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Christian Aid estimates six months’ ‘loss and damage’ in bid to boost climate fund

10 June 2024


A view of the flooded city of Porto Alegre, in Brazil, after the River Guaíba burst its banks in May

A view of the flooded city of Porto Alegre, in Brazil, after the River Guaíba burst its banks in May

EXTREME weather, including flooding and heatwaves, has caused at least $41 billion (£32 billion) of damage to the global economy in the past six months, Christian Aid has estimated.

The real cost would be far higher if uninsured losses were taken into account, the charity reports in Climate Breakdown: Six months of climate chaos since COP28, published on Monday.

Climate talks under way in Bonn are focusing on a Loss and Damage Fund to support lower-income countries hit by extreme weather events. The talks are at the halfway point between COP28, held in Dubai, and COP29, which we be held in Azerbaijan in November.

Seeking to put pressure on wealthy nations to invest in the Fund, Christian Aid estimates losses declared from climate-induced disasters since the beginning of the year. Only insured losses are typically reported, it says, and many of the climate-linked events have happened in low-income countries, few of which have insurance; so the true scale of the economic harm is likely be much higher, it argues.

The report focuses on four recent events that have been linked to climate change. In Brazil, in April and May, at least 169 people perished in floods, which are estimated to have reduced the country’s GDP by $7 billion this year (News, 10 May). In Asia, extreme rainfall in April killed hundreds of people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Oman, and the UAE. Insured losses in the UAE alone amounted to $850 million. Fatal flooding and landslides in East Africa destroyed thousands of acres of crops and livestock, and infrastructure, including schools.

Heatwaves in Asia have also killed thousands of people. The economic damage has yet to be estimated, but will be very high, the report says.

It links ten other events over the past six months to climate change, including flooding in Europe, a cyclone and storms in Australia, and wildfires in Chile — and estimates the total economic damage at $28.7 billion. The cost of other events linked to changing weather patterns, such as the recent landslide in Papua New Guinea (News, 31 May), has yet to be calculated.

“Rich countries, responsible for the lion’s share of the greenhouse gases that are heating the atmosphere and fuelling extreme events, should recognise their historic responsibility and step up their funding to the Loss and Damage Fund to help other countries cope and recover from extreme weather,” Christian Aid’s report says.

Davide Faranda, a researcher at the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said: “In 2024, global warming caused by human-caused carbon emissions has reached the 1.5°C temperature threshold identified in the Paris agreement. This planetary fever is causing widespread heatwaves, droughts, cyclones and floods which can be directly attributed to human greenhouse gases emissions and that are causing enormous human and economic damages.”

A new university-led study published in Nature Climate Change last week shows that 19 out of 34 countries have failed to achieve the 2020 carbon-dioxide emissions targets set by COP15 in 2009.

The UK was one of 15 countries to meet their targets, alongside the United States, Germany, Greece, and Italy. Of the 19 that did not meet their targets, 12 failed outright, including Australia, Canada, and Ireland, while the remaining seven reduced emissions within their own borders by carbon transfer (outsourcing carbon-intensive processes to other countries).

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