Over the past decades, climate-related hazards, for instance rapid onset events such as floods and droughts, have increased in their occurrence and severity. Simultaneously, slow-onset processes such as sea-level rise and salinization continue unabated, leading to cascading impacts for ecosystems and people. Moreover, the severity of climate change will affect people’s livelihoods, particularly in low-lying areas and Small Island States (SIDS). Given these continuous pressures and disruptions on livelihoods, various people and institutions are discussing and implementing different adaptation strategies. However, adaptation strategies can be sometimes misguided and add negative consequences on current human and natural systems vulnerabilities. Sometimes adaptation to climate change impacts is no longer possible, leading to loss and damage to people and society.
The concept of loss and damage was first mentioned in 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). ‘Loss and damage’ does not have a consistent definition, but frequently refers to the unavoidable impacts of climate change due, for instance, to biophysical, social, financial, and technical constraints and the lack of consideration of context-specificities. Loss and damage are characterized as either economic (tradable in the market), such as physical assets, or non-economic (not tradable in the market), such as cultural heritage or ecosystem health and services. For instance, climate induced losses of ecosystem services that coastal communities rely on for their livelihoods and food security, may lead to the displacement of people, resulting in the loss of their identity, heritage, and local knowledge.