Today, 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.
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.
The 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.
There has already been significant media coverage of the losses Thailand’s flooding has created for multinational corporations. While the Thai government has pledged to prevent such disasters from occurring again, this single incident may now spur investors, particularly the Japanese, to reconsider their business strategies.
As Bloomberg reports, Japanese investors may move more production to countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam in an attempt to diversify their supply chains. Lakis Polycarpou, of the Earth Institute’s Columbia Water Center, takes the implications of the Thai floods a step further. He asks if the low inventory, cost saving “just-in-time" production method, heralded by Toyota, could be in jeopardy if climate disasters are on the rise:
It goes without saying that globalized supply chains are a hallmark of the globalized economy – but what happens when climate and water risks make those supply chains less tenable? To put it another way, is there a point at which the economic risks of globalized supply chains outweigh the benefits?
One solution is the less efficient path of increasing inventory. Another strategy, as Polycarpou points out, is to utilize evolving climate data and forecasting technology to better locate facilities and safeguard operations. Government and academic research institutions are at the forefront of this research, however, technology firms, such as Cisco, exemplify private sector opportunities to monitor and evaluate global environmental and climatic conditions.
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Transparency International just released its climate change Global Corruption Report. The extensive report is downloadable here in several languages and sections — section 5 focuses solely on strengthening accountability in adaptation.
James Lewis’ chapter, “Climate-proofing development: Corruption risks in adaptation infrastructure,” is particularly interesting to the Institute. The construction industry, which often consists of public-private collaborations, will be crucial in reducing the vulnerabilities of urban areas, transportation routes and water systems. However, Lewis points out that corruption can account for 5 - 20 percent of total construction costs. Given the long supply chains and various local, national and international governance structures involved with large infrastructure projects, corruption risks are high. For adaptation projects designed to save lives, substandard construction due to corruption is particularly worrisome.
Increased overall transparency and accountability is recommended, using tools such as Transparency International’s own Project Anti-Corruption System (PACS).
Other chapters discuss accountability in national and multi lateral projects and financing. Many challenges remain in ensuring that adaptation projects deliver on donor investments, are traceable and are distinguishable from traditional development. This last objective, proving the “additionality” of adaptation projects, will be particularly contentious moving forward — environmentalist have already accused the EU of “re-labelling" development aid as climate financing.
While many future transparency initiatives will be directed specifically toward international donor institutions and governments, understanding how and where such corruption occurs will be very useful for the private sector. Both public relations and market risks exist if customers and stakeholders challenge claims that a product or project provides adaptation benefits.
The get the “adaptation industry” up and going, business leaders will need to be clear that their actions are reducing vulnerabilities and improving lives.
We will keep you updated on our and others’ work in this field.
The Pacific Rim Coordination Center (PRCC) has just released a showcase website where they emphasize on OpenData when dealing with coordination and data driven decision.
The map above shows flooding (as black) within Thailand, as provided by the Rapid Response team at NASA. On the same showcase page more maps are available, like tsunami run-ups, Floods, landslides or cyclone tracks.
As pointed out on the PRCC site, creating and having access to appropriate and relevant data is of uttermost importance. At our Institute these principles, and the increasing availability of data, leds us to create our Index solely based on freely available data. Furthermore our entire Index and methodology is in itself OpenData as well. Why? Because it lets us build on reputable data, because the transparency it provides greatly facilities engaging on candid and constructive consultations… but above all, because it just makes sense. We are about improving resilience to a reality where millions of people face challenges to their life and livelihoods. We need data driven pragmatic solutions. OpenData are the bricks to build those solutions.
Data, and maps like the ones above, are part of the solution. It allow us, everyone, to understand the situation, address current data gaps and, step by step, better measure what matters.
Listen to PepsiCo Senior Director of Sustainability Dan Bena’s overview of PepsiCo’s major sustainability initiatives on Nature of Business radio. PepsiCo is undertaking a variety of initiatives and partnerships strengthening adaptation in the agriculture and water sectors.
Dan Bena was kind enough to send a “shout out” to GAIN during the interview.
Bena also has a new book out Sustain-Ability.
The Stockholm Environment Institute’s Åsa Persson just released a working paper discussing the feasibility of creating an “adaptation marketplace.” Unlike trading in carbon credits, multiple factors hinder the progression of global transactions between those who would demand and those who would supply adaptation “credits.” Traditional carbon or pollution markets involve a politically-established cap on emissions, standardized units (metric tons of CO2 equivalent) and clear government or voluntary guidelines for monitoring and evaluation.
Persson points out that these and other conditions simply don’t exist in the adaptation arena. There is clearly no government or international mandate for adaptation. Quantifying the adaptation benefits of specific actions would be quite a chore — how does one easily value the implementation of a disaster alert system against a water purification system? Even if attempts at commensurating different adaptation projects took place, the monitoring and evaluations of such projects in diverse cultures and geographies for this purpose would likely prove prohibitively expensive.
She does leave open the possibility that budgets/costs could be used as a “rough proxy” for an adaptation finance market and argues that as international institutions increasingly push for measuring project outcomes, standardization, and thus, some baseline for a market could form.
With the unlikely formation of a global adaptation market, from where will demand for adaptation come? It will come from awareness, particularly at the local level, of the increasing climatic risks, resource constraints and population pressures bearing down on the most vulnerable around the world. Disseminating information, conveying the importance of data and promoting economic opportunity are actions that can help bring about this awareness and are key to the Global Adaptation Institute’s work going forward.
Increasingly, the “supply” of adaptation will need to come from the private sector. Again, deciphering adaptation data and information will help businesses invest in current and anticipated demand. We think GaIn is an important first step in this direction.