When the climate is a threat: loss and damage in Nepal [COP26 Blog]

Loss and damage due to climate change is a reality, and it is also one of the most important items on the agenda of COP26, the UN Climate summit. In this blog, I would like to share the reality of climate-induced extreme events and loss and damage in Nepal’s vulnerable communities. I hope negotiators at the summit will read this because this is what the negotiations should be about.  

Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries suffering from severe climate effects. For Nepal’s marginalised people and communities, climate change is both a reality and a threat. Extreme weather events, including torrential rains, floods and landslides, are becoming more frequent and intense. Millions of people are already experiencing the climate emergency and need immediate assistance. Economic and non-economic loss and damage are evident in Nepal and are not only a climate justice issue, but an issue of survival.  

A new report: When the climate is a threat: loss and Damage in Nepal by the Danish member of ACT Alliance, DanChurchAid, includes case studies of three different municipalities in Nepal that have suffered from climate change over the past five years. Climate-related floods and landslides have taken away lives, homes and livestock. The total economic loss in the three municipalities has been very high at around $388,355, with an average loss per household of just over $4,000.  

The study shows how displacement is becoming a major problem. While most community members have returned to their homes, 9 per cent have moved permanently to other locations. Recovery poses a major challenge for both displaced and returning families as most of those affected, 82 per cent, have had to take out loans to either relocate or rebuild following the disaster.  

Local governments have been first to respond, but due to financial constraints, only provided immediate support. The support that affected households received was insufficient, with the average family’s financial losses ranging from $1,000 to $13,500. None of the villages received international support. The report also shows a lack of insurance coverage in the affected communities which further increases the impact and risk of climate hazards.  

The report further examines community knowledge of disaster prevention and the efficiency of early warning systems. Despite substantial investment in these systems, limited human resources, limited technological knowledge and other issues mean there have been significant barriers to communicating early warning signals in a timely manner.  

The findings reveal that vulnerable communities will continue to experience loss and damage due to a lack of adequate infrastructure, limited knowledge, and weak institutional mechanisms, as well as a lack of technical and financial assistance and support. Both economic and non-economic loss and damage is evident in Nepal and is a common concern. It is also an issue of climate justice.  

The good news is that Nepal has launched several policy initiatives, including the National Loss and Damage Framework. But Nepal and other vulnerable countries still need additional technical, financial and capacity-building assistance to address climate-induced loss and damage. Direct financial and technical support to local governments and organisations will also be essential for grassroots employment. 

I hope the negotiations at COP26 will present a clear picture on how to respond to loss and damage and help Nepal and other vulnerable countries receive enough support. The need is urgent.  

 Rajan Thapa is the Climate Action Advisor with DanChurchAid in Nepal. DanChurchAid is an ACT Alliance member.