Addressing Loss and Damage conference - practical action: summary report

In October 2022, Scotland hosted a conference which brought together international representatives and practitioners to articulate best practice and explore innovative new opportunities to mobilise finance for, and address Loss and Damage ahead of COP27.

5. Determining Needs

Participants were presented with examples of needs assessment approaches and associated needs research. They were then asked to discuss how well the examples captured multidimensional risks, what limitations the example was subject to and how far it could accommodate uncertainty.

Participants discussed the ways in which ordinary people are being impacted by loss and damage, and who pays the price of addressing those impacts. Participants reflected that it is affected populations themselves who bear the majority of the economic and non-economic costs of climate shocks – not governments or international donors.[24] Yet poor people and communities often do not have sufficient capacity or resources to adapt to climate change before the next shock occurs to cause loss and damage. Those households and communities require urgent external support, whether to cope with and recover from disasters, to build resilience to new environmental conditions, or to move out of harm’s way. Participants noted, however, that there is a significant gap in our collective understanding of who requires what types of support, where they are located, and how and when that support should be delivered.

Participants described that in many of the most vulnerable countries there is a large gap between the lived experience of people either impacted by loss and damage already, or approaching the limits of adaptation, and the information and data that is held by governments, civil society organisations and finance providers. This gap affects the planning and delivery of support to meet people’s needs.

Methodologies and technical tools need to be developed that are accessible, comprehensive and inform preparation for future climate impacts. Tools need to be useful to and used by national and local authorities, their partners in civil society and people in communities. They need to determine the levels and types of impact that climate change has already had on vulnerable households, marginalised groups, exposed ecosystems, infrastructure and services. And they need to inform projections of the risks that climate change will have in the future, over the short, medium and long- term, including the impact of consecutive and compounding shocks.

Needs assessment processes should be inclusive, equitable and contextually appropriate. They should enable community members, especially the most vulnerable groups, to participate in risk assessment and needs-based planning exercises. This would allow assessments to take account of the highly differentiated impacts of climate change. Alignment with the established principles for locally led climate adaptation[25] can ensure coherence among steps to minimise and adapt to, as well as address climate impacts and risks causing loss and damage. People in climate vulnerable communities should determine the priorities for programmes to address loss and damage and should be supported to act as primary agents of change.

Conference participants discussed that risk analysis and needs assessment could adhere to the following principles:

  • In recognition of the differentiated nature of loss and damage impacts and risks, include a gender perspective and focus on traditionally marginalised groups including but not limited to women, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and people living with disabilities, who are often disproportionately affected by climate shocks;
  • Be context-specific as impacts vary widely depending upon local topography and ecology, culture, livelihood type, economic status, gender norms etc;
  • Be anticipatory instead of reactionary, delivering support before a shock becomes a disaster; assessing needs across multiple sectors using a coordinated and holistic approach.

Climate impacts are too often measured in policy siloes – a sector, an ecosystem etc., and too often have a single climate hazard focus. However, this is not how climate impacts are experienced. Participants noted that it is complicated to find a balance between a participatory and inclusive approach and fast, efficient, action. Probabilistic methods for hazard risk and cumulative impacts analysis should be complemented as far as possible by detailed data on multidimensional vulnerabilities at the household and community level, using data disaggregated by gender and other dimensions of intersectional vulnerability.

There are tried and tested approaches for assessing needs that can be built upon for loss and damage needs assessment. Two assessment approaches considered valuable include: Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)[26] and Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Analysis (PCVA).[27] PDNAs are used within the humanitarian and development sectors to support populations and governments in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. PCVA identifies the root causes of harm, identifies the most vulnerable groups, and examines how to reduce vulnerability to particular risks. It is a participatory approach and the emphasis is on community-held knowledge that can give insight into the local context and the structures and (informal) institutions that are already used to address loss and damage.

Box III: Assessing Needs Connected to Loss and Damage in Malawi

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Trócaire Malawi, Churches Action in Relief and Development and the Catholic Development Commission in Zambia conducted a community-led needs assessment to understand how Storm Ana and Cyclone Gombe caused economic and non-economic loss and damage in the Malawian districts of Nsanje and Zomba. A Participatory Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (PVCA) was developed to assess loss and damage. This modified PVCA includes tools such as stakeholder mapping, long-term trend analysis, hazard and risk analysis, and resource and hazard mapping. Women’s needs are emphasised by employing methods such as female-only forums to explore how loss and damage events disrupt service provision to them, including for health, education and social protection. The project includes the development of a long-term participatory resilience assessment to explore the impacts of the interventions on reducing vulnerability and addressing loss and damage. Lessons and reflections from the programme will be widely disseminated to inform the global discourse on action to address loss and damage.

The assessment of loss and damage needs can face a variety of challenges. Measuring the range and extent of loss and damage can be complicated. It is challenging to estimate the value of non-economic loss and damage as well as those economic and non-economic losses and damages caused by slow-onset impacts. Affected populations do not always recognize loss and damage caused by climate change. While climate change may be an ultimate cause of a shock, local people affected may identify more proximate causes as being more significant. Countries often lack the capacity to record the data that is needed to assess needs in terms of impacts and/or risks. Many of the LDCs do not have the technical capacity to generate or to analyse climate data to assess projected loss and damage risks. It is urgent that support is provided to build capacity for climate risk analysis and loss and damage needs assessments. An example presented at the conference was a UNDP Milliman collaboration whereby US$2 million per year to 2025 of pro bono services is being provided to build developing country governments’ capacity in analytical techniques of risk management.[28]

Attribution of loss and damage to climate change is a limitation in existing models, especially in places where climate change and conflict coincide. The context-sensitive aspect of loss and damage makes it difficult to standardise methodology across diverse countries.



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