We the People’s Conference on Loss and Damage Highlights Urgency for Climate Action
At a conference on Loss and Damage held on May 9, 2023 and organized by We the People, renowned experts, activists and members of frontline communities discuss critical perspectives on Loss and Damage. The conference shed light on the origins of the Loss and Damage conversation, the ongoing international debate around it, and the urgent need for global cooperation to address the escalating impacts of climate change.
Executive Director of We the People, Ken Henshaw delivered a thought-provoking presentation titled "Critical Perspectives on Loss and Damage." Henshaw emphasized the need to recognize Loss and Damage as an expression of climate justice, highlighting the historical role that developed countries, particularly in the global north, have played in contributing to the climate crisis. He underlined the disparity in global emissions, with less than 10 percent attributed to the global south, while Africa's extractive sector employs less than 1 percent of the continent’s workforce.
The conference also delved into the scope of Loss and Damage and its political implications.
Loss and Damage encompass the effects of climate change that go beyond what can be mitigated or adapted to, resulting in negative impacts on human and natural systems. However, the discussions underscored the need for simultaneous efforts to reduce emissions, as Loss and Damage alone cannot save the planet.
A critical issue discussed at the conference was the financing of Loss and Damage initiatives.
Mr. Tijah Bolton Executive Director of Policy Alert argued that the framework for funding Loss and Damage needed to go beyond simply reallocating and redirecting other climate finance mechanisms. It needed to be additional funding and specifically directed at addressing Loss and Damage. According to him, the current global climate finance falls significantly short of what is required to address pressing climate change challenges.
An expert panel discussion at the conference also put the conversation around Loss and Damage into perspective by drawing references to the impacts felt by vulnerable groups. According to Dr. Abel Briggs, rising temperatures are directly related to increased health challenges in the Niger Delta. He noted that the definition of health cut across physiological factors as well as mental and social well-being. Other panelists noted that restiveness and conflict can also be traced to the hardship occasioned by climate change. According to Ms. Annie Marie, the drying up of Lake Chad and desert encroachment in the North, were factors responsible for the incursion of herdsmen and the bloody conflicts ensuing.
Furthermore, the conference underscored the importance of broadening the understanding of Loss and Damage beyond measurable damages and losses. The focus should also include non-economic losses and damages, such as impacts on cultural heritage, indigenous knowledge, social cohesion, and biodiversity. Migration and conflict, along with the backlog of impacts experienced by communities for decades, were also identified as crucial aspects that need to be addressed.
In conclusion, the conference highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive climate action to address the escalating impacts of climate change. While progress has been made in recognizing Loss and Damage, the conference emphasized that effective solutions require simultaneous reduction in emissions and a substantial increase in funding. As the world faces the challenges of climate change, it is imperative for nations to come together, rethink finance mechanisms, and prioritize the well-being of vulnerable communities in the pursuit of sustainable development.