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Addressing Loss and Damage: What can we learn from countries’ National Adaptation Plans?

Through a systematic review of National Adaptation Plans documents and interviews with key stakeholders, this report showcases the role NAP processes can play in minimizing and addressing loss and damage.
Multiple Authors
Remains of abandoned homes in Agorkedzi. Agorkedzi is primarily a fishing village. Most of its inhabitants depend solely of the catch that fishermen bring in for food and survival. The rapid coastal erosion affecting the island has led to many inhabitants migrating to surrounding villages and towns to begin new life.
Remains of abandoned homes in Agorkedzi. The rapid coastal erosion affecting the island has led to many inhabitants migrating to surrounding villages and towns to begin a new life. (Photo: Hellen Agor Yayra / Lensational / NAP Global Network)

Summary

“Loss and damage” refers to the observed impacts and projected risks of climate change that go beyond what countries, communities, or ecosystems can adapt to. With increasing global warming and more frequent and intense natural disasters, climate change represents an existential threat to some of the most vulnerable countries. Averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage is about protecting and strengthening the resilience of communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems in the face of climate change, ensuring they are safeguarded for future generations.

These actions to respond to loss and damage exist along a spectrum—a layering of approaches to manage the risks of climate change impacts. These approaches include preparing for and dealing with actual losses and damages through disaster risk management (DRM) and humanitarian response, as well as preventing and reducing risks associated with climate change through adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process is fundamentally about minimizing loss and damage through adaptation action. NAP documents are relevant to conversations about loss and damage because they:

  • Contain information and analysis that facilitates an understanding of country-specific losses and damages.
  • Provide insights into countries’ understanding of the relationships between adaptation and disaster risk reduction and DRM.
  • Include concrete actions to minimize losses and damages.

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Key Findings

Through a systematic review of NAP documents and interviews with key informants, this report showcases the role of NAP processes in minimizing and addressing loss and damage. It provides insights into how loss and damage information is presented in relation to adaptation efforts and how adaptation priorities identified in the NAPs have the potential to respond to loss and damage. The key findings of the analysis are as follows:

  • Nearly half of NAP documents make direct reference to loss and damage. Countries are referencing loss and damage in discussions of risks and vulnerabilities, in their adaptation actions, and in dedicated sections of their NAP documents.
  • Almost all of the NAP documents submitted to date include elements of disaster risk management (DRM). This includes mentions of all of the elements of DRM, including understanding and reducing risks, as well as disaster preparedness, response, and recovery
  • DRM-related actions in NAPs tend to focus on understanding and reducing risks; fewer documents include specific actions for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The most common actions identified include early warning systems and insurance.
  • All NAP documents refer to slow-onset events. One or more specific slow-onset events— such as increasing temperatures, sea level rise, and loss of biodiversity—are mentioned in all of the NAPs submitted to date.
  • Less than half of NAP documents refer to human mobility in a more permanent sense.Most NAPs refer to human mobility in one form or another, but fewer refer to more permanent types of mobility beyond seasonal or economic migration.
  • Very few NAP documents address non-economic losses. Among the few documents that do, loss of cultural heritage is the most commonly identified issue.

Recommendations

The following recommendations target governments and international actors engaged in discussions on financing arrangements for loss and damage:

  1. Recognize the contribution of NAP processes in minimizing loss and damage. Essentially, NAPs are countries’ plans for minimizing losses and damages. Continued and increased investment in NAP processes is critical if countries’ efforts to minimize loss and damage are to be realized in an equitable and sustainable manner.
  2. Build on the extensive work that has already been done by countries to assess risks and vulnerabilities through their NAP processes. Existing vulnerability and risk assessments should be the starting point for the assessment of loss and damage in particular countries.
  3. Support countries in assessing the potential for irreversible impacts. NAP documents contain limited information on scenarios beyond the limits of adaptation. Countries may need support to assess existential threats associated with climate change as a basis for identifying appropriate actions to respond to loss and damage.
  4. Allow flexibility for countries to leverage their NAP processes for planning to address loss and damage. Countries may choose to capture and communicate their loss and damage needs through their NAP processes, and/or they may opt to conduct additional assessments and/or planning processes for loss and damage—both options should be made possible, particularly in accessing funding.
  5. Focus efforts to address loss and damage on the impacts of climate change that go beyond adaptation limits. Efforts to address loss and damage must not replicate or take resources away from adaptation action. Instead, they should tackle the impacts that go beyond the limits of adaptation.
  6. Collaborate and coordinate with the humanitarian system to avoid parallel systems and duplication of efforts. It is important for efforts to respond to loss and damage associated with climate hazards to be undertaken in collaboration not only with adaptation actors but also with humanitarian actors, both within countries and at the international level.

Looking Forward

Though NAP documents are only one milestone in a country’s adaptation journey, they do provide insights into how countries understand climate risks and strategies for minimizing and, in some cases, addressing loss and damage. This rapid analysis has demonstrated the usefulness and importance of NAP processes as a basis for assessing and responding to loss and damage.

However, more engagement of in-country actors—including NAP teams, but also DRM actors and loss and damage negotiators—would provide a fuller picture of the perspectives on these issues in vulnerable countries. Further, other vehicles, such as Adaptation Communications and biennial transparency reports, may offer additional insights.

Going forward, it could be useful to review the more detailed vulnerability and risk assessments completed by countries to understand the extent to which they are capturing loss and damage, and where the gaps are. This could form a basis for the guidance on assessing irreversible impacts that we have suggested above. It is clear that non-economic losses and damages need additional attention. More research in this area would help to inform the ongoing discussions on addressing loss and damage, ensuring that these are grounded in a full understanding of the implications of climate change.

Suggested Citation:

Qi, J., Dazé, A., & Hammill, A. (2023). Addressing loss and damage: What can we learn from countries’ National Adaptation Plans? (NAP Global Network report). International Institute for Sustainable Development. https://napglobalnetwork.org/resource/loss-and-damage-national-adaptation-plans/

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