Into Unknown Territory

Briefing Paper

Into Unknown Territory

The Limits to Adaptation and Reality of Loss and Damage from Climate Impacts

Cover Into Unknown Territory

The joint report by CARE, Germanwatch, ActionAid and WWF concludes that adaptation to climate change alone will no longer suffice. Governments will need to take new measures to deal with extreme impacts and prepare for losses due to climate change. Unless substantial efforts are taken immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage climate resilient development, global warming could exceed 4 and even 6°C. The costs will place a massive burden even on industrialized countries, whilst massively increasing poverty and reversing development gains in poorer regions. The figures are staggering, conservative estimates show that we could risk around 2 trillion USD in economic and non-economic impacts worldwide by the year 2060 combined with potentially irreversible losses to ecosystems and biodiversity.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to policy makers to prepare for and manage losses and damages caused by climate change, amongst others:

• Decision-makers need to refocus their approaches, towards addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience and adaptive capacity, especially of the poorest and most vulnerable people, communities and ecosystems, recognising the need to prioritise women and girls who will be most severely impacted.

• Nations and whole regions need to better understand the potential scale of losses and damages and ways to address them. Developing countries need assistance for such assessments, e.g. regional risk management facilities, insurance and practical measures to reduce climate impacts.

• Building on existing architecture, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Cancun Adaptation Framework, climate-proofed disaster risk reduction needs to be massively scaled up through infusion of financial resources. It is crucial that the framework creates incentives for risk reduction through both mitigation and adaptation.

• In some cases the limits of adaptation are going to be surpassed. The international community, recognising the precautionary principle and the role of the UNFCCC, needs to discuss proposals for mechanisms which can address rehabilitation and compensation for damage and losses from climate impacts.

• The drivers of loss and damage must be tackled head on by shifting to low carbon development pathways globally. Developed countries must increase their ambition level to more than 40% emission reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80-95% by 2050.

• Developed countries must take the lead in providing finance, technology and capacity building to assist developing countries to invest in adaptation and disaster risk reduction and to transition their development onto low carbon and climate resilient pathways.

Tom Sharman, Harjeet Singh, Kit Vaughan, Sven Harmeling, Sönke Kreft, Sandeep Chamling Rai
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