There’s a lot going on these days, and it’s easy to miss the important reports. You should definitely not miss The Loss and Damage Finance Landscape, which was just published by the Loss and Damage Collaboration (LDC) and the US office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
The report is pretty comprehensive, but my question is a narrow one – how much money is the Loss & Damage fund going to need, and where is it going to come from? The authors – several of whom, I confess, I know quite well – begin by attacking the first of these questions in an entirely straightforward manner . . .
“Major climate and weather events in developing countries in 2022 caused more than US$109 billion in losses. This does not take into account smaller events which may have been devastating for a local community, slow onset impacts, nor non-economic loss and damage. Therefore, it can be said that the real loss and damage faced by developing countries in 2022 was considerably greater than US$109 billion. Updating widely used modelling of loss and damage in developing countries to 2023 US dollars, gives midpoint estimates of economic loss and damage of US$425 billion in 2020 and US$671 billion in 2030. It is therefore clear that discussion of loss and damage finance should use US$400 billion per year as a floor and acknowledge that financing needs will have to be revised upward over time.”
This is fine opening move, though loss & damage isn’t the only thing we have to worry about. There’s also mitigation, and adaptation, and the need for a comprehensive global just transition, and the challenge of financing a reasonably fair fossil fuel phaseout. Which is to say that even though the costs of the climate transition cannot be fully reckoned in dollar terms, dollars are going to be needed, and quite a lot of them. Further, this is now so obvious that even mainstream realists don’t deny it, not if they intend to be taken seriously. Witness this recent and very public comment by the new UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell . . .
“We know the scale of what’s needed is significant. Global models from the most authoritative institutions all converge in the range of trillions annually. According to the work of the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance, developing countries need nearly 6 trillion dollars to implement their climate action plans by 2030, and that’s with significant gaps in costing adaptation needs.”
You would not have heard this from the UNFCCC Executive Secretary ten years ago, or even five. But this, it seems, is a new day! So who knows? Maybe other truths – now no longer plausibly deniable – will also come to be publicly noted. We may soon have high-level diplomats telling us that all the costs implied by a sufficiently rapid climate transition can’t actually be counted as “investments” – which are generally expected to be profitable. Or that loss & damage costs can’t realistically be packaged as loans that highly vulnerable developing countries can reasonably be expected to “pay back”.