Framing Loss and Damage from climate change as the failure of Sustainable Development

Chad S. Boda, Murray Scown, Turaj Faran, Maryam Nastar, Kelly Dorkenoo, Brian Chaffin, Emily Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

10 Scopus citations


Debates around “Loss and Damage” (L&D) from anthropogenic climate change have expanded rapidly since the adoption of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) in 2013. Despite the urgent need for scientific best practice to inform policies to avoid, minimize and address L&D, the nascent research field faces internal disagreements and lacks a coherent conceptual framing, which hinder scientific progress and practical implementation. We suggest that the most coherent, comprehensive and integrative approach to framing and dealing with L&D is by understanding it as resulting from a chain of failures or inabilities to maintain a Sustainable Development. Available theories of Sustainable Development give meaning and orientation to risk reduction efforts to avoid and minimize L&D, as well as to processes of L&D accounting and compensation; in particular clarifying “what should be sustained” when undertaking efforts to avoid, minimize or address residual L&D. However, different theories of Sustainable Development inevitably lead to different metrics to assess L&D and consequently different governance approaches when dealing with L&D, which has implications for future vulnerability and development. Our approach opens up new avenues for research, and has both conceptual and practical repercussions for the Paris Agreement and the global stocktake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-684
Number of pages8
JournalClimate and Development
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021


  • Climate risk management
  • Loss and damage
  • Paris agreement
  • Sustainable development


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