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Italy and Spain experienced some of the world’s most costly climate disasters in 2023

The report calls for world leaders of developed countries to channel more funding into climate finance.
The report calls for world leaders of developed countries to channel more funding into climate finance. Copyright Phillip Flores
Copyright Phillip Flores
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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The report calls for world leaders of developed countries to channel more funding into climate finance.

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The world’s costliest climate disasters in 2023 predominantly hit poor countries, according to a new report.

The study by international charity Christian Aid found that catastrophic floods and wildfires had more economic impact in places with less resilient homes and little means to rebuild.

The findings reveal a “global postcode lottery stacked against the poor,” the charity says.

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

A ‘global postcode lottery’

The report by Christian Aid lists the 20 costliest climate disasters around the world per capita, which have killed and displaced millions of people.

The study found that the relative economic impact of floods, cyclones and droughts varies considerably across countries.

The charity found the highest per capita cost of natural disasters was the wildfires which affected Hawaii in August - an average of over $4,000 (€3,600) per person.

This is far beyond the second costliest per capita, Guam’s storms in May, of almost $1,500 (€1,350) per head of population.

Christian Aid explains disasters are worse for countries unable to withstand them because of less resilient homes.

These are also often places where many people are employed in agriculture vulnerable to extreme weather, and which lack government investment in prevention or rebuilding.

Cyclone Freddy, which features on the list, hit the population of Malawi in 2023.

“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,” says Mofolo Chikaonda, from southern Malawi.

“Cyclone Freddy was a reminder that communities who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are suffering the worst,” adds Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid’s climate justice policy advisor in Bangladesh.

Loss and damage costs are in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually in developing countries alone.”

Chief Executive of Christian Aid, Patrick Watt, has called this a “global postcode lottery that is stacked against the poor.”

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“In poorer countries, people are often less prepared for climate-related disasters and have fewer resources with which to bounce back,” he says. “The upshot is that more people die, and recovery is slower and more unequal.”

Wealthy nations need to invest in climate finance

The report calls for world leaders of developed countries to channel more funding into climate finance.

“It is clear that the costs of the climate crisis are already weighing heavily on some of the poorest people in the world,” says Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based climate and energy think tank.

“It also shows the gaping hole at the recent COP28 climate summit in Dubai: the lack of finance for developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change,” adds Adow.

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“Until we address this huge adaptation gap, humanity’s response to the climate crisis will be failing.”

What were the costliest climate disasters in 2023?

In 2023, all six populated continents experienced some of the world’s worst climate disasters on record.

The costliest climate disasters per capita were:

1. Hawaii, US, wildfire - $4,161 (€3,760)

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2. Guam, storm - $1,455 (€1,310)

3. Vanuatu, storm - $947 (€860)

4. New Zealand, storm - $468 (€420)

5. New Zealand, flood - $371 (€335)

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6. Italy, flood - $164 (€150)

7. Libya, flood - $105 (€95)

8. Peru, flood - $66 (€60)

9. Spain, drought - $50 (€45)

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10. Myanmar, storm - $41 (€37)

11. Chile, flood - $39 (€35)

12. Haiti, flood - $36 (€32)

13. Mexico, storm - $35 (€31)

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14. Chile, wildfire - $30 (€27)

15. US, storm - $25 (€23)

16. China, flood - $23 (€21)

17. Peru, storm - $20 (€18)

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18. Malawi, storm - $17 (€15)

19. US, storm - $16 (€14)

20. Peru, flood - $9 (€8)

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