By Joyce Chimbi
NAIROBI, Sep 22 2023 – African countries are increasingly in the eye of deadly climate-induced disasters. Recent devastating extreme events include intense shattering earthquakes in Morocco, followed shortly by catastrophic floods in Libya this September that left 11,300 people dead, according to Libya’s Red Crescent.
A quarter of Libya’s Port City of Derna – the epicentre of this tragedy – was wiped off the map. Planet warming pollution made the tragedy in Libya 50 times more likely to occur and 50 percent worse.
“As global warming intensifies, the outlook worsens, losses and damages increase and become increasingly difficult to avoid, the projections are dire – regional disparities and food security are poised to affect tens to hundreds of millions of people in low- and middle-income countries, flood risk is anticipated to result in an additional 48,000 deaths of children by 2030,” said Dr Adelle Thomas, lead author on the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the sixth in a series of reports which assess scientific, technical, and socio-economic information concerning climate change.
“For small islands and coastal communities, both slow onset and extreme events threaten to render these places uninhabitable. In this context, we find that current financial and institutional structures are failing to comprehensively address losses and damages, particularly in vulnerable developing nations. More than 50 percent of the debt increase in vulnerable nations is linked to funding disaster recoveries and reconstruction. It is an unjust and unsustainable predicament with those least responsible for climate change are shouldering the burdens and costs of loss and damage.”
Speaking during a special UN meeting on loss and damage on September 20, 2023, Amina J Mohammed, the Vice Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that this is an issue that the Secretary General of the United Nations “always got fire under our feet for and to make sure we deliver as we go to COP28. The imperative to act urgently and collectively, we all know, cannot be overstated, and this special meeting is taking place on the margins of the secretary general’s Climate Ambition Summit.”
Stressing that the global community must come together, redouble its efforts in rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and significantly enhancing adaptation resilience in the face of these inevitable changes. It is also equally imperative that the global community address the irreversible impacts that have already been set in motion.
“Many nations, particularly those which are least responsible for the current climate crisis, find themselves at the frontline of its effects. To address the climate injustice, a historic decision was taken at COP27 to establish new funding arrangements, including a fund for loss and damage. It is possible to have a world that is secure, where no one is left behind. Keeping the promise of the 2030 agenda and also of the Paris Agreement,” Mohammed emphasised.
The special meeting on loss and damage supported efforts by the Transitional Committee in line with the mandate that was given to them by the parties of the Paris Agreement. Emphasizing that urgent action was needed as the least polluting countries were in the frontline of a deadly climate crisis.
“More than 110 million Africans are being directly affected by climate and water-related hazards in 2022, and that caused more than 8.5 billion dollars in economic damages. Our global projected economic cost of loss and damage are to be in the range of hundreds of billions by 2030,” Mohammed expounded.
At the same time, unsustainable debt burdens, spiralling inflation and currency fluctuations are adding to the difficulties and hardships that the most vulnerable countries face. Initiatives such as the SDGs Stimulus to Deliver Agenda 2030 are now in place to keep the 2030 promise by offsetting challenging market conditions faced by developing countries and accelerating progress towards the SDGs.
Genaro Matías Godoy González, a youth representative from YOUNGO – the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasised that climate inaction should pay a price and that “the call for loss and damage finance is inherently a call for both climate action and climate justice. It means the hope of reparations for the billions of people whose livelihoods are lost and the responsibility of decision-makers to fix the pathway of a monetary and financial system that helps our world to expand its growth but fails to account for planetary boundaries on how we should direct growth.”
González spoke of the need for transformative change – recognising the climate and ecological debt to the people and ecosystem. To rebuild and regenerate the lost livelihoods – international financial institutions have a moral imperative to be part of the transition and transformation of our global financial system.
“Central banks must include the risk of financial inaction in the risk assessments of its monetary policy, report accordingly, and the right incentives put in place. Climate financing for addressing loss and damage must not come at the expense of other forms of climate financing to support comprehensive climate action. It must be new and additional and aligned with SDGs, conservation of nature and climate resilience development. They should not create more debt burden for developing countries that are already trying to survive the climate crisis while being strangled by debt and being forced to extract nature,” he said.
To underpin the need for effective financial models for loss and damages, Thomas delivered a dire warning from the heart of the Sixth IPCC assessment report – “Human-induced climate change has inflicted widespread and severe losses and damages – disproportionately affecting developing countries and the most vulnerable among us. The numbers paint an alarming picture – about 3.3 billion people reside in highly vulnerable countries, exposing them to the most severe climate impacts. Human mortality from extreme events was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions.”
“Millions of people are grappling with acute food insecurity, concentrated in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, least developed countries and small islands. Severe droughts have resulted in nearly six million children in the developing world becoming underweight. Extreme events are resulting in billions of dollars in damages – at times, exceeding the GDP of developing countries,” Thomas added.
Losses and damages have wrecked greater economic havoc and impoverished regions and among more vulnerable populations, including the poor, women, children and indigenous peoples. The scientific evidence is undeniable – urgent, comprehensive and transformative action is imperative to respond to the escalating levels of loss and damage.
IPS UN Bureau Report