rich countries willingly offer compensation to victims of the climate crisis within their own borders, but do not extend this solidarity to developing countries that suffer disproportionately from a climate crisis they only played a minor role in the creation.

Not only that, but rich countries are now undermining efforts to institutionally address global loss and damage. Huq explains how at COP26, developing countries included language to create a loss and damage facility that would initiate the process of financial restitution. At the last moment, the rich countries changed it, going from a facility that could lead to concrete results to a simple dialogue.

“If there’s anything that proves Greta Thunberg’s diagnosis, ‘All they do is blah blah blah’, that’s a really good example,” Huq said. “They said, ‘We’re going to blah blah blah for two years and do nothing. “”

But not all the leaders of the North followed this stratagem.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, has pledged $2.7 million to a fund for loss and damage. The Belgian province of Wallonia committed $1.4 million to the fund, and then nonprofits and international foundations committed several million more, Huq said.

“So now we have a pot to deal with loss and damage,” he explained. “It’s not very important, but it’s something, and it’s all coming from governments outside the COP. None of the official negotiating governments put a dime in this pot.

“But we have a jar now. So we’re going to take that jar and figure out what to do with it – which we’re doing in a very practical way to make things better and help the victims of climate change. And we’ll see if others countries join us by COP27.

Listen to the rest of the episode to learn about global efforts to secure funds for loss and damage and other information about Huq’s climate.

And take action with Global Citizen to demand greater loss and damage funding and broader climate action now.


You can download and listen to the four-part Climate Citizen series on The Climate Pod website, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. New episodes will be released every Wednesday!