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Reinvigorating civil society on the Loss and Damage Fund discourse: Access, additionality, adequacy, and accountability

A civil society-led discussion on the next steps for the Loss and Damage Fund. From left to right: Marina Paoli from Christian Aid, Harjeet Singh from CAN-International, Mary Criselle Mejillano from Environmental Science for Social Change and Ecojesuit, and Teresa Anderson from ActionAid (photo credit: Pedro Walpole SJ)

The first day of COP28 opened with a historic agreement on setting up the new Loss and Damage Fund. But there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure this really benefits communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. The issues of governance and hosting, access and principles, and filling the fund with real finance remain to be resolved.

These were the concerns unpacked at a civil society led-event entitled Loss and Damage Fund: What Next? on 5 December 2023. The event was organized by CIDSE, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), Christian Aid, ActionAid International, the Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic Inc., and Climate Action Network – International. Teresa Anderson, Global Lead on Climate Justice at ActionAid International, served as the moderator of the panel.

A local context on loss and damage: Recommendations for the operationalization of the fund

Mary Criselle Mejillano, Networking and Programs Coordinator of the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training institute in the Philippines, and Ecojesuit Network Secretariat, shared about the local context. Criselle spoke of one of local communities in the Philippines that ESSC is accompanying through its Research and Advocacy for Climate Policy and Action (RACPA) project, This is to contextualize why the fund needs to be directly accessed by vulnerable communities, where loss and damage has become part of their reality.

In the span of 10 years, the Philippines has been hit hard by two Category 5 typhoons: Haiyan in 2013 and Rai in 2021. Marginal settlements that are located in geographically risky areas bear the brunt of its impacts.

Criselle proceeded to share the story of Nocnocan Island; a small island located 18 kilometers from the Municipality of Talibon in the Visayas Region. The community grapples with water security concerns, with potable water being gathered through rainwater catchments as groundwater sources have salinized. During Supertyphoon Rai, many of the houses and fishing boats were destroyed, and the community had to evacuate into the Parish Church and the school. Two years have passed and the community is still struggling to rebuild.

“The story of Nocnocan is one of countless shared realities especially in the Global South that underscores how critical the Loss and Damage Fund is,” Criselle stated.

Based on a study published by CIDSE entitled Making the Loss and Damage Fund Accessible for Vulnerable Communities and Civil Society. Recommendations based on experience with the Green Climate Fund, seven key recommendations were then shared in the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund:

  1. The fund must effectively help people in emergency situations, and needs a priority focus on vulnerable communities. This means that the governance board of the fund should be represented by vulnerable communities and CSOs;
  2. It needs to reach the most remote and highly vulnerable communities. Humanitarian organizations and faith-based groups can be tapped to ensure flexible delivery channels. Micro grant windows for direct support to local communities needs to be set up.
  3. Fund support packages must not be exclusive to government agencies. It needs to be directly accessible to subnational actors on the ground.
  4. The fund needs to have a strong rapid response capacity, ensuring that making decisions on the pre-arranged support packages are done within 24 hours
  5. It needs to be gender sensitive and responsive, as women are disproportionately affected by loss and damage. Women also need to be represented in the governance board of the fund.
  6. Vulnerable countries need to develop National Loss and Damage Mechanisms to ensure effective channeling of funding to vulnerable communities
  7. The operationalization of the fund needs to be human rights centered. Loss and damage is a moral imperative and a justice concern, as the survival of lives, livelihood, and cultures are at stake.

Barriers and opportunities on the Loss and Damage Fund governance

Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network – International, discussed the governance and hosting concerns of the fund with the World Bank serving as the intermediary host, as pushed by developed countries.

He emphasized that while the pledges being made are welcome, a capitalization plan is critical to ensure that the Loss and Damage Fund comes in the form of grants. Harjeet warned that the Loss and Damage Fund may follow an ‘insurance framework’ but this system does not work in climate vulnerable communities.

He further elaborated that a Transitional Committee was set up to govern the Loss and Damage Fund and mandated the World Bank to reform their policies towards a further articulation on the eligibility criteria and resource allocation system especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and setting up direct access windows and trigger mechanisms for communities to ensure rapid delivery of the fund. These are key engagement opportunities for civil society to hold the World Bank accountable.

Harjeet reminded all who were present the power that civil society holds, as it was due to civil society engaging with developing countries that Loss and Damage made it to the COP27 agenda. With a few more days remaining in COP28, it is important for civil society to stay united as negotiations on the Global Stocktake and the New Quantified Goal on Climate Finance unfold.

Filling the Loss and Damage Fund with fair share of public finance

Mariana Paoli, Global Advocacy Lead of Christian Aid, discussed key principles of the Loss and Damage Fund through a financial lens:

  • International cooperation and solidarity, historical responsibility, and polluter pays principle
  • The Loss and Damage Fund should be new and additional, and should not be reallocated from climate finance and the adaptation fund, among others
  • It needs to be needs-based, adequate, predictable, and precautionary.
  • The fund needs to be locally driven with subsidiarity in enveloping gender responsiveness and equitable representation
  • Loss and Damage Fund needs to be public and grant-based, as there is no room for profits in the fund
  • It needs to be balanced and comprehensive

Mariana shared that Christian Aid calculated £12 to 100 billion as the fair-share contribution of the UK to the Loss and Damage Fund. New money is available through different forms of taxation based on the “polluters pay” principle, but it is due to the lack of political will from developed countries that inhibit this. Mariana emphasized the need for civil society to engage nationally and globally, and call for developed countries to fulfill their historical mandate in providing finance and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Social protection and non-economic loss and damage

Following the presentations of the panelists, an open discussion ensued with the audience on how they, in their contexts, can take the Loss and Damage Fund fight further, and how civil society can form a cohesive voice in calling for the World Bank to reform its policies through an expertise exchange.

Teresa elaborated on social protection as a key matter to raise as negotiations to firm up the Loss and Damage Fund arrangements ensue. This is key to ensure that climate vulnerable people do not full further into the poverty spiral. In addition, the other panelists highlighted that non-economic loss and damage also needs further articulation, such as lives lost, culture, loss of connection with the land, and mental health, among others.

The event was a source of encouragement for many as the discussions tackled key concerns on the Loss and Damage Fund, and laid out realistic ways civil society can stay engaged, and keep the fight alive locally, nationally, and globally.

1 thought on “Reinvigorating civil society on the Loss and Damage Fund discourse: Access, additionality, adequacy, and accountability”

  1. Good to read the story and for highlighting the need to include civil society groups to be part of the negotiation. The question that Pope raised in Laudate Deum is important: The powerful should ponder on the question: “What is the use of holding on to power without the ability to take action when it is urgent and necessary?” I hope the question daunts the powerful sincerely.

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