Finance fishing boats

Typhoon Rai’s trail of destruction in the Philippines rekindles calls for loss and damage

More than 400 people have been killed and seven million homes or livelihoods lost in the Category 5 storm that hit the Philippines in December

The devastation caused by Typhoon Rai in the Philippines reignited calls for loss and damage assistance, separate from humanitarian assistance, to help affected communities recover and rebuild.

The Category 5 cyclone, which made landfall in mid-December, killed more than 400 people and caused at least half a billion dollars in economic loss and damage. It is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2021.

Oxfam reports that people beg for leftover food in the areas ravaged by the Rai, known locally as Odette. Almost seven million people have lost their homes or their main source of income. The typhoon caused widespread flooding that affected more than 420,000 hectares of land and damaged or destroyed 925,000 homes.

“We live here because our only livelihood comes from the sea. We took out all the boats for safety, but the waves were still reaching them and reaching the roads. Typhoon Rai was bigger and stronger than the previous two, ”Petronilo Bohol, a fisherman from Malitbog village in south Leyte, told Oxfam.

The country’s Ministry of Agriculture estimate the damage agriculture and fisheries for $ 230 million, while the disaster risk reduction authority put the toll on infrastructure – houses, roads, electricity and water pipes – to $ 350 million.

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Jermaine Baltazar Bayas, Oxfam’s humanitarian officer in Asia, told Climate Home News that the aid agency has seen a “dramatic increase” in the severity of typhoons over the past decade. “We are witnessing a real manifestation of climate change. “

Bayas said recovery efforts in many areas could take up to six months and humanitarian assistance would not be enough to help communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

“Humanitarian aid covers immediate needs, what people need to survive, but [we also need support] for the recovery in the medium and long term, ”he said. “This must be integrated into the development programs of the regions and there must be [focus] on protecting assets and helping people restart their livelihoods. “

Emergency food distribution in Surigao del Norte (Photo: Care International Philippines)

Kerry Emmanuel, climatologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Climate Home News that the total loss and damage from tropical storms is expected to increase over the next several decades.

This is partly due to demographics: the number of people living in coastal areas and flood plains has grown rapidly since the 1970s. Another reason is that the intensity of tropical storms is increasing globally, with more storms reaching the highest categories (3, 4 and 5) in recent decades, according to the 2020 study. The increased intensity comes with more rainfall, which can lead to severe flooding, according to Kerry.

Tropical storms are harder to attribute directly to climate change that in case of heat wave and flood due to a lack of historical data and inaccurate predictions of their intensity, Kerry said. “We do a great job of detecting hurricanes from space, but a bad job of measuring their intensity.”

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Sven Harmeling, climate change and resilience policy manager at Care International, said funding for loss and damage should not depend on climate attribution. “Yes you need to fully establish the level of climate change first, it would be very impractical and [result in] aid is delivered far too late, ”he told Climate Home News.

Instead, clear mechanisms should be established, which allow for rapid payments in the event of a disaster, he said. This could take the form of an insurance pool, backed by international finance, that offers immediate payments in the event of certain impacts, he said.

Advance financing, provided before a danger strikes, also helps minimize loss and damage, Bayas said. Oxfam has partnered with local governments on the Rai Path to provide immediate cash grants, through a parametric insurance system, and technical assistance to strengthen people’s homes before the storm hits. “It was a very good investment,” said Bayas.

Globally, activists are calling on rich nations to mobilize support to vulnerable nations for loss and damage of $ 300 billion per year by 2030, in addition to humanitarian aid and financing for climate adaptation.

A study commissioned by Christian Aid predicts that the GDP of the 65 most climate-vulnerable countries will be affected by 20% by 2050 and 64% by 2100 if global temperatures rise by 2.9 ° C, a scenario consistent with current policies. Even if warming is kept at 1.5 ° C, poor communities that have contributed little to climate change will be the most exposed to its impacts.