The easiest way to approach loss and damage (L&D) in the face of climate change is to throw money at the problem, because presumably, everything has a price. But most people in who experience the actual L&D from climate change know that this is not the case. There are some losses that cannot be quantified.
Earlier today, COP22 featured a side event on L&D, where the theme throughout was non-economic or intangible loss. It is much easier to develop a fund to help hurricane victims rebuild their homes or to help a family or community relocate because their home is threatened by sea-level rise. But this fund isn’t a catch-all. There are infinite losses and damages that cannot be quantified, such as loss of culture, a sense of community, identify, youth, family, life, burial grounds, and many others.
Two of the presentations on the panel touched on a unique topic within non-economic L&D. Dr. Naomi Joy Godden presented on inequality in non-economic L&D. In her presentation, she touched on how gender issues intersect with loss of livelihood. One case study she highlighted was in Australia, where droughts have caused farmers to lose their crops and their livelihood. In addition to the tangible, quantifiable loss of crops and livelihood, they also lost their sense of identify, which is closely tied to their jobs as farmers. This loss of identity is unquantifiable and is likely experienced elsewhere in the world in the context of L&D.
The second presentation focused on the specific losses and damages felt by youth in informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa. Phellecitus Montana and Harriet Thew from the University of Leeds presented the results of the unique losses and damages felt by the youth in these settlements, such as loss of identity, lack of institutional trust in the government, and loss of the ability to play. These types of L&D are not often discussed but are important to consider when researching potential solutions for L&D.
Both presentations demonstrate that economic compensation and financial support for L&D, while important, isn’t enough. Non-economic L&D is also an important factor to consider when researching solutions for L&D. The WIM also recognizes the importance of non-economic L&D moving forward under the Paris Agreement. Under its framework five-year workplan in the Executive Committee’s (Excom’s) 2016 Report, non-economic L&D is listed as the second strategic workstream. When the WIM takes up this work in 2017, studies such as the ones presented on in this side event will be vital to the Excom’s research and work in this area moving forward.