Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A typology of loss and damage perspectives


Loss and Damage (L&D) has been the subject of contentious debate in international climate policy for several decades. Recently, formal mechanisms on L&D have been established, but arguably through unclear language. This ambiguity is politically important, but researchers and practitioners require clearer understandings of L&D. Here we report on the first in-depth empirical study of actor perspectives, including interviews with 38 key stakeholders in research, practice, and policy. We find points of agreement and also important distinctions in terms of: the relationship between L&D and adaptation, the emphasis on avoiding versus addressing L&D, the relevance of anthropogenic climate change, and the role of justice. A typology of four perspectives is identified, with different implications for research priorities and actions to address L&D. This typology enables improved understanding of existing perspectives and so has potential to facilitate more transparent discussion of the options available to address L&D.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: The typology of four perspectives on loss and damage.


  1. Calliari, E. Loss and damage: a critical discourse analysis of Parties’ positions in climate change negotiations. J. Risk Res. (2016).

  2. Mace, M. J. & Verheyen, R. Loss, damage and responsibility after COP21: all options open for the Paris agreement. Rev. Eur. Comp. Int. Environ. Law 25, 197–214 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Mace, M. J. & Schaeffer, M. Loss and damage in the UNFCCC: what relationship to the Hyogo Framework? Clim. Anal. (2013).

  4. UNFCCC Decision 2/CP.19: Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts (2013).

  5. UNFCCC Adoption of the Paris Agreement FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add.1. 1–32 (2015).

  6. Vanhala, L. & Hestbaek, C. Framing climate change loss and damage in the UNFCCC negotiations. Glob. Environ. Polit. 16, 111–129 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. James, R. et al. Characterizing loss and damage from climate change. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 938–939 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. UNFCCC Report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts FCCC/SB/2016/3 (2016).

  9. UNEP Loss and Damage: The Role of Ecosystem Services (2016).

  10. WFP Regional Bureau for Asia Loss & Damage: Repairing Shattered Lives. Paper No. 1. Black and White Paper Series (2014).

  11. CARE Germanwatch, ActionAid, WWF. Loss and Damage: Into Unknown Territory (2012).

  12. UNFCCC Submissions on Possible Activities under Strategic Workstreams of the Five-Year Rolling Workplan: Organizations (2017);

  13. Huq, S., Roberts, E. & Fenton, A. Loss and damage. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 947–949 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Parker, H. R. et al. Stakeholder perceptions of event attribution in the loss and damage debate. Clim. Policy 3062, 1–18 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Roberts, E. & Pelling, M. Climate change-related loss and damage: translating the global policy agenda for national policy processes. Clim. Dev. (2016).

  16. Huggel, C., Stone, D., Eicken, H. & Hansen, G. Potential and limitations of the attribution of climate change impacts for informing loss and damage discussions and policies. Climatic Change 133, 453–467 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Surminski, S. & Lopez, A. Concept of loss and damage of climate change a new challenge for climate decision-making? A climate science perspective. Clim. Dev. 7, 1–11 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Warner, K. & Geest, K. V. Loss and damage from climate change: local level evidence from nine vulnerable countries. Int. J. Glob. Warming 5, 367–386 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Verheyen, R. Tackling Loss & Damage—A New Role for the Climate Regime? (2012);

  20. Mechler, R. & Schinko, T. Identifying the policy space for climate loss and damage. Science 354, 290–292 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Schinko, T. & Mechler, R. Applying recent insights from climate risk management to operationalize the loss and damage mechanism. Ecol. Econ. 136, 296–298 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. UNFCCC A Literature Review on the Topics in the Context of Thematic Area 2 of the Work Programme on Loss and Damage: A Range of Approaches to Address Loss and Damage Associated with the Adverse Effects of Climate Change. UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) FCCC/SBI/2012/INF.14. 2014 (2012).

  23. Mechler, R. & Bouwer, L. M. Understanding trends and projections of disaster losses and climate change: is vulnerability the missing link? Climatic Change 133, 23–35 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Roberts, E., Andrei, S., Huq, S. & Flint, L. Resilience synergies in the post-2015 development agenda. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 1024–1025 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hirsh, T. et al. Climate-Related Loss and Damage: Finding a Just Solution to the Political Challenges (Act Alliance, Germanwatch, and Bread for the World, 2015);

  26. Mechler, R. & Bouwer, L. M. Managing unnatural disaster risk from climate extremes. Nat. Clim. 4, 235–237 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Dow, K., Berkhout, F. & Preston, B. L. Limits to adaptation. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 305–307 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Klein, R. J. T. et al. in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (eds Field, C. B. et al.) 899–943 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  29. UNFCCC Decision 1/CP.16 The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (2011).

  30. Thompson, A. & Otto, F. E. L. Ethical and normative implications of weather event attribution for policy discussions concerning loss and damage. Climatic Change 133, 439–451 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Wallimann-Helmer, I. Justice for climate loss and damage. Climatic Change 133, 469–480 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Surminski, S., Bouwer, L. M. & Linnerooth-Bayer, J. How insurance can support climate resilience? Nat. Clim. Change 6, 333–334 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Otto, F. E. L. et al. Attribution of extreme weather events in Africa: a preliminary exploration of the science and policy implications. Climatic Change 132, 531–543 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. Parker, H. R. et al. Implications of event attribution for loss and damage policy. Weather 70, 268–272 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Barnett, J., Tschakert, P., Head, L. & Adger, W. N. A science of loss. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 976–978 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Tschakert, P. et al. Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences. Wiley Interdisciplinary Rev. Clim. Change 8, e476 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hoffmaister, J. P., Talakai, M., Damptey, P. & Barbosa, A. S. Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage: Moving from Polarizing Discussions Towards Addressing the Emerging Challenges Faced by Developing Countries (2014);

  38. UNFCCC Summary Information on the SCF Forum 2016 (2016);

  39. UNFCCC Report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts FCCC/SB/2014/4. (2014);

  40. Boyd, E. & Juhola, S. Stepping up to the climate change: opportunities in re-conceptualising development futures. J. Int. Dev. 21, 792–804 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Ormston, R., Spencer, L., Barnard, M. & Snape, D. in Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers (eds Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M. & Ormston, R.) 1–26 (SAGE, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  42. Atkinson, R. & Flint, R. in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods (eds Lewis-Beck, M. S., Bryman, A. & Liao, T. F.) 1043–1044 (SAGE, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  43. Eisenhardt, K. M. & Graebner, M. E. Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges. Acad. Manag. J. 50, 25–32 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Collier, D., LaPorte, J. & Seawright, J. Putting typologies to work: concept formation, measurement, and analytic rigor. Polit. Res. Q. 65, 217–232 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Boyd, E., James, R. & Jones, R. Policy Brief: Typologies of Loss and Damage and Associated Actions (Environmental Change Institute, 2016);

  46. Boyd, E., James, R. & Jones, R. Policy Brief: A Spectrum of Views on Loss and Damage (Environmental Change Institute, 2016);

Download references


The researchers would like to thank all interviewees and stakeholder groups for providing their time and insights, particularly committee members and observers at the third meeting of the WIM ExCom, and participants of the Resilience Academy. We also thank A. Jones and F. Wang for their work transcribing the interviews. The research was facilitated by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded ACE-Africa project, with special contributions from the University of Reading RETF, and Lund University.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



E.B., R.A.J. and R.G.J. designed the research project, conducted interviews, analysed interview data, and wrote and revised the text. H.R.Y. conducted interviews, contributed to data handling and developed of codes for analysis, and contributed to the draft text. F.E.L.O. contributed by providing feedback on analysis, and contributed to the draft text.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Emily Boyd or Rachel A. James.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 424 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Boyd, E., James, R., Jones, R. et al. A typology of loss and damage perspectives. Nature Clim Change 7, 723–729 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing