UNU-EHS Explores Non-Economic Loss and Damage

  • 2013•06•25     Bonn

    Research shows that many countries and communities worldwide are unable to adapt to changes in climate patterns: loss and damage is becoming a reality. UNU-EHS has played a key role in initiating and continuing the discussion on loss and damage.

    As part of the Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative, UNU-EHS released a report in 2012 titled “Evidence from the Frontlines of Climate Change: Loss and Damage to Communities Despite Coping and Adaption”. The report aimed to give policymakers better information, empirical data and analysis of climate change related loss and damage.

    “Our findings reveal how communities cope with and adapt to climate change impacts,” said Dr. Koko Warner of UNU-EHS. “Above all, we see that loss and damage is a reality today and the numbers are alarming. It is happening even though adaption measures are taken.”

    The 13th Bonn Dialogues event (“Climate Change: Non‐Economic Loss and Damage“; 10 June 2013) and a UNFCCC Climate Talks side event (“Science Perspectives on Loss and Damage: Society, Climate Change and Decision Making“; 4 June 2013), both organized by UNU-EHS, sought to extend the conversation on loss and damage.

    In particular, these events addressed the often-neglected issue of non-economic loss and damage as a result of climate change. Non-economic concepts, such as identity, culture and language, are deeply valued but difficult to quantify in monetary terms.

    Climate change effects will produce a variety of non-economic losses that, if not recognized and addressed, can lead to inefficient decision-making and perpetuate social injustices. While non-economic losses are hard to measure, they are no less important than economic losses

    The Bonn Dialogues event focused on defining non-economic loss and damage, the relevance of non-economic loss to climate change, current evidence of societal and cultural damage, and its impact on societies. Panelists also discussed how countries could deal with non-economic loss and damage and, how to incorporate factors such as values, social norms and culture into how we think about the negative impacts of climate change.

    Speaking at the UNFCCC Climate Talks, Dr. Warner emphasized that we cannot ignore non-economic losses simply because they do not fit into our standard method of quantification. Replacement and compensation may be possible for some things, but not for those we value most.

    From a policy perspective, Dr. Warner believes that we need a mechanism to facilitate social dialogue and develop common identities to enable us to move from simply assigning value to creating it.