Delivering on Loss and Damage at COP 26 is a Climate Justice and Human Rights Imperative

Publish Date: 
Thursday, October 28, 2021

In a briefing note released ahead of COP 26, ESCR-Net members join other civil society organizations and social movements in calling on Parties, particularly Parties bearing historical responsibility for the climate crisis, as well as with the most available resources, to prioritize and concretely deliver on, loss and damage at COP 26, including through the provision of new, additional and long-term finance for loss and damage. In doing so, we ask that Parties adopt an approach centering human rights and climate justice.

Effectively and urgently addressing loss and damage, considered the third pillar in international climate law and policy and embedded in the Paris Agreement, is a human rights and climate justice imperative. According to emerging understanding, loss and damage from climate change relates to those impacts that cannot be avoided through adaptation and mitigation activities.

This year has only reinforced how loss and damage through catastrophic social and economic consequences ---from wide-scale loss of life to billions of dollars of damage to crops, homes, livelihoods or infrastructure --- result in serious human rights harm, cripple national economies and lead countries into further debt, which in turn limits fiscal space to take measures to avert, minimize and address loss and damage.

Climate impacts are also forcibly displacing millions of peoplewhich has a cascading impact on human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. Additionally, there are those who cannot migrate because they do not have the capability to do so. Involuntary immobile populations can frequently be among the most vulnerable to climate impacts. 

Moreover, individuals and communities are experiencing devastating social and cultural harms, undermining human rights, including cumulative negative effects on human health and mobility; loss of community networks, access to lands and territories, cultural traditions and indigenous and local knowledge; depletion of livestock production; and damage to biodiversity and habitats. Human rights, particularly of those most marginalized, are at stake with increasingly irreversible loss and damage.

Historical and present responsibility for the climate crisis lies with wealthy, highly industrialized countries and powerful corporate actors. The peoples and communities in the Global South have contributed the least to the climate crisis yet experience the worst impacts of climate change. Colonialism, extractivism and imperialism have forced the Global South to confront these climate impacts with scarce resources, increasing peoples’ climate vulnerabilities and undermining their adaptive capacities, resulting in immense global inequalities.

The lack of commitment of Parties, particularly Parties bearing historical responsibility and with the most available resources, to address the impacts and injustices of loss and damage, amidst intersecting crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, is causing immense human suffering. Urgently addressing loss and damage through adopting a rights-based approach with a focus on equity can help shape solutions which prioritize the well-being of people and nature and are effective and sustainable in the long term. It allows Parties to comply with obligations under the Paris Agreement, as well as other international legal duties, including human rights obligations, and maintain trust and confidence in the multilateral system.

At COP 26, Parties must, with developed Parties taking proportionate measures, act decisively and provide sufficient targeted finance to address loss and damage at the scale required, and in ways that advance human rights and climate justice.

Our Recommendations to Parties in Summary

  1. Integrate Human Rights in Decisions to Avert, Minimize and Address Loss and Damage
  • Adopt an Intersectional Approach
  • Ensure the Rights to Self-Determination and Participation
  • Strengthen and Update Human Rights and Corporate Accountability Frameworks in light of the Climate Crisis
  • Act Ambitiously on Mitigation and Adaptation to Reduce the Future Scale of Loss and Damage; Reject False Solutions
  • Center Human Rights in Environmental Decision-Making within International Multinational Organizations and International Financial Institutions
  1. Deliver on Climate Finance in ways that Comply with Human Rights, are Gender Responsive, Proactively Address Intersectional Challenges and Support Efforts towards Fiscal Justice
  • Deliver Sufficient Climate Finance, including New, Additional and Long-Term Funding for Loss and Damage
  • Ensure Finance is Structured and Delivered in ways that Respect Human Rights, are Gender Responsive and Proactively Address Intersectional Challenges
  • Support Concrete Efforts towards Fiscal Justice including Debt and Tax Justice
  1. Agree on Governance Issues which would lead to Better Human Rights Outcomes on Loss and Damage
  • Establish Loss and Damage as a Permanent Standing Agenda Item
  • Operationalize the Santiago Network, an important step in establishing the implementation apparatus of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM), adopting a rights-based approach

Read our full briefing note here in English, Spanish, French and Arabic


Dozens of Network members contributed to the strategy, research, drafting, and review of this briefing, including through participation in a series of regional consultations in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa. Special thanks to: Al Haq (Palestine); Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) (Thailand); Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) (Thailand); Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) (Thailand); Association des Amoureux du Livre pour le Développement Local (ASSOAL) (Cameroon); Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) (Bangladesh); Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) (United States); Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) (Mongolia); Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida (Colombia); Confederación Campesina del Perú (Peru); Egyptian Association for Collective Rights (Egypt); Dibeen Association for Environmental Development (Jordan), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR); FIAN International; Forest Peoples Programme (UK); Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE) (Nigeria); Fundación Promoción Humana (Argentina); Green Advocates (Liberia); Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN); Hakijamii (Kenya); Human Rights Law Network (India); Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador); Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) (United States); International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) (Malaysia); Institut Prometheus pour la Démocratie et les Droits Humains (IPDDH) (Morocco); Kavita Naidu; Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) (Kenya); Land Research Center (Palestine); Lok Shakti Abhiyan (India); Manushya Foundation (Thailand); Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) (Nigeria); Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH) (Honduras); Ogiek Peoples Development Program (OPDP) (Kenya); Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) (Pakistan); Pro Public- Forum for the Protection of Public Interest (Nepal); Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) (Mexico); Right to Water Forum in the Arab Region (RWFAR) (Egypt); and SAPCONE-Turkana People Organization (Kenya).

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