Direct from the UN Climate Summit: Loss and Damage

Three turquoise-colored trucks almost submerged in the brown water of an overflowing river. There are piles of stones in the truck beds and a forest lines the bank of the flooded river.

A flooded river in Shaoguang, Guangdong Province, China

Hello to the UUA Community! I am Pierre Candelon, and here at COP26 I co-coordinate a network of stakeholders (practitioners, activists, decision-makers, academics) called the Loss and Damage Collaboration. At this COP, there is momentum on this topic of Loss and Damage, and this momentum is exactly what I've been trying to contribute to in the last 2 weeks.

What Is Loss and Damage?

Loss and damage (L&D) regroups all damages caused by climate change that are not avoided or could not be avoided: loss of territory, agricultural yields, culture, and people—through climate-induced migrations—all because of the increase in the severity of extreme weather events (like cyclones or droughts) and slow onset events (like desertification and sea-level rise). And there are significant gaps in the financial and technical support brought to developing countries and vulnerable communities, who most of the time are not responsible for climate change. It has been estimated that L&D economic costs for these countries and communities alone would be between $290 and $580 billion by 2030! And on top of this, we have non-economic losses, like loss of biodiversity and cultural heritage, which are difficult to quantify monetarily.

What Do We Expect at COP26?

There are two main things:

Firstly, there is the technical assistance provided to developing countries. For this matter, the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage was created at COP25 in Madrid. Its main mandate is to catalyze the technical assistance provided to developing countries, using the network of experts working on topics such as risk reduction, humanitarian assistance, and development, which can support countries experiencing loss and damage. At COP26, the Santiago Network is being operationalized—or at least the discussion on its functions has come to an end. Now we have to discuss ways of financing it and how it would be shaped, which will be discussed at future sessions in the next year.

The second thing is the finance provided to developing countries to help them to face the loss and damage caused by climate change. And this topic is moving very slowly in negotiations. What civil society and negotiation groups of developing countries are trying to get at this COP is not only an acknowledgement that these financial needs are real and urgent, but also concrete next steps (mechanisms, channels) on how to get it to the countries and communities in need. Scotland paved the way during COP26 by being the first developed country to actually commit to delivering $2 million on Loss and Damage. Now we would love to see clear plans unfold at COP26 for how finance will be delivered to developing countries. Why not through a Loss and Damage finance facility, created now and operationalized at COP27? Let's see how these last days go!

Pierre Candelon is a member of the Loss and Damage Collaboration (LDC), a partner organization of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). UUSC supports the LDC to bring the voices of vulnerable countries experiencing loss and damage to the forefront and to advance Loss and Damage finance and just responses at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other multilateral spaces. UUSC's support of the LDC (and the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition) recognizes that—for many of their partners in the Pacific, the Caribbean, Central America, and the U.S.— loss and damage is a reliable indicator of climate-forced displacement.