Q: What are some of the findings in specific regions, including in Small Island Developing States and in Africa?

Adelle Thomas: The IPCC finds that losses and damages are disproportionately experienced by vulnerable developing countries.

Small Islands are one of the regions that are already facing disproportionate losses and damages and where projected losses and damages are particularly high. For Small Islands in particular, 1.5°C is a critical threshold beyond which these islands may be unable to adapt to climate change.

Sea-level rise poses an existential threat, particularly for low-lying areas that are already at or below current sea levels. There is a risk of permanent and irreversible loss of terrestrial, marine and coastal biodiversity as well as the services that these ecosystems provide, such as coastal protection from storms and supporting livelihoods such as fisheries.

There is the risk of economic decline due to losses and damages, and failure of sectors that these islands are dependent on such as agriculture and tourism. Losses and damages may lead to reduced habitability of islands, meaning that there will be displacement or permanent migration of people from their homes along with non-economic losses such as loss of sense of place, community and culture.

In Africa, losses and damages are also already being experienced and will escalate with global warming. Some of the projected losses and damages for the African region are species extinction and reduction, irreversible loss of ecosystems and their services, including freshwater, land and ocean ecosystems. There are risks to food security, risk of malnutrition, and loss of livelihoods due to reduced food production from crops, livestock and fisheries.

Losses and damages may include increased human mortality and morbidity due to increased heat and infectious diseases, inequality and poverty rates, risk to water and energy security due to drought and heat, and reduced economic output and growth.

Q: The UN Secretary-General has said that addressing the issue of loss and damage is a moral imperative. As a scientist, what is your message to delegates on loss and damage?

Adelle Thomas: The scientific evidence is very clear that losses and damages are already being experienced, that they will rise with global warming and that they are unavoidable and unequally distributed, with disproportionate effects on developing countries and vulnerable groups.

Losses and damages are a current reality and there is a clear need for financial, governance and institutional arrangements at multiple levels to address these issues.

Prolonged delaying of improving financial, governance and institutional arrangements to address loss and damage will only result in those that are already most vulnerable and experiencing loss and damage facing ever increasing levels of negative impacts of climate change.

Addressing loss and damage

At COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November 2022, after days of intense negotiations, countries reached agreement on establishing a fund to compensate vulnerable nations for ‘loss and damage’ from climate-induced disasters.

Learn more about the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which was adopted at the UN Climate Conference in 2013 to begin a process to address the issue, and Article 8 of the Paris Agreement, a provision in the Paris Agreement, which was adopted in 2015, to strengthen the Warsaw Mechanism.

The UN System together with its partners have been providing financial and technical support to countries to address issues related to loss and damage. Read more about the Secretary-General’s Early Warning for All initiative to scale up efforts to address loss and damage.