Climate change driving fungal disease that could wipe out banana crops

Climate change driving fungal disease that could wipe out banana crops

By Will Bugler

A fungal disease that attacks banana crops is on the rise thanks to climate change, suggests new research. Black Sigatoka, also known as “black leaf streak,” has been on the move since the 1960s from Asia to areas now including the Caribbean, Latin America and most recently to parts of Florida.

The fungal disease can reduce fruit production on infected plants by up to 80 percent, according to a study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

The research found that changes to moisture and temperature conditions as a result of climate change have increased the risk of Black Sigatoka by more than 44 percent in affected areas during the past six decades.

“This research shows that climate change has made temperatures better for spore germination and growth, and made crop canopies wetter, raising the risk of Black Sigatoka infection in many banana-growing areas of Latin America,” said the study’s lead author Daniel Bebber of the University of Exeter.

The study makes no predictions about what future climate change might mean for the spread of the fungus or the risk to future banana crops throughout the world. However, it is indicative of the increased risk of pests and diseases that many crops face as global temperatures rise.

The study can be found here.

Cover photo by Lotte Löhr on Unsplash.
How can the biodiversity and climate crises be tackled together?

How can the biodiversity and climate crises be tackled together?

By Natalie Sauer

Ecologists have long conceived of the earth as a living organism where every plant, animal, river and cloud are interconnected.

In the political sphere, however, the climate and biodiversity crises have more often than not remained solidly bunkered away from each other. That could be changing.

A series of major meetings are pushing the governments of the world to address both crises as one. Experts hope they could lead to a major shift in the way we think about tackling climate change.

On Monday, a new blockbuster report revealed that up to one out of eight million known plant and animal species could be at risk of extinction.

Global warming is the third biggest factor driving species extinction after changes in land and sea use and the direct exploitation of organisms, according to the report by the UN’s biodiversity science body IPBES. A hike in temperature of just 1C has impacted life from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics. At 1.5C to 2C of warming – the goals of the Paris climate agreement – the report warns the ranges of most of the world’s species on land will shrink significantly.

But this relationship, as scientists and politicians increasingly note, isn’t only negative: often – though not always – conservation efforts bolster the climate too. Healthy ecosystems are imperative for the earth’s capacity to mop up C02.

“We know that ecosystems are currently absorbing 25% of emissions. Another 25% of our emissions are going into the oceans, which is causing ocean acidification,” Guy Midgley, a coordinating lead author of the report, said on Monday. “Together, that’s half of our emissions not ending in the atmosphere because of the health of our ecosystems.”

Though some ecosystems act as better sponges than others. Coastal habitats, such as mangroves, sea grass and salt marshes can soak up carbon up to 40 times faster than tropical forests. Peatlands, which cover 3% of the land surface, represent the largest terrestrial carbon store.

Meanwhile, evidence of the critical role of certain animals in the maintenance of these ecosystems continues to stack up. Known in zoology as cornerstone species, the beaver is vital to wetlands through dam construction, the scaly pangolin protects forests from termite ravages, while by stomping vegetation, African forest elephants encourage the growth of larger trees capable of absorbing more carbon.

It is estimated that so-called ‘nature-based solutions’, which benefit climate and biodiversity, could provide 40% of the carbon emissions cuts needed by 2030 to give a decent chance of limiting warming below 2C. Yet they receive less than 3% of climate funding.

Conservationists familiar with diplomatic negotiations on biodiversity and climate change complain of bureaucratic ghettos. The two UN programmes, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), don’t really talk to each other, Beatriz Luraschi, a researcher on climate change and biodiversity at the UK nature charity RSPB, told Climate Home News.

While “the CBD has always been more inclusive of other issues, including climate change,” Luraschi said, citing a decision passed at the CBD in 2018 in Egypt calling on states to slash emissions through ecosystems, “the same level of interest in biodiversity has never been reflected in the same formal setting in the UNFCCC. Even though there is some language in the Paris Agreement on maintaining environmental integrity, it just isn’t as explicit.”

This is changing. Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI), notes that there is growing appetite within the UN for literature on the crossovers, with a major report by the think tank due to be released in September.C

“It’s great that people are connecting the dots,” Seymour told CHN.  Forest and land emissions have long been a “stepchild in the broader climate world”, she said, which has focused on energy and other fossil fuel sources. The proximity of the IPBS report to a recent major release from the UN’s climate science panel has helped focus attention on the crossover.

The momentum to bring the two issues together is set to pick up at a flurry of critical gatherings in the next 18 months. UN chief Antonio Guterres will be calling on governments to present plans to slash emissions at a climate action summit in September. In December, climate talks in Chile are expected to focus on the importance of ocean health.

In autumn 2020, China will host a landmark summit on biodiversity in Kunming. The meeting is set to define new biodiversity targets, with expectations running high after governments failed to meet goals (2011-2020) formulated during the CBD in Aichi, Japan in 2010. Many hope this to be biodiversity’s Paris moment.

“People can’t help but see them as milestones in one roadmap towards either disaster or redemption,” Seymour said.

Overall, diplomatic initiatives aimed at tackling both crises are on the rise. With the meeting of G7 environment ministers coinciding with the publication of the IPBS report, heads of state issued the Metz Charter on Biodiversity. The non-binding document called on the group to recognise the vital role of biodiversity in contributing to climate regulation and helping communities combat natural disasters.  The group also committed to deploy “nature-based solutions… which can also enhance climate change mitigation and ecosystem restoration.”

Meanwhile, China (alongside New Zealand) is heading a UN working group on nature-based solutions, in the run-up to September’s climate action summit in New York. The aim is to encourage states to incorporate nature-based solutions in their climate pledges to the Paris Agreement.

Seymour hopes governments will put their money where their mouths are. “We haven’t seen a shift yet in financial resources… We’re off by an order of magnitude,” Seymour said. If countries update their climate commitments to include serious efforts on nature it “will really embody whether we’re serious about this or not”.

But this effort is not without obstacles, Li Shuo at Greenpeace China told CHN. “I think one challenge that this track faces is that the topic of nature-based solutions was sort of overlooked by the climate community. There wasn’t much diplomatic groundwork done on this issue.”

With land-use, agriculture and nature-related sectors contributing less than 10% of Chinese emissions, “energy and transportation-related issues are traditionally perceived as our climate issue”, Li said. “It’s a new learning process for government officials who are chairing this track.”

“The challenge for China is twofold: it has to start the action domestically. In the context of the the UN Climate Action Summit, China’s job is about inspiring the entire membership of the UN on this particular topic,” Li said.

When it comes to biodiversity, China and France are developing their own visions of leadership. The Chinese government is “now paying very close attention to the negotiations” leading to next year’s CBD meeting, with “the entire bureaucracy mobilised to deliver a good outcome”, Li told CHN.

But France, the host of the Paris Agreement, is pursuing a grander vision – a new overarching global treaty for nature. Back in 2017, Emmanuel Macron floated the idea of a treaty that would aid cooperation on environmental blights, such as plastics, but also the biodiversity and climate crises.

Next year, the port city of Marseille is set to host the World Conservation Congress. President of International Union for Conservation of Nature Zhang Xinsheng described the event as “central in mobilising the international community ahead of critical decisions to be taken later that year regarding global efforts to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change”.

Cover photo by Johnny Chen on Unsplash.
This article originally appeared on Climate Home News.
Compound heatwaves have double impact

Compound heatwaves have double impact

By Tim Radford

Be ready for climate hazard in a new form – the compound heat waves that hit you, leave you, and come back again.

As the world warms, say US scientists, the risk of economically devastating, physically debilitating and potentially lethal extremes of heat will multiply, and in unexpected ways.

Researchers picture a world in which the most vulnerable – those already ill or elderly, housed in substandard buildings in crowded cities – are laid low and gasping by several days of extreme heat. Even if the temperatures drop a little, the buildings in which they live will still “store” heat to intolerable levels.

And then, unexpectedly, the extremes of heat return. Hospitals could be overwhelmed. Electric grids might experience overload. Harvests could wither. And the weakest could dehydrate and die.

“Averaged over time, heat waves are the most deadly type of disaster in the United States, in addition to causing many emergency room visits, lost working hours and lower agricultural yields,” said Jane Baldwin of Princeton University in the US.

“Surveys of low income housing in places such as Harlem have found that after a heat wave has ended, temperatures indoors can remain elevated”

“However, if you look at the deadliest heat waves in Europe and the United States, many have more unusual temporal structures with temperature jumping above and below extremely hot levels multiple times.”

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that as the planet warms overall, the number of places where potentially deadly heat waves will hit will inevitably rise.

If humans go on burning fossil fuels at ever-increasing levels, then heat waves usually experienced once a century could return every few years, to become the “new normal.”

By 2100, most people on the planet could be at risk some of the time as heat extremes become more severe, and more frequent.

In some parts of the world, the combination of high humidity and high temperature really could kill after a few hours, and new research has started to assess the probability of potential famine, simply because devastating extremes of heat could endanger crop yields on two continents in the same year.

Gauging probabilities

Heat extremes can kill – the 2010 heat wave in Russia is estimated to have caused around 56,000 extra deaths – and US scientists recently counted 27 ways that sweltering heat can claim lives and devastate families.

The Princeton study, in the journal Earth’s Future, is a preliminary look simply at the probabilities of back-to-back heatwaves. Policymakers, city authorities and medical chiefs need to know what new hazards global heating can bring, and the study is, the scientists say, just a first step.

But it identifies the precise problems that come with severe temperatures, especially for the already vulnerable, even in the world’s richest cities, such as New York.

“Surveys of low income housing in places such as Harlem have found that after a heat wave has ended, temperatures indoors can remain elevated for a number of days,” Dr Baldwin said. A swift return of the big heat could multiply the stresses.

And her co-author Michael Oppenheimer said: “We want to know how the effects of compound heat waves will differ from – and amplify – the already severe consequences for human health, infrastructure stability and crop yield that we see from single event heat waves.”

Cover photo by Maud Correa on Unsplash.
This article was originally published on the Climate News Network.
Video: Our changing fisheries: voices from Montserrat

Video: Our changing fisheries: voices from Montserrat

By Acclimatise News

A new video, “Our Changing Fisheries: Voices from Montserrat”, shines a light on the climate challenges being faced by Island nations’ fishing industries. The video, created by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), highlights climate change impacts highlighted include rough seas, changing currents and more extreme hurricanes and storms that affect ability to fish and cause damage to fishing grounds and gear.

The video features local voices and perspectives from fisherfolk and other coastal and marine resource users on changes being experienced in Montserrat’s fisheries sector in the context of climate change, and ideas for building their resilience.

The video was developed as part of the Darwin Plus project, Climate change adaptation in the fisheries of Anguilla and Montserrat. This project is being implemented by CANARI in partnership with the Fisheries and Ocean Resources Unit – Montserrat, Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources – Anguilla and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) – University of the West Indies.

CANARI and the Fisheries and Ocean Resources Unit – Montserrat are continuing to work with the Montserrat fisherfolk and other coastal and marine stakeholders to disseminate the video and enable knowledge exchange to adapt and build resilient fisheries and related livelihoods.

Cover photo by Zhan Zhang on Unsplash.
Voluntary climate disclosures can reduce litigation risk

Voluntary climate disclosures can reduce litigation risk

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor, Richard Bater, Nadine Coudel

Climate risk disclosures are now a crucial part of the voluntary disclosure activities of many corporates and financial institutions. As these disclosures grow, questions around the extent to which they may leave disclosers exposed to litigation linger. Recent analysis from the accounting literature indicates that voluntary disclosures can actually lead to reduced litigation risk however. This article looks to these recent studies in other areas of voluntary disclosure to explore this question, and reviews changes underfoot that could increase litigation risk in the medium-term.

Does voluntary disclosure reduce or increase litigation risk? 

As capital markets began to grow and open up in the last century, it soon became clear that traditional financial reporting frameworks were not able to fill the information gaps between shareholders (investors) and corporate management according to researchers Schuster and O’Connell. Voluntary disclosure grew out of the need to fill the gap between the management’s view of the company’s value and what the market or investors saw as the view of the company’s value.

Corporates’ key performance data, for example, was not fully captured in conventional financial reports. As such, a number of frameworks for value-based reporting emerged in the 1990’s, which call for a range of voluntary disclosures such as forecasts of threats and opportunities, information on tangible and intangible assets, and management, among others. Coupled with the advent of technological advancements such as the internet, which for the first time allowed for rapid information dissemination via corporate websites, voluntary disclosures among corporates took off and are now part and parcel of firms’ external communications.

As public interest in the transparency around the procedures, policies, governance structures, and risk management strategies of corporates and financial institutions continues to grow, an important debate has unfolded around the relationship between voluntary disclosures and litigation risk. Litigation risk is, simply put, the potential that legal action could be taken because of a corporation’s products, actions, inaction, etc. The current debate centres around whether or not voluntary disclosure reduces or increases litigation risk, and following that, if litigation risk increases voluntary disclosures.

Researchers Dong and Zhang find evidence – in the US context – that litigation risk increases voluntary disclosure. The authors hypothesise that this may be the case either because disclosures could work to invalidate claims the firm is withholding information from investors, or because disclosures can help prevent one trigger of investor lawsuits – namely stock price crashes. Further analysis also indicates in the US, in instances of lower litigation risk, the likelihood and frequency of disclosures (e.g. earnings forecasts) are reduced, in particular for companies conveying negative news. This is a much-studied question in the accounting literature, however, and empirical evidence suggests litigation risk may deter disclosures. This may be the case because lawsuits could emerge after forward-looking disclosures are proven untrue after the fact.

Disclosing climate change-related risks may reduce litigation risks

Climate risk disclosures are now firmly part of the voluntary disclosure landscape, in part due to voluntary carbon disclosure frameworks such as the CDP and the more recent Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) established the TCFD in 2015, who published its final voluntary recommendations for climate risk and opportunity assessment and disclosure in 2017. The FSB was concerned that because of the information asymmetry between financial markets and those they are lending to, investing in, and insuring, climate risks are a threat to the stability of the wider financial system.

The TCFD recommendations have been taken up with gusto among corporates and financial institutions, with over 500 official supporters as of early 2019. Recent analysis shows that two out of three companies assessed have started to disclose climate change-related risks, though importantly, the quality of disclosures is still low, and disclosures have varied greatly across markets in the first few years of reporting, according an annual climate risk disclosure study. Given the growing number of finance and corporate actors starting to voluntarily disclose climate risks and opportunities, and the varying scope and quality of disclosures, the debate about the influence of voluntary disclosures on litigation risks is reawakened.

There is, however, a general anxiety among corporates and financial institutions that they could be held liable for their climate risks disclosures, concerns which have been used as reasoning for lack of action in this space. Others argue that companies and their directors are actually more likely to face litigation if they fail to assess and disclose climate-related financial risks. Evidence is emerging to that effect: in 2017, shareholders of the Australian Commonwealth Bank sued, alleging the Bank violated the Corporations Act of 2001 by failing to disclose climate-change risks in its 2016 annual report. Though the case was settled, it may be a sign of what is to come.

The Hutley opinion, a 2016 landmark legal opinion set out the ways that company directors who do not properly manage climate risk could be held liable for breaching their legal duty of due care and diligence. The 2019 supplementary opinion, provided again by Noel Hutley SC and Sebastian Hartford Davison on instruction from Sarah Barker, reinforces and strengthens the original opinion by highlighting the financial and economic significance of climate change and the resulting risks, which should be considered at board-level. As the 2016 opinion explains: “It is likely to be only a matter of time before we see litigation against a director who has failed to perceive, disclose or take steps in relation to a foreseeable climate-related risk that can be demonstrated to have caused harm to a company”.

There has been a marked increase in climate disclosure litigation since 2017, underpinned by innovations of legal argument, increasing awareness, and progress in scientific evidence. This can give rise to considerable legal and reputational costs regardless of outcome, especially where liabilities are not covered by liability insurance. The disclosure trajectory is clear, therefore firms that get ahead of the game stand to benefit from unearthing opportunities, win the confidence of investors and consumers, and minimise liability risk. To be clear, firms should follow best practice in order to reduce concerns around liability associated with TCFD-style scenario-analysis and disclosures. Further recommendations on this are available here.

Future legal developments

The legal and physical environment in which organisations (e.g. firms, municipalities, and financial institutions) are operating is in a period of rapid flux. Past knowledge and assumptions about the resilience of assets, investments and supply chains to climate risk may no longer be valid, potentially giving rise material financial risks that investors have a right to be informed about. Several changes are afoot that could increase litigation risk in the medium-term. In April 2019, the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority released a Supervisory Statement (SS) concerning banks’ and insurers’ management of climate risks. The SS sets out clear expectations regarding the strategic approach that banks and insurers will be expected to take, including appropriate disclosure of climate-related financial risks, with mandatory requirements not an impossibility in the medium term.

The obligations that Directors, boards, financial intermediaries are under are also in flux. New and existing reporting frameworks increasingly require reporting and / or disclosure of climate-related risks, whilst the attitude of investors, consumers, and regulators is hardening. All of this is serving to steadily evolve standards of professional practice and reasonable expectations of fiduciaries and officers under existing law.

Following the release of the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, in March 2019 the EU published is Action Plan on Sustainable Finance. With its declared ambitions to become a global leader in this area, the European Commission has announced that it will review reporting frameworks on non-financial information in line with TCFD and update accounting standards. The Commission is steadily laying the groundwork for sustainable finance regulation based on the Action Plan, whilst the European Parliament is also considering amendments to the IORP II Directive, that could require investment firms to consider and disclose ESG risks associated with occupational pensions. In the United States, there are legislative proposals to strengthen disclosure of climate risks to the SEC. From 2020, signatories to the widely-adopted Principles for Responsible Investment Reporting Framework will be required to report (not disclose) climate-related risks consistent with the TCFD.

A rapidly evolving legal and climatic context is shifting the context in which firms are operating. As firms and legal systems adjust to this new regime, litigation can be expected to hold firms accountable, test expectations, and clarify the law. Failing to keep pace with demands to manage and disclose climate risk in a dynamic climatic setting is likely to increase litigation risk, such as for breaches of duty, false or misleading disclosure, or non-disclosure. Organisations will need to ensure that disclosures are based on rigorous assessment and are accurately communicated to minimise litigation risk.

Acclimatise – experts in physical risk for responding to TCFD recommendations

Acclimatise has worked on physical climate risk and adaptation with corporates and financial institutions for over a decade, helping them identify and respond to physical risks and to take advantage of emerging opportunities generated by a changing climate. We have witnessed the corporate, societal and environmental benefits stemming from the promotion of resilience-building strategies.

To discuss how your organisation can meet TCFD requirements, and assess and disclose physical climate risks and opportunities, please contact Laura Canevari: L.Canevari(a)

To discuss how changes and developments in climate-related regulations may affect your operations, please contact Nadine Coudel: N.Coudel(a)

Cover photo by Kelvin Zyteng on Unsplash.
Civil works for RISE demonstration site underway

Civil works for RISE demonstration site underway

By Joy Amor Bailey

Civil works at the demonstration site for the Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) using a Water-sensitive Approach in Makassar, Indonesia are underway and due for completion by June 2019. The works use decentralized, green infrastructure to treat contaminated and polluted water. 

Using community-driven development approaches, the RISE project is empowering urban poor beneficiaries to co-design and implement nature-based solutions for sanitation, drainage, and water supply. These form part of their climate change adaptation response, as well as enhances the health and environmental conditions of the community.  

Ongoing installation of nature-based solutions for the RISE Project. 

The Urban Sector Group under the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is implementing this pilot project with funding from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund amounting to $196,000. Monash University is co-implementing the project, providing $93,000 for the equipment and civil works.  

The City Government of Makassar has also pledged to finance the construction and maintenance of other amenities such as street lighting and solid waste management, as well as the subsidies of up to $1,000 per housing unit to improve its structural integrity and reduce household vulnerability. 

In addition, ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, together with Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing, is currently preparing an investment grant that will replicate this project in additional sites. 

This article was originally published on ADB’s Livable Cities Blog.
Cover photo by Casey Schackow on Unsplash.
Actuaries rate climate change as number 1 risk in new survey

Actuaries rate climate change as number 1 risk in new survey

By Acclimatise News

The people who are responsible for calculating insurance risks and premiums have ranked climate change as the top risk for 2019. Actuaries rated climate risk as a bigger threat to insurers than cyber-crime, financial instability, and terrorism.

The survey, published by the Joint Risk Management Section, found that over a fifth of the 267 actuaries surveyed, identified climate change as their number one emerging risk. Climate change was also the most significant combination risk, and importantly, was also tied first (with cyber/infrastructure) for the top current risk, putting paid to the idea that climate change is an issue for the future.

As one might expect, the insurance industry is ahead of the curve in terms of assessing climate risk exposure. However, because it is able to adjust its premiums regularly – typically on an annual basis – it is able to account for climate risk. Policy holders on the other hand, will see their premiums rise inexorably, until there is an unaffordability crisis.

Actuaries that are able to correctly account for climate risks are able to include price signals in premiums ahead of time, helping to encourage investment away from areas of high climate exposure. This would include, for instance, reckless lending on coastal real-estate in areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

The survey is a good indication that concern about climate risk is growing in the industry. Last year, fewer than one in ten respondents rated climate change as the top emerging risk.

Download the survey report here.

Coverphoto by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash.
Investor initiative to produce new guidance on understanding physical climate risks

Investor initiative to produce new guidance on understanding physical climate risks

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) has launched a new project to develop guidance for investors on how they integrate the risks and opportunities presented by the physical risks of climate change in their investment research and decision-making processes.

The project will develop an IIGCC investor guide focusing on physical climate risk analysis with technical input from the specialist advisory firms Acclimatise and Chronos Sustainability, in collaboration with IIGCC members.

IIGCC is leading the initiative with the support of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), one of the UK’s largest pension funds. Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, explains: “In many ways, adaptation is the missing issue in the climate change debate. IIGCC’s new initiative will help investors to understand its importance and act on adaptation to climate change as an investment issue. This includes ensuring investors have the practical tools to account for the physical risks of climate change and are able to act on the opportunities found in addressing the issue, across both investment decisions and company engagement.”

David Russell, Head of Responsible Investment at USS, adds: “One of the key contributions of this project will be to focus on the risk posed by climate change across a range of asset classes. This will include sectors that are both dependent on access to water and other environmental resources, and those potentially impacted by a changing climate.”

The new guidance will include an introduction to the investment implications of physical climate hazards, and will collate information on tools and data sources needed to manage physical climate risks. Available later this summer, the guidance also aims to propose a process that investors can go through to identify, assess, manage and disclose climate-related physical risks and opportunities across their portfolios.

The United Nations Environment Programme has shown that the cost of necessary adaptation to climate change is between $140 to $300 billion per year across the global economy by 2030 alone, and point to a major gap in adaptation finance[. This offers potential new investment opportunities, in which investors can help build broader climate resilience, while also mitigating future losses otherwise incurred. This initiative will help investors better understand the nature of this opportunity.

The initiative is delivered as part of IIGCC’s ‘Investor Practices’ programme, which helps asset owners and managers better assess and manage both climate risk and opportunity, and to report on their actions more effectively.

Cover photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash.
Climate risk driving increased urbanisation across Asia finds new global report

Climate risk driving increased urbanisation across Asia finds new global report

By Will Bugler

The Global Report on Internal Displacement reveals that 9.6 million new displacements were recorded in East Asia and the Pacific, and 3.8 million in South Asia in 2018. The drivers of internal displacement are complex including conflict, geophysical events such as earthquakes, and increasingly, extreme weather events.

The report finds that East Asia and the Pacific remains a disaster hotspot, with the Philippines and China accounting for 7.6 million new displacements last year. Most of these were pre-emptive evacuations as typhoons approached.

“It is the same countries affected year after year and, while the relative impacts and resilience to respond varies hugely across the region, over time resources and coping mechanisms are being eroded.” said Alexandra Bilak, IDMC’s director. “We must invest more heavily in strategies that reduce people’s exposure and vulnerability to the risks that cause internal displacement.”

Climate-related extreme weather events dominated displacement in many countries. For example, monsoon rains and flooding displaced hundreds of thousands in Myanmar, while Japan was struck by an unusually high number of disasters from storms to landslides. Flooding also affected many small island states in the Pacific.

Such events dwarfed displacement by conflict and violence in the region, most of which occurred in the Philippine region of Mindanao and Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan states.

In South Asia, India recorded around 2.8 million new displacements, among the highest figures in the world. Monsoon floods, particularly in the south-western state of Kerala, and cyclones were responsible for the majority. The monsoon season also brought significant flooding to both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Drought triggered 371,000 new displacements in Afghanistan, a similar number to those associated with the country’s ongoing conflict.

The report also highlighted that internal displacement is increasingly becoming an “urban phenomenon”, with people moving from their rural homes to find safety in cities. Dhaka, for example, is the preferred destination for many internally displaced people fleeing climate change impacts in coastal regions of Bangladesh. However, rapid urbanisation is also increased displacement risk. Cities in East Asia, for example, are expanding in areas highly exposed to hazards, such as the tropical cyclone belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire.

“The fact that cities have become sanctuary to more and more internally displaced people represents a challenge for municipal authorities, but also an opportunity.” Said Bilak. “Leveraging the positive role that local government can play in finding solutions to displacement will be key to addressing this challenge in the future.”

Download the report here.

Cover photo Cyclone Sidr Aftermath – Bangladesh / Wikimedia Commons
Climate poses direct risk to real estate investment says ULI report

Climate poses direct risk to real estate investment says ULI report

By Will Bugler

The known and growing risks posed by climate change to large-fixed asset investments, has done little to put off some lenders from financing real-estate in some of the world’s most vulnerable areas. Such actions are coming under increasing scrutiny, with many investors and forecasters calling them ‘insane’. In a recent report, the Urban Land Institute and real-estate investment management firm Heitman assess the potential impacts of climate change on real estate assets and give some direction as to what investment managers and institutional investors might do to understand and reduce their climate risk exposure.

The report shows that while although many assets held by real estate investors are in cities vulnerable to the effects of climate change, most still rely on insurance to guide their risk decisions. However, as premiums are based on historical events, they are not a robust guide to climate change risk to investments. The report shows that physical risks from catastrophic events and chronic climate risk from slower changes to weather patterns, pose direct risk to real estate investments.

Derived from a series of interviews with leading institutional investors, investment managers, investment consultants and others, the report also shows that a growing group of investors and investment managers are exploring new approaches to find better tools and common standards to help the industry get better at pricing in climate risk in the future. These include:

  • Mapping physical risk for current portfolios and potential acquisitions;
  • Incorporating climate risk into due diligence and other investment decision-making processes;
  • Incorporating additional physical adaptation and mitigation measures for assets at risk;
  • Exploring a variety of strategies to mitigate risk, including portfolio diversification and investing directly in the mitigation measures for specific assets; and
  • Engaging with policymakers on city-level resilience strategies, and supporting the investment by cities in mitigating the risk of all assets under their jurisdiction.

Such tools and methods are becoming necessary to reassure institutional investors and other lenders that their investments are secure. The report points to a series of resources, standards and guidelines that form part of a rapidly developing toolkit that can be used to better understand and manage climate risk.

It is becoming increasingly likely that investors will be expected, and indeed required, to ensure appropriate risk management measures are in place to protect investments from climate risk exposure, and to encourage more robust practices in real-estate construction and development.

A copy of the ULI report “Climate risk and real estate investment decision-making” can be found here.

Cover photo by Chuttersnap on Unsplash.