Bringing innovation to practice in adapting to climate change.

The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017

You might have missed it under the deluge of Trump and Brexit news, but the UK Climate Risk Assessment 2017 was published last month. A five-yearly requirement under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the results will be used to inform the development of the next instalment of the UK National Adaptation Programme, due in 2018.

The report agrees with the assessment of the 6 priority areas identified in the supporting Evidence Report and outlines the broad policy measures the Government is taking to address the risks identified. For a very accessible summary see this video by the Commitee on Climate Change.


Priority areas in the UKCRA 2017 

The good news here is that the Government remains committed to action on climate change, and confirms that statutory requirements under the 2008 Climate Change Act are not affected by Brexit. What we get in practice, however, will depend to a great extent on the evolution of UK policy on the Environment and Climate Change following withdrawal from the EU - as a recent House of Lords report makes clear, ensuring environmental protection (and enforcement) will be a complex process, with significant risk of watering down of regulations for short-term political gain. Regardless of what emerges from that process, what is clear is that action now is essential to create more resilient communities, business and infrastructre. 

Want to know more about how to successfully manage climate risks in your work, and identify opportunities to increase resilience? Applications are open for the 2017 Adaptation Academy in Oxford are now open! 


The impact of failing to understand information flow within climate adaptation and resilience responses

Each year, at the Oxford Adaptation Academy, participants develop 'stakeholder maps' to establish the impact of their work and to highlight areas that their plans may not be addressing adequately. In a more traditional project management methodology, such as SSADM (Structured Systems Analysis and Design Methodology) or Business System Develop...
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3 key challenges for Green Investment Banks

A recent OECD/New Climate Economy report on Green Investment Banks (GIBs) has found that 12 ‘GIB or GIB-like’ institutions now exist across the world, almost all of which have been created in the past 5 years. While the progress highlighted in the report is promising, my impression is that 3 key challenges remain for these institutions in promoting large-scale, low-carbon resilient development:

  1. Achieving transformational change from a relative niche
  2. Increasing the focus on financing adaptation
  3. Moving away from a reliance on public funds

Transformational change from a relative niche

The finance mobilized by GIBs to date is not enough to ensure the low-carbon vision for the future laid out by the Paris Agreement, nor ensure resilience in our global infrastructure over the coming century. The flagship UK GIB has committed GBP 3.4billion to the UK’s ‘green economy’ since its inception (approximately USD 4.2billion at today’s exchange rates), compared to roughly USD 56billion invested nationally in clean energy and energy efficiency from Germany’s mainstream national development bank, KfW, in 2015 alone.

The OECD/NCE report concludes with an analysis of the merits of creating Green Investment Banks versus mainstreaming green principles across the board in existing National and Multilateral Development Banks. This is essentially a trade-off between the independence and maneuverability of smaller dedicated institutions, and the potential for impact of larger, established entities. One way or another a step change is needed in the current impact of GIBs.

An increased focus on adaptation

Within the objectives of the GIBs studied in this report, most mention tackling harmful greenhouse gas emissions, particularly through clean energy investments. But very few (if any) focus on preparing our current and future infrastructure to withstand the threats of climate change. All 4 of the UK GIB’s ‘investment sectors’, for example, are targeted at emission-reducing schemes in the energy sector, with no mention of climate resilience.

The focus of GIBs on mitigation over adaptation reflects a broader consensus that low-carbon investments offer more viable economic opportunities than projects focused on adaptation. There is some truth to this. The markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency are now well established, and offer short term returns on investments, as well as broader cost-saving opportunities. On the other hand, the market for products and services that offer climate resilience is still emerging, and complicated by the difficulties of defining and measuring adaptation and the long-term rates of return associated with resilience investments.

However, the market for resilience has the potential to be far greater than the market for low-carbon, and given the increasing costs associated with climate impacts, GIBs will need to become much smarter about promoting resilience, to ensure the longevity of the predicted USD 90trillion in infrastructure investments set to be made over the next 15 years.

Transition away from a reliance on public backing

Regardless of the perceived risks associated with the privatisation of UK GIB, this must be the ultimate goal of all such institutions, once initial public support has allowed them to achieve competitive rates of return. Whilst public control of GIBs lends benefits in the shape of transparency, accountability, and the security of investments, the reliance on public capitalization stymies the level of total finance that can be raised. To meet the estimated USD 16.5trillion of investment in mitigation needed to ensure global warming is kept to 2 degrees, let alone challenges of climate-proofing global infrastructure, climate-smart investments must prove themselves to be on a par with conventional investments in terms of rates of return, and tap into the vast well private capital looking for viable investments.

Green Investment Banks have shown solid results in terms of mobilizing private investment for infrastructure, creating jobs, and reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. We wait to see if this new finance can achieve transformational sustainable development.


Is Global Climate Change Good for Business?

Is Global Climate Change Good for Business?
By Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson, head of the proadapt facility in the Multilateral Investment Fund, outlines how the market for climate resilience is potentially far larger even than the rapidly growing markets of renewable energy and energy efficiency.


... A First Inquiry into the Market for Climate Resilience


A new study attempts to shed some light on the growing market opportunity posed by climate resilience. The inquiry, by the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership in the United Kingdom and Grupo Laera in Colombia, will assess the markets for climate-resilience solutions in two sectors, agriculture and transportation, in three emerging markets: Colombia, South Africa, and the Philippines. These solutions are in the form of many types of products and services that help buyer better manage their exposure to climate risks, and they also include emerging investment models and public-private partnerships that help to reduce climate vulnerability....


 Read the entire article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fomin/is-global-climate-change_b_14552270.html


Growth in the wrong place: water and jobs in the U.S

The U.S has a problem. No, not that one, but a very particular problem related to the geography of growth and water availability. Put simply, both population growth and job growth in the U.S appears to increasingly concentrated in a handful of states, while a significant number, in particular in the Midwest, are experiencing decreases in population, with internal migration playing an big role. Adam Carstens has a neat summary at Medium highlighting these trends, and Forbes notes that 7 of the 10 of their ‘best for jobs’ cities in 2017 are concentrated in water-stressed western states (Utah, Arizona, Texas and California). Importantly, these are not just short-term blips, but reflect longer-term changes as well – 7 of the 10 fastest growing states from 1990-2000 were also western states.

US Population Growth

 Population growth in the U.S 2015-2016. Source: Business Insider


The problem here is that this growth is occurring in the hottest and driest parts of the country, in places already facing major challenges with water availability and drought. The EPA are clear that higher temperatures, reduced snowpack, and changes to precipitation will reduce soil moisture and run-off in the region, and that’s before accounting for population growth. And while the severe drought in California looks to be breaking, it highlights the type of conditions we can expect more of.

US Precipitation

 Annual precipitation in the U.S. Source USGS.

Additionally, with ageing infrastructure the U.S is facing an under-reported and under-acknowledged crisis in delivering safe water right now. So we have job and population growth interacting with both existing challenges in water supply, and the likelihood of decreases in overall availability as climate impacts ramp up. There are clearly very good reasons to move to the south-west of the U.S (as I write this I’m painfully aware of the difference in sunshine between there and rainy Bristol!), but it is clear that the movement of people into a water-stressed region is intensifying what would already be a big challenge. Which is another way of saying that people’s decisions on where to live and where to move are driven by a large number of factors, in which climate change doesn’t figure: broad socio-economic trends can be maladaptive.

On the positive side this is being taken seriously at the state-level, with several pieces of legislation targeting agricultural and residential water efficiency in California and other states. The negative? That other problem! This is exactly the sort of long-term problem that requires federal leadership coupled with strong science and the empowerment of bodies like NOAA and the EPA.