Climate Action: Loss and Damage

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Te year 2023 has shown us that climate change can be very costly, and often leaves irreversible damage — especially affecting those who contribute the least to causing it.

Around the world, consequences border on the incomprehensible. In Libya, more than 15,000  people died or were missing after a single flood that scientists estimate was made 50 times more likely and 50% more intense by climate change. Across the rest of Africa, from the Central African Republic to Somalia and Sudan, fragile nations suffer more from storms, floods, droughts and other climate-related shocks than other countries. Disasters there displace proportionately more than twice the percentage of the population displaced in other countries.

In the Asian nations of Myanmar and Bangladesh, Cyclone Mocha in May of 2023 set new records for heavy rainfall, storm surge and strong winds, causing damage across five states and leaving 1.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Throughout South Asia, rising temperatures and longer monsoon seasons are also increasing cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever.

Economic impacts aside, the irreversible costs in human lives can never be recovered, nor the lives of the species that will go extinct.

In 2015, the landmark Paris Agreement established a plan to keep the rise of global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Hidden in the details of the agreement was an idea, called the Loss and Damage Fund, to provide financial assistance to poorer nations as they deal with the negative consequences of climate change. At the U.N. Conference on Climate Change last year, an “11th hour” vote finally made official the Loss and Damage Fund.

However, there remain steep obstacles to putting the plan into operation. President Joe Biden has pledged to secure $11 billion annually for international climate funding by 2024, but a recalcitrant Congress is unlikely to allow it. Details on how the fund will be financed remain undecided.

Ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Dubai this December, faith leaders are calling for the Loss and Damage Fund to obtain what it needs to address the inherent inequity and injustice of the climate crisis. In a letter signed by many Catholics, including cardinals and bishops, the faith community spoke to the U.N. Climate Change Conference:

“The route to justice is not always obvious. But on this issue, it is crystal clear. There is a deep disharmony at the heart of the climate crisis which is hurting our poorest brothers and sisters the most. Many poor nations who contribute the least to this crisis and already struggle to secure basic needs for their people are now paying the price of other nations’ actions. The Loss and Damage Fund must correct this injustice.”

That, the letter said, would mean a Loss and Damage Fund that is able to get money to the people who need it the most; is based on the polluter-pays principle that whoever causes pollution should bear the costs of mitigating its damage to human health or the environment; and also addresses “non-economic losses and damages.”


    •  Learn more about the Loss and Damage Fund
    •  Read “Laudate Deum,” the recently released second part of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’
    •  Pray for the people of countries being affected by climate disasters, especially the poor and climate refugees who are displaced from their homes
    •  The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit or email

Featured Image: Children sit in front of a home near a flooding sea wall in Serua Village, Fiji, where the 80 villagers face a painful decision whether to move away. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott/Reuters) 


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About the author

Thomas Gould

Thomas Gould, who earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University, is communications manager for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.