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.

Thailand Flood - Street View

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.

Transparency International just released its climate change Global Corruption RepSlide1ort. 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-upsFloodslandslides 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