Loss and Damage: a long overdue debt of …..gratitude.

11 10 2022 | 13:50Ioannis Tsipouridis

When someone is guilty of an act that inflicts Loss and Damage to another person or persons, then that someone should have to face and pay the consequences of their act. If the damaging act is repeated time and again, over the course of centuries, then that someone has to, forcefully if needed, be made to compensate for the total, over the centuries, Loss and Damage.

The Loss and Damage over the centuries referred to above, covers acts causing permanent but even temporary damage to the Environment, to Biodiversity and to humanity. It should not escape us that these are not acts committed accidentally, but purposefully as empires were built and flourished because of such acts. These perennial crimes cannot be written off.

For the atrocities committed against humanity (King Leopold is a frightening example) there can be no pardon.

For the permanent damage to the environment and biodiversity there can be no excuses and apologies can never be enough. Coining the phrase “external cost” is an insult to intelligence and to life.

For the permanent sense of injustice, despair, frustration, helplessness, fear and loss felt by millions in the global south, philanthropy is not enough and it actually is insulting.

The countries responsible don’t even accept to talk about reparations (because that is exactly what is due).

So, who is going to make them?

One would think that the above constitute reason enough for an International Court of Justice to intervene, on its own volition, and pass judgement. Does such an independent body with enforcement powers exist? Unfortunately, it does not.

Then how do we address this issue and persuade the culprits to accept their responsibilities, when they do not even deliver their own pledge of 100 billion in climate financing? Come to think of it that figure is totally inadequate today, if one considers that Pakistan’s floods alone are estimated to have caused 33 billion of damages. And it is going to get worse and harder to cope with. We all know that. Actually, I do believe that conceptually Climate financing was born to stop people from demanding Loss & Damage reparations, because they dread the figure reparations will reach.

So, is there a way out of this stalemate?

Maybe rebranding offers a solution.

The Global South although it has contributed negligibly if at all to the creation of the climate crisis and is already facing the worst consequences, it is still called by the Global North to join forces in the global climate fight. (diagram 1&3)

But, the Global South already contributes well below the per capita emissions quota required to meet the 1.5oC Paris goal, (diagram 2)

In addition, the close to 1 billion of our fellow human beings in the Global South who in this day and age still lack access to any energy, let alone clean and affordable (SDG7), together with the rest of the global south inhabitants who we cannot expect to remain forever in the “developing country” status, will have to leapfrog to renewables and not chose to follow the fossil fuel path first, as did the global north. (diagram 4)

Because if they do, the world will be doomed to a temperature rise of 3 or 4oC, especially if one considers that Africa will be the most populous continent in 2050.

Hence, considering the above we cannot but conclude that the Global South is already doing a great deal towards averting a climate catastrophe, which is definitely benefiting (again) the Global North.

Can we then agree that for all these reasons there is a Loss and Damage Debt of Gratitude owed by the rich Global North to the poor Global South and start paying it already?

For it is vital for our society that Justice should always prevail, even belatedly.


Dr. Ioannis Tsipouridis

Director of RECCReC - Renewable Energy & Climate Change Research Center @TUM, Mombasa