Since the UNFCCC Paris Agreement came into force after 2015 international climate policy rests on three pillars: mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. However, while there are clear agreed-upon metrics to measure emissions, base mitigation goals against and hold countries and companies accountable to, the evidence base for the impacts of climate change to inform adaptation and loss and damage is very different. There are no agreed-upon metrics, nor are there guidelines or criteria to delineate the impacts of climate change from other drivers of losses and damages. This imbalance is reflected in the lack of ability to set and enforce goals. With a new body of scientific evidence introduced in the IPCC, we argue that this can change. Especially with an increasing number of climate litigation cases being recognised as a legitimate root to justice, and thus being given due consideration in courts, the imbalance in evidence could change and put adaptation and loss and damage on more equal footing with mitigation.
- No criteria currently exist to measure loss and damage and formulate concrete adaptation goals, hindering climate justice on an international scale.
- The establishment of the loss and damage fund requires urgent steps towards defining criteria for assessing evidence and eligibility. It is important that this happens in a way that available evidence is used, but global inequality is not further deepened.
- There is a need for an IPCC task force on climate impact metrics (similar to the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI) to close this evidence gap by developing a framework and metrics for a systematic assessment of climate impacts around the planet.
- Climate litigation can play a crucial role in setting and enforcing comprehensive criteria to assess evidence for loss and damage and adaptation needs. It needs a wide recognition of the opportunities and risks in using the current evidence base in order to avoid creating tools that do not help those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Photo by Ron Lach