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Counting the Cost 2023: A year of climate breakdown

New analysis of the top 20 costliest extreme climate disasters over 2023 has revealed a 'global postcode lottery stacked against the poor' where the relative economic impact of disasters varies considerably across countries.

Floods, cyclones and droughts have killed and displaced millions of people in places which have little to cause the climate crisis.

Our analysis list features disasters featured in the news – from Cyclone Freddy in Malawi to the wildfires in Hawaii - and others that hardly registered on global news feeds and come with a hefty price tag.

Our top 20 list features a range of disasters across 14 countries, showing that some countries – through size, geography or other factors – are more prone to experience disasters.

There is a double injustice in the fact that the communities worst affected by global warming have contributed little to the problem.

Climate injustice in action

Cyclone Freddy, which features on the list, hit the population of Malawi in 2023. More than 650,000 people were displaced, making Cyclone Freddy Africa's second-deadliest cyclone this century.

The Malawian government estimated the disaster's cost at over $500 million, with a full recovery requiring $680 million. Given Malawi's $13 billion total economy, this represents 5% of the average annual income - making recovery challenging for affected individuals.

Mofolo Chikaonda, a widow aged 69 and comes from southern Malawi, explained, 'the worst negative impact of Cyclone Freddy that I shall never forget in my entire life is the destruction of the only house that we struggled to construct'. 

Image credits and information i
Destruction caused by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi 2023 Credit: Amaru Photography / Christian Aid
Cyclone Freddy Damage 2023

Loss and damage costs are in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually in developing countries alone. Wealthy nations must commit the new and additional money required to ensure the Loss and Damage Fund agreed at COP28 can be quickly get help to those that need it most.

- Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid’s Climate Justice Policy Advisor, Bangladesh.

What we're calling for

Christian Aid is calling on world leaders to commit more to climate finance and increase investment in early warning and early action.

Where people are able to prepare for possible future extreme weather events, they can invest in better homes and other buildings, take out insurance and be more confident that when things go wrong there is a decent safety net to help them get back on their feet.

Governments urgently need to take further action at home and internationally, to cut emissions, and adapt to the effects of climate change. And where the impacts go beyond what people can adapt to, the loss and damage fund must be resourced to compensate the poorest countries for the effects of a crisis that isn’t of their making.

- Patrick Watt, Chief Executive of Christian Aid.
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