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Climate Change, Energy and Environment

03.11.2022

COP27: Loss and Damage from changing weather

Could conversations at COP27 help those affected by the climate crisis? By Flavia Lopes and Nushaiba Iqbal

 

On Wednesday 19 October, it had been drizzling all day. Thirty-year-old Suvarna Vikas Shingda from the village of Ake-gavhan near the town of Palghar in the Indian state of Maharashtra was sat on the front porch of her hut.

A few days prior, her neighbour had informed her that the crops in one part of her one-acre farm had been completely inundated. As soon as the rain stopped, she and her husband rushed to harvest whatever they could from the farm that they share with their large joint family. But much of it was already unrecoverable, she told us.

Samadhan Dongre, 40, broke down the losses he would make because of unseasonal rains. »If the harvest was normal, I could have made a profit of 1,500 euros this year, but the rains destroyed my crops,« he said. »I am expecting to lose at least 600-730 euros.«

Around 4,500 km from where Dongre stood talking to us, in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, world leaders from 193 parties to the Paris Agreement will meet to discuss the plight of people like him, under the banner of loss and damage.

Climate change impacting agricultural productivity

Dongre grows Kharif crops—soybean and cotton—on his 16-acre farm each year. Come the month of October, which is when the monsoon recedes in India, he starts to harvest the crops. But for the last few years, the receding rains have become more erratic, and Dongre’s harvesting cycle has been adversely impacted.

»One-quarter of the Indian districts are witnessing a swapping trend—that is, traditional flood-prone areas are becoming drought prone and vice versa,« said Abinash Mohanty, public policy expert in climate risk and adaptation. 

 

 

Unseasonal rains and the resulting damage are now also being aggravated by unseasonably hot summers. In 2022, an early and hotter than usual summer damaged the wheat crop. »Yields of wheat are 15-50 per cent lower than expected in Punjab (state in North India) because of the heat wave,« said Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farmer and commentator on farm issues.

All this translates into an economic loss, which can be measured in monetary terms. There is also non-economic loss that cannot be defined in financial terms. Dongre, whose son is in year 11 and daughter in year 10, was saving the profit he would make on the farm to send his children to town for further education. He is not sure if any of that will be possible now. The financial losses he has suffered from crop damage is making it difficult for his children to go to school.

Who is liable for the loss?

Developing countries are ill-equipped to make up for this loss on their own. While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises the principle of climate equity, this has barely been implemented in practice.

To get closer to a true sense of justice, any discussion on loss and damage at COP27 will need to further trickle down into what it would mean for Shingda, Dongre and others like them who are at the receiving end of climate-induced loss.

»From a community perspective, we are demanding more finance for people who are facing climate impacts as the existing resources are not enough,« Singh said.

An Oxfam report released in June 2022 claimed that the amount of money needed for UN humanitarian appeals involving extreme weather events like floods or drought is now eight times higher than 20 years ago, but donor countries are failing to keep up with that. This means that »for every $2 needed for UN weather-related appeals, donor countries are only providing $1,« the report said.

»These are the kind of negotiations on loss and damage that we want,« noted Singh on the need for discussions around parameters of loss and damage, disbursement of funds between countries, channels through which the funds will be provided etc. »But when rich countries like the US, European Union and Norway continue to block them, how do we have these discussions?«

 

If you would like to dive into this story even further, a longer format investigative version was published by IndiaSpend on 31 October 2022.

 

Flavia Lopes, India

Flavia Lopes is an environment and climate change reporter with IndiaSpend, a data news platform based in India. She has previously written for Wire, Article 12 and BehanBox. She is a graduate of Conflict Studies from London School of Economics. When not working on stories, you can find her cooking, journaling or learning new languages.


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