Loss and Damage, what’s next from Scotland?

If the world is to tackle the worst impacts of climate change then progress must be made at a much quicker pace

Nicola Sturgeon

For too long the issue of addressing Loss and Damage has remained in the margins of climate negotiations. The Warsaw International Mechanism and the Santiago Network have begun to assist with knowledge exchange and capacity building, yet distinct finance for addressing Loss and Damage has remained largely off the table while progress was made at COP26 with the establishment of the Glasgow Dialogues, many countries and activists had hoped for more through the creation of a finance facility.

If the world is to tackle the worst impacts of climate change then progress must be made at a much quicker pace – a fact driven home by the recent Working Group II IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It is clear now that the effects of climate change faced by human society and nature are even worse than previously thought. Projected impacts and related losses and damages are likely to escalate with every increment of warming.

Scotland has sought to lead by example and at COP26 became the first developed nation to dedicate finance to addressing Loss and Damage. Our £2 million commitment was followed by €1 million from the Government of Wallonia and $3 million from philanthropic foundations. These pledges are small given the scale of the challenge, but I hope they prove an important first step in unlocking further finance and ambition. They also demonstrate the role that governments of all levels as well as non-state actors hold in addressing the climate crisis — a role we hope to maximise by mobilising within our own networks, including through the Under2 Coalition.

Looking beyond COP26, in order to make progress on Loss and Damage it is important to focus on expanding the global evidence base and capacity for addressing both economic and non-economic losses and damages, through projects, research, knowledge exchange and crucially by hearing from and centering the voices of communities facing such impacts. Demonstrating practical progress and tangible results could inform the establishment of a global finance facility which I hope might be an outcome of the Glasgow Dialogues.

Scotland can also draw upon this global evidence base. Climate change impacts such as sea level rise and coastal erosion present a real danger to coastal communities and heritage sites around the world, including here in Scotland. This is why we invested in research as part of the Dynamic Coast project to better understand Scotland’s coast and have committed £12m over this parliament in coastal change adaptation. However, we recognise that we also have a lot to learn from coastal and island partners across the world too.

We know the impacts of climate change are and will be unequally distributed across the globe, which is why we must look at the ways we can stand in solidarity with the most affected communities in the Global South. As a first step, the Scottish Government has partnered with the Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF) to directly support some of the world’s most vulnerable communities to recover from climate-induced losses and damages, to tackle structural inequalities and to build resilience to further climate impacts. Through this programme we can help address the needs of communities suffering the acutest impacts, yet who have done the least to cause this climate crisis. At the same time, we can generate new considerations of how the global community can best support measures to address loss and damage by demonstrating what to fund and how. Vitally, this is not just a partnership with Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF) but also with beneficiaries. Their views and needs will shape our work if we hope to establish solutions that are both context-specific and long-lasting. This approach to involving communities and people affected by the crisis must be a key part of all loss and damage work. Progress cannot be made without centring the voices, experience and evidence of those most vulnerable to climate change impacts and ensuring that they help design solutions.

Within the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund programme, which includes our work on loss and damage, we have committed to embedding the three pillars of justice. These are: procedural justice, through participation; distributive justice, by reaching the most vulnerable and most impacted; and transformative justice, by enabling local people to actively engage in decision-making and advocacy for their own sustainable development.

To successfully channel funding to where it is most needed we must be able to clearly assess both where economic and non-economic losses and damages have occurred, and what funding will be required to address them. A framework that can comprehensively assess this need, and can be applied across different countries, would evaluate the impact of climate change-induced hazards and could support the rapid deployment of funding. National, subnational and regional ownership will be key: supporting national programming and channelling international funding through local plans and principles could support capacity-building at all levels. Sharing plans, aims and learnings, and using our voices and platforms to advocate for action, will bring this to fruition more quickly.

Scotland has committed to playing a convening role on loss and damage, creating space for shared learning, collaboration and setting a common agenda. In February I chaired a roundtable, alongside the Zambian Minister for Green Economy and Environment the Hon. Collins Nzovu, which brought together leaders and experts, including International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), from governments, civil society, and academia and youth organisations. I was personally hugely energised by the collective expression of commitment to support the progress of the UNFCCC processes, including the Santiago Network and the Glasgow Dialogue, and to mobilising on other fronts to improve the evidence base, research direction and access for the most vulnerable. Key to that mobilisation was the need to draw on existing knowledge, to maximise the role of non-Parties in generating innovation and, most importantly, centring those affected in both dialogue and evidence.  

The roundtable was our first step in turning talk into action. As we look to COP27 and beyond, I look forward to working alongside many new and existing allies as the movement against climate injustice grows.

Originally this article was published on August 4, 2022  at Dhaka Tribune

Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland’s first female First Minister and the first woman to lead any of the devolved UK administrations.