President Zuma opens the World Climate SummitBruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño reports on the World Climate Summit, Dec. 3-4, in Durban, South Africa.

The World Climate Summit (WCS) began with a keynote from President Zuma, followed by a set of 7 high level speakers who discussed how greening the global economy is not simply a reactive “who pays the bill” debate, but a whole new direction for better growth. The question is: is change happening at the pace it could and should, and if not, why not?

The conversation started right on topic with Christina Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, stating that governments are moving slower than what the UNFCCC wants, and much behind of what science says. Businesses, however are moving much faster, in a way that sets the bar, but she urged them to do more.

Juan Costa Climent, Global Leader for Climate Change at Ernst & Young, argued that a prominent agent of that change is transparency, information and advice. Focusing on servicing these three can speed up the process. Once people have full information, they will make the right choices.

He also noted that we should redefine the way we measure economies. Metrics like pure GDP do not take into account factors that we now see to be relevant, like environment and ecological values. Value in these new green economies is created not only by increasing GDP.
 In this regard he also noted that there is a misconception that “green economies” are more expensive than “carbon economies.” Studies by E&Y show that that this is not always the case and, in fact, employment creation potential can be twice that of current carbon-intensive economies.

Barbara Kux, Siemens Chief Sustainability Officer, made the interesting observation that all three recent crises, and actually most others, have in common the absence of long term thinking that includes sustainability.  Not only that, according to their studies, we could reduce global emissions 38% by using technologies that are already here, but underused (e.g. LED lights).
 Paradoxically these viable opportunities to green our economy are not only doable in the short term, but also they are extremely profitable. Independently of COP, the estimations of green market opportunities keep increasing and are already beyond the €3 trillion mark

World climate summitElizabeth Littlefield, CEO of OPIC, the US government branch that invests overseas, recalled that last year in Cancún she committed to increase their investment in renewables from $10 to $500 million. She reported that she not only succeeded, but reached $1 billion per year.
 She also commented on the common misconception that green energy is more expensive. In some cases it is, especially if we keep subsidizing non-renewables, but there are multiple cases were it is not. For example, most of the energy in DRC comes from oil that in many cases needs to be flown into the country. How hard could it be to beat that?

Beatriz Perez, Coca-Cola Chief Sustainability Officer made a very pragmatic argument. Greening your company is not only an environmental duty, but it also increases efficiency very fast, allows companies to sell goods at lower prices and helps secure the production pipeline and resources (water security is a great concern for any beverage company). In essence, it brings returns on investments in the short, medium and long term.

Mike Brown, CEO of Nedbank, gave an overview on how his company has worked internally and externally to green its operations and services.

The main message of the panel is that creating green economies is not about about “sharing the burden,” but it’s about realizing there is a whole new way of making things better. It´s about realizing that changing the business model is a good thing, and the time is now. Even putting a price on carbon is not necessarily a cap on economies, it is an incentive for competition on efficiency, on innovation. Siemens noted that already 30% of their revenue comes from renewable energy. This new market is here, it is huge and growing, and it´s a priority at hand.

Roughly 20 minutes of discussion focused on criticism of “the anti climate change mafia,” with strong stances expressed by every panelist and clapping from the audience. Christina Figueres started this discussion when exploring the limitations for faster, stronger action and its consequences.  It was noted that the US generates most of this push back, which harms the task globally. After some debate the conclusion was reached that companies ought to be clear on where they stand, because above all, it´s about “reputation, reality, image and responsibility and truth.”

Green climate fund sessionBruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño from Durban, with contributions from Ian Noble watching from the web.

In the morning I joined the Climate Communications Day. Attendees were mainly environmental journalists.  It is part of a continuing process to assist journalists, especially those from developing countries, to understand both the process of climate change and the state of the negotiations.  After all, what society will hear mostly comes from the media, not scientists directly.

My main event of the day was a discussion of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), sponsored by the IETA and the Standard Bank. Dr. Robert Dixon, from the Transitional Committee of the GCF, gave an informal introduction. There was a panel on the role of the private sector in the GCF that included representatives from KPMG, the Carbon Finance Unit of the World Bank and the Climate Markets and Investment Association.   

There is much hope set on the GCF which is a fund to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Indeed, the “operationalization” of the GFC and the role of adaptation in it was one of the most salient statements by ICC observers during the Opening Session of COP17.

The GCF was agreed to last year at the COP in Cancún. The target for the Fund is $US100 billion per year by 2020 with the mitigation-adaptation mix being as yet undecided.  Developing countries will prepare plans for both Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and the incremental costs arising from climate change should be funded from the GCF. A “Transitional Committee” was directed to draft a governance instrument to translate the political intent into a tangible form, and it is hoped that it will be accepted in Durban.  However, in the initial round of talks several countries, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and the ALBA coalition of Latin American countries sought further adjustments.  Backroom discussions continue.  Some of the objections may be show-stoppers; others may be there as bargaining chips in the wider debate.

Anti COP17 / OccupyCOP demonstrators.

Currently no one knows from where the money is going to come. It is clear that the public sector alone won´t reach the $100 billion target. The view of most developing countries is that the funding commitments are the responsibility of the developed country parties (i.e. public sectors) and that this responsibility cannot be transferred to the private sector even in part.  They are also suspicious of funding mechanisms that are derived though market mechanisms as they are seen as neither predictable nor sustainable.  Instead, they prefer direct commitments from developed country public resources – although these are also unlikely to be predictable and sustainable in the current situation – or from international taxes such as on financial transactions or bunker fuels, etc.

Developing country parties are also concerned about access to the GCF by the private sector.  Some developed country contributors would like to use the Fund to transfer resources directly to the private sector, or civil society, within developing countries.  Clearly the recipient country governments would prefer that the resources are funneled through them as they are responsible for implementing their agreed NAMAs and NAPs.  They would be able to support a national company to implement investments that make them more resilient to climate change; but what about a multinational company investing to increase the resilience of its supply chains?  If the multilateral company cannot be supported, can its use of its own resources be counted as contributions to the $100 billion target? A narrow approach to the private sector may restrict financial flows from the public budgets of developed countries, while a more open approach may lead to significant leakage in accounting; both can lead to the target being undershot.   

The panel here made the case that mitigation seeks to drive a positive change via a market based mechanism. It then becomes logical to wonder if there could be a market based model for adaptation equivalent to the Carbon Market. Markets are driven by demand, and in the Carbon Market, the demand is derived from caps on emissions. These caps only work when there is global consensus and will to move ahead. The Carbon Market depends on a COP consensus, which of course, is the other focus the Durban meeting.

What transpires to me, is that you can continue to pursue consensus after COP, debate short and long term goals, facilitation measures, penalties for non-compliance or withdrawal, and so on.  OR we can focus on pragmatic measures; on real local solutions driven by experience and evidence. It appears that the many unilateral steps to do this are the first steps to achieve the same goals as those of the COP; i.e. a climate resilient future. The solution come not from consensus, but from pragmatism. This is what GaIn was designed to aid — to navigate reality and measure what matters to adaptation and the private sector.

From the panel discussions it was apparent that there was indeed a growing interest to bring both adaptation and the private sector to the table. Probably 60% of the time was spent on this.  An unfortunate side effect of the tussles in Durban is that the wider challenge of how to engage and support the private sector, particularly in appropriate adaption activities, is not getting the attention it deserves.  The NAPs need to identify truly ‘national’ adaptation plans with the roles of government, private sector and civil society identified and adequately supported.  Let us hope that the GCF governance is resolved in Durban and we can focus on the challenge of real action on the ground.  After all, a navigation tool like the GaIn is only useful on a ship that can actually leave the habour.

Chrissy Coughlin interviewed Global Adaptation Institute CEO, Dr. Juan José Daboub for the Nov. 30 airing of her weekly program, Nature of Business. Dr. Daboub discussed the importance of adaptation in light of the Durban climate negotiations, the Global Adaptation Index™ and the goals of the Institute. Listen to the full interview here.


Nature of Business provides listeners access to the most respected business leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, political leaders who are on the front lines of the clean economy, creating companies, products, and services that are greener, better, and more profitable.

COP17 almost there

Development Seed interviews Dr. Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño at the climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. Sanchez discusses the importance of open data in the climate mitigation and adaptation movements. The interview also highlights how the Global Adaptation Index is a groundbreaking tool that utilizes open data to help countries adapt to climate change and other global forces:

Q: How do you see GAIN as a player in a potentially growing open data space around the maturing climate change conversation?

A: GAIN is already able to pinpoint where a country lies in the global context and navigate through its strong and weak points. However, it quickly becomes apparent that we do have frustrating limitations, like data gaps or heterogeneous quality. This means that GlobalAI is actually advocating for better data, frequently updated where it makes sense.

Furthermore, as climate change is a global challenge with local solutions, it also means that the current country level in GAIN should be improved into the regional or local level. But we simply don´t have the data. This is especially important for countries like Canada, Russia, and China where the effects of climate change vary dramatically inside the country. This is not optional - everyone seeking a data driven approach needs that data, those maps. We need to gather the data, to analyze it, and to mine it. The exciting thing is that we are already seeing cases using new approaches like crowdsourcing.

Read more of the interview here.

Sanchez will represent the Global Adaptation Institute in a press conference Saturday morning, Dec. 3, and participate in a panel about sustainable development in South Africa Sunday afternoon, Dec. 4.

COP16 plenary

Climate negotiations got off to a strong start with calls for real progress on adaptation being a theme during the opening statements. The urgency of adaptation increased given the rocky start on the mitigation agenda as reports surfaced that Canada appears likely to confirm its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol by the end of the year. Further, the seemingly intractable stalemate between developed and developing nations, particularly the unwillingness of the U.S. and China to commit to reductions before the other does, remains in full force.


Against this backdrop, more effort is being directed toward achieving effective adaptation programs. Last year at the Cancun negotiations, delegates adopted the Cancun Adaptation Framework, which seeks to address adaptation with the same level of priority as mitigation. Expectations at Durban include advancing National Adaptation Planning (NAPs) Guidelines and getting the UNFCCC’s new Adaptation Committee up and running. Numerous adaptation-related events are taking place and can be monitored through sites such as the Adaptation Hub and UNFCCC. A few events do include direct consideration of the private sector, such as:

"Adaptation, Risk Reduction & Insurance," hosted by the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative

"Public-Private Partnerships: Promoting inclusive, equitable, and gender-sensitive climate finance," hosted by the United Nations Development Programme

"Linkages between green economy measures, trade and climate change," hosted by the World Trade Organization

"Green technology and China’s climate adaptation: toward a low carbon society," hosted by Xiamen University

The Global Adaptation Institute’s Dr. Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño will be attending many events in the coming days and will be reporting here. Stay tuned!

Ian_Noble As international climate talks commence this week, governments will call on the private sector to increase contributions to climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. The Global Adaptation Institute’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Ian Noble, argues that climate negotiators  should seek greater input from those businesses, large and small, from which they seek support. 

Tens of thousands of delegates are gathered in Durban for the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (CoP17).  Most are observers of the process and unlikely to ever come near the negotiating rooms.  A thousand or so will represent the 194 governments of which a few will sit behind the microphones to negotiate mostly in closed rooms and occasionally in public.  Their task will be to take the texts agreed to in Cancun forward to the next stage.

That text includes numerous references to the role of the private sector.  It is recognized as a stakeholder and called upon to support enhanced action on adaptation and mitigation, provide funds, perform research, transfer technology and collaborate and advise.   But the understanding of how these roles may be fulfilled is sketchy to say the least.

Few of those behind the microphones will be from, or will have had experience in, the private sector.  Many delegations include private sector representatives, but this is largely confined to developed countries.  The private sector will be present as observers and some representative organizations will occasionally be allowed an intervention but usually at the end of the debate on a particular issue.

The private sector is active in organizing events on the side of the negotiations, often attended by senior, well-informed audiences – but by few negotiators who are too busy elsewhere.

The situation is made worse by a suspicion of the private sector by many of the G77 countries who fear that wider private sector engagement may divert finances, bypassing the priorities and oversight of national governments.

For adaptation goals, the paucity of contact between the negotiators and the private sector is particularly troublesome.  Private enterprises, from small farmers to multinationals, have much to loose from inadequate adaptation and their losses flow on to everyone. Their investment in protecting assets or pursuing new business opportunities related to climate change will be the core of our adaptation response.  But the private sector itself is struggling to interpret its role and the expectations flowing from the negotiating text.

What can be done to achieve a real dialogue between the negotiators and the private sector within the UNFCCC framework?  National delegations would be reluctant to give up the negotiating microphone to private sector representatives, and delegations from smaller countries can rarely afford to include extra representatives within their delegations.  Representative private sector institutions could be given a full negotiating role, but some parties would be reluctant to see this happen, and it would be followed by the rightful demands for similar access by NGOs and a multitude of special interest groups.

A more feasible approach is to increase the contact between negotiators and the private sectors outside of the formal negotiations per se.  These would include special workshops and also the ‘informals’ that are usually held between selected sets of governments.  But this would further undermine the role of the UNFCCC in achieving an effective response to the challenges of climate change and shift the balance to other fora that have established ways of better engaging their full range of stakeholders.

IMG_0758Today, the Global Adaptation Institute met with ambassadors from CARICOM, an economic and political cooperative association of 15 Caribbean nations, to discuss the Global Adaptation Index™ (“GaIn™”) and its implications for Caribbean nations. The Caribbean as a whole faces challenges coping with rising sea levels and potentially stronger and more frequent hurricanes and tropical storms.

While all Caribbean nations are significantly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other global forces, some nations, such as the Bahamas and St. Lucia, show strong signs of being able to cope with current and future challenges as indicated by their high readiness scores.

Convening at the Organization of American States, participants addressed several issues  unique to the region, such as attracting diversified private sector investment and data collection on key vulnerability and readiness indicators. The Institute is thankful for the opportunity to hear and follow up on the concerns of these countries.

LIsten to Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region discuss climate challenges as well as opportunities for the continent of Africa.


Global Adaptation Institute Chief Scientist, Dr. Ian Noble, attended two meetings on adaptation in Europe this week. Dr. Noble met with members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Adaptation Private Sector Initiative. Nov. 15 in Bonn, Germany. Here he presented to approximately 50 UNFCCC staff the latest work of the Institute and findings from the Global Adaptation Index. The Institute will continue to engage this group on adaptation and the private sector in the coming years. 

The following day in Paris, France, Dr. Noble met with leading technical specialists involved in the development of adaptation metrics to discuss different approaches to measuring vulnerability and resilience. The main goal of many indices discussed is to guide the allocation of resources (such as the Green Climate Fund) between countries. Dr. Noble explained that GaIn is not intended to be an allocation tool, but rather a navigation tool to point to areas of risk and opportunity and to make progress.

Chicago SkylineThe Institute just met with Bob Doppelt of the Oregon-based The Resource Innovation Group. Doppelt wears a variety of hats, including teaching at the University of Oregon and supporting the Climate Access network. Now he has set his sites on identifying the most resilient regions in the U.S. 

This initiative, tentatively titled “The Climate Safe Haven Program,” will determine what “regions” (a geographic area relatively self-sufficient in food, energy and water) posses exceptional ecological, social, economic and governance resiliency. Indicators will be developed to identify these resilient “hot spots” to ensure that these areas are protected and possibly favored for human habitation.

What might be a counterintuitive goal to some (shouldn’t all adaptation efforts be directed toward the least resilient areas?), for Doppelt is based on principles of conservation biology:

When systems are fragmented and degraded, the first and most important step is to secure the best remaining habitats so that organisms - in this case humans and other species - have a place to ride out tough times in decent shape. Restoration efforts then expand out from the refuges. Eventually, a set of intact habitat strongholds can be linked together into a ‘string of pearls.’

"Migrating" to resiliency likely becomes easier and easier the more local the decision making — think of a household residing on a hill v. a vulnerable floodplain. However, at a global scale, all nations must become more resilient. The idea of bolstering one country over another based only on its current resilience would be an untenable policy position at the international level (we all can’t move to Denmark and Switzerland).

Ultimately, researching “safe havens” will benefit more vulnerable regions and communities. Understanding what factors make a region resilient can help areas less so work towards improving upon key ecological, social and economic indicators. In fact, at a national scale, that is one important goal of the Global Adaptation Index.