The Cost of Climate Change

By Adrienne L. Hollis, PhD, JD — Chisholm Legacy Project Advisory Committee

An important issue that is generating a lot of talk and attention, as well it should, is loss and damages from climate change and climate finance. Individuals and businesses deal with it every time there is an extreme weather event (and sometimes ‘naturally-occurring’ weather events that can be linked to climate change and other man-made activities). Of course, as with most issues, it is rife with potential opportunities for racial and economic injustice if not addressed correctly – with representation from all stakeholders (once those are identified). At the same time, there are considerations about who should even have the ability to recover Loss and Damages, and what that could even look like.

This is one of the most (if not the most) important focal areas related to climate change and should definitely be at the top of the list of issue areas identified by the UNFCCC. The closest related issues I see are Adaptation/Resilience, Climate Finance and Mitigation. It is definitely a major focus issue here among observers and attendees – I have not had the opportunity to speak with any delegates.

The issue is complicated. But, should it be. We are all aware that those who contribute the least to climate change suffer most from its effects. They suffer first and worst. But how can a poor city, state or country even contemplate Loss and Damages? Who should bear the brunt of it?

So many questions surround this issue. I tried to capture a few here and I am sure readers will provide many more. These are questions that need answers, through an inclusive and equitable decision-making process.

  • Who is included when Loss and Damages are examined? Small businesses? Communities? Insurers? Banks?
  • How will Loss and Damages be calculated?
  • What is the Compensatory framework for Loss and Damages?
  • Should Loss and Damage calculations factor in wealth – particularly when examined by Country?
  • Does Loss and Damages include forced migration? Climate migration? Relocation?
  • Does Loss and Damage include ecological loss? Should it?
  • How should ecological Loss and Damages be calculated? Who is responsible – the fossil fuel industry?
  • Should the fossil fuel industry even be allowed to claim Losses and Damages?
  • How does Adaptation and Mitigation impact Loss and Damages?
  • In Climate Finance, when calculating the costs of Adaptation and Mitigation, should Loss and Damages be figured into the equation?
  • Should Losses and Damages be calculated each time they occur?
  • Should limits be set on the amount of Damages or the number of times an entity can file claims for Loss or Damage?

Deliberate discussion and decisions around Loss and Damages is long overdue. I am interested to see how COP26 prioritizes this. And I will let you know what happens.

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