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Loss and Damage: Climate Reality in the 21st Century

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With the current global average temperature now at around 1°C above pre-industrial levels, poor people in developing countries are already suffering devastation from climate change impacts. It is therefore critical and urgent for vulnerable countries and communities to adapt to climate change impacts. Being prepared for changes in climate and severe weather events can reduce the impacts on people’s lives, their livelihoods and food security. For too long, however, action in cutting emissions and scaling-up adaptation has been utterly inadequate. As a result, more and more of these impacts are exceeding people’s ability to adapt.

Loss and damage is therefore now part of the reality of climate change, and must be tackled. Loss is often understood as irreversible (e.g. loss of lives, species or habitats), while damages can be repaired (such as roads, embankments etc.). If the planet undergoes 2°-3°C of warming, which is a possibility with current national climate pledges – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – on the table, the scale of loss and damage will be catastrophic.

As past greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of climate change and associated loss and damage, historic responsibilities for these emissions must be taken into account when it comes to providing financial and technical means to those countries and communities most affected, and least responsible for global warming. This is a matter of justice and human rights.

This joint report between CARE, ActionAid and WWF explains the current reality of loss and damage and outlines recommendations to ensure that the international community’s response to climate change in the 21st century can adequately address loss and damage during the UN climate negotiations at COP21 in Paris.