Category: Development

People power: How citizen science is building climate resilience in South Asia

People power: How citizen science is building climate resilience in South Asia

By Uma Pal

Climate change threatens to push back development and growth in the already vulnerable South Asian region. Action to build resilience of human and natural systems needs to be taken urgently and at an unprecedented scale. Diverse and extensive ecosystems, climates and socio-economic features in the region make it a challenge to collect adequate data and conduct research on the impacts of climate change. Citizen science can be a useful tool for mitigating this challenge and enabling more comprehensive research and resilience building initiatives both at the individual level and at scale.

In the wake of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Earth Challenge 2020 is being launched as the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign. This campaign is expected to engage citizens from across the world to collect and aggregate information on air quality, water quality, biodiversity, pollution and human health, and leverage it to influence policy decisions and action. Citizen science is widely recognised as an important approach, especially in the field of climate resilience, for raising awareness, bridging data and capacity gaps and influencing governance through actively engaging civil society in research and monitoring.

Citizen science approaches can bring scientists and communities closer, bridge the gap between research and uptake and build capacity of communities to tackle the impacts of climate change. Citizen science is essentially participatory in nature, which means that citizen scientists are actively involved through the process of collecting information, designing measures which help build their resilience and monitoring governance systems. Therefore, such initiatives can lend more rigour to or can be an entry point for broader adaptation spectrums such as community-based adaptation, climate resilient agriculture and climate resilient water management.

This is of relevance, especially in South Asia, where lives of the most vulnerable people are integrally linked to natural resources. For example, 60 percent of agricultural land in South Asia is rainfed. Governments in South Asian countries are already implementing participatory natural resource management initiatives such as the watershed development programmes across India by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, a government owned development financial institution. Along with ensuring active participation of communities in conservation and development activities, a targeted component of community led information collection and interpretation can further enhance their ability to perceive risks and help build a broader evidence base.

People-powered science is already underway in South Asia

In South Asia, citizen science approaches have started gaining momentum and are on their way to becoming an important component of resilience research and action. While targeted citizen science initiatives are still at a nascent stage in South Asia, the region has a significant pool of traditional and experiential knowledge which can be organised for collecting, analysing and sharing localised information.

The region is highly vulnerable to climate change due to diverse climates, existing socio-economic vulnerabilities and dependence of a large section of the population on agriculture and natural resources-based livelihoods. People working in agriculture or fishing, who are on the frontlines of climate change, can be trained to collect valuable information on variability and adaptation options for their areas. This implies that these communities bring with them years of knowledge and experience which are useful not just for collecting data but also for situating climate risks and resilience building initiatives within their own contexts.

In order to bring together scientific assessments and local knowledge on climate change in northeast Bangladesh, the Transforming Climate Knowledge with and for Society (TRACKS) project, coordinated by the University of Bergen, adopted a citizen science approach. This entailed a collaboration between scientists and locals to identify new methods of collecting climate information, especially in the absence of high-resolution data or accurate meteorological information. It was observed that many citizen scientists could make accurate predictions by combining information from various sources such as weather forecasts, temperature and humidity gauges installed at their homes and their localised observations. The project also built capacity amongst citizen scientists so they can accurately interpret different sets of accessible data and use them to make more informed decisions across the agricultural value chain. 

Citizen science initiatives are not limited to those whose livelihoods are directly linked to the climate. Based on the context and nature of information collection, any concerned citizen or civil society organisation can be a part of such initiatives. For example, SeasonWatch, a citizen science initiative, has been collecting data on the seasonal phases of common trees across India to gauge the impact of seasonal shifts. The initiative intends to corroborate anecdotal evidence with crowd sourced data and while anyone can participate in data collection, the programme focuses on schools as its volunteer base to enhance environmental awareness among youth.     

The outlook for citizen science

Citizen science is still new in South Asia and while some initiatives in the region are creating pools of vital information on biodiversity and ecosystems, this approach has not yet been taken up widely. This poses challenges in terms of lack of scalability and reach yet brings opportunities in terms of the new ways in which citizen science can be organised and tailored for the adaptation space in the region. Steps that can lead the way forward for citizen science initiatives in South Asia include:

  • raising awareness of communities and active citizen scientists on the impacts of climate change, building their capacity to collect, read and interpret localised data,
  • organising citizen scientists and linking them to natural and social scientists working in the field,
  • establishing long lasting relationships between citizen scientists and governing institutions to ensure that their research and findings inform policies and action,
  • enabling citizen scientists to hold governing institutions accountable, and
  • building a robust base for monitoring and evaluating the impact of citizen science on existing bodies of research and governance.

Citizen science offers great potential to contribute to our understanding of how to build resilience to climate impacts, especially in areas where climate and socio-economic data is scarce. Support for such programmes could also represent good value for money, and act to increase overall awareness and understanding of climate change and its impacts.


Coverphoto by Wonderlane on Unsplash.
Analysing the European climate services demand – drivers of adaptation and recommendations

Analysing the European climate services demand – drivers of adaptation and recommendations

By Richard Bater

Climate change results in specific and uneven impacts that are dependent on the sensitivities of each sector and asset. Moreover, the risks associated with climate change raise implications throughout sector value chains and across asset lifecycles, from planning and design to commodity pricing and trading. The interconnected, geographically dispersed nature of much of today’s economic activity means that climate risks can rapidly cascade through global value chains, transforming and transmitting physical risks in one place into material, liability and other risks in other places.

The MARCO (MArket Research for a Climate services Observatory) project assesses the vulnerabilities and needs of different climate service markets, and the conditions that could enable the market to flourish in future. The overriding purpose of this analysis is to help climate-proof Europe through addressing gaps and vulnerabilities in Europe’s capacity to adjust to a new climate reality, and guide development of climate services that better meet these needs.

In partnership with LGi, Acclimatise has led a multi-national consortium to undertake deep-dive studies regarding demand for climate services for a range of sectors and regions across Europe. This work has resulted in a method for conducting risk-based market analysis of demand for climate services that can be replicated in any sector or region. Drawing on the insights of more than one hundred stakeholders, the sectors analysed by the project span Copenhagen real estate to Austrian alpine winter tourism, and also includes the first integrated analysis of the implications of climate change for legal services and its potential demand for climate-related information. Collectively, the sectors and regions covered by the studies account for €247.9bn of economic output and support 2.25 million jobs.

The full set of studies and synthesis report can be found at the end of this article.

Key results

It is shown that decreasing precipitation and higher maximum temperatures pose a risk the greatest number of sectors and regions studied. It is essential to note, however, that physical exposure and vulnerability to hazards are only one indicator of potential demand; compliance-driven climate risk disclosure obligations are likely to result in more generalised uptake of services catering to such needs.

Across sectors, the studies highlight two important lapses in governance that lead to climate risks being unmanaged. First, users often demonstrate a ‘proximity bias’; a tendency to attend to near-term risks or base decisions on historical experience, rather than on an awareness of risks expected to materialise now and in future. This can result in climate risk being viewed as a discrete, ‘horizon’ issue to be dealt with later, rather than a stressor of today’s risks that calls to be dealt with sooner.

This can give rise to at least three challenges. First, the unevenly felt and – with time – diminishing influence of climate events of decision making means that risks may lack systematic solutions, and may quickly slip down the agenda as other priorities come to the fore. Second, an absence of either experience of extreme climate events or legal duties to manage risks can result in latent risks being unmanaged and opportunities unexploited. Third, in either case chronic climate risks may be left entirely unexamined and unmanaged, despite these potentially resulting in higher liabilities being accrued in the long term.

Second, an absence of clear responsibility for managing climate risks, particularly in sectors typified by long or complex value chains, can result in risks to people or property being left unclaimed and therefore unmanaged. This can ultimately increase aggregate net risk to asset owners, reinsurers, and wider society.

Other key findings include:

  • Sectors best served by climate services are: water, energy, agriculture, urban planning, education, and forestry. These sectors tend to be ‘strategic’ or well provisioned by existing weather service providers.
  • Overall, there is a very low demand-side awareness of what climate services are, the benefits they may bring, or where they may be sought.
  • Far-sighted organisations are recognising that addressing climate change can help – rather than hinder – the realisation of existing strategic goals.
  • Studies identify several drivers of climate service use, as shown in the table below:
Why adapt?
Contribute to building the resilience of communities and ecosystems
Optimised risk pricing
Ensure resilience of operations, products, and services
Reduce the cost of material inputs
Ensure business continuity and realisation of strategic goals
Bolster credit worthiness, investor appeal, and insurability
Mitigate liability risks
Enhance intangible / reputational value
No-/low-regret adaptation fortifies organisation
Exploit emerging opportunities

Despite these advantages, across sectors the studies show that organisations are more likely to produce climate services and be ahead on building resilience if have one or more of the following attributes:

  • They have a long-term investment in their organisation or project;
  • They have direct experience of dealing with the impacts of climate hazards;
  • They own or operate large-scale fixed assets, often strategic in nature;
  • The public sector has a stake in the organisation, resulting that public policy priorities are brought to bear on an organisation’s governance and planning.

Future

The market for climate services is in a state of flux, with evolving soft and hard regulatory frameworks driving demand for new types of climate services from new sectors:

  1. The EU High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, the European Pensions Directive IORP II, and the Finance Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures is bringing about change in the regulatory environment;
  2. Directors’, trustees’, and professional duties are evolving in light in respect of climate related liability;
  3. Climate change is increasingly viewed as a material financial risk and C-suite issue, as investors and others increasing expect to know the extent of corporate exposure to climate risks and the steps being taken to manage those risks;
  4. Increasing understanding of the material and reputational benefits of building resilience, such as improved operational performance over asset lifecycles and better managing investments in higher-risk assets (both transition and physical risk).

MARCO’s sector studies identified several recommendations to strengthen and harmonise the resilience building effort across Europe as well as better guide the climate services sector develop and scale advanced climate services that meet user needs:

  • Legislate for a clear, comprehensive, and harmonised legal framework for climate resilience that bring forward the time horizon for action on climate-related risk;
  • Design or upgrade plans, rules and standards that activate the framework at sectoral and regional levels in a coordinated but differentiated fashion;
  • Increase awareness – on both the demand and supply sides – about climate impacts at the level of specific sectors and regions;
  • Implement climate resilience strategies and measures at the level of each organisation;
  • Delineate responsibility for climate change adaptation or mitigation at the level of each organisation or project;
  • Continue to optimise climate services that meet the needs of end users;
  • Climate services should be demand-driven whilst being science-based. Prospective users are sensitive to the reliability and credibility of climate services, therefore appropriate quality assurance should be considered (e.g. professional charters).

Sectors covered:

  • Real estate (Denmark)
  • Mining (Europe)
  • Legal services (UK / global)
  • Renewable energy (Denmark)
  • Critical energy infrastructure (Germany)
  • Water infrastructure (Spain)
  • Urban infrastructure (Germany)
  • Agriculture and forestry (France)
  • Winter tourism (Austria)

You can access the MARCO Synthesis report here.

For more information, please visit www.marco-h2020.eu. You can also find MARCO on Twitter: @marco_h2020

MARCO Coordinator: Thanh-Tam Le, Climate-KIC thanh-tam.le@climate-kic.org

Partners: Climate-KIC (France), Acclimatise Ltd. (UK), Technical University of DenmarkFinnish Meteorological InstituteHelmholtz-Zentrum Geestacht HZG (Germany), INRA(France), Joanneum Research (Austria), kMatrix (UK), LGI Consulting (France), Smith Innovation (Denmark), UnternehmerTUM GmbH (Germany).

Duration: November 2016-November 2018. EU contribution: EUR 1,520,303.75


Cover photo by Mathias Eick EU/ECHO CC BY-SA 2.0
Becoming livable: Mandalay builds local capacity and completes landscape study

Becoming livable: Mandalay builds local capacity and completes landscape study

By Ian Hamilton

The Mandalay Building Urban Resilience (MBUR) project, financed with a $4 million grant from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), has trained over 800 stakeholders in climate resilient urban planning and management since its inception in April 2018. 

The project is part of the Mandalay Urban Services Improvement Project (MUSIP) of the Asian Development Bank, a $60 million investment that will help the city build a new water treatment plant, upgrade and extend the existing water supply network, and construct the city’s first centralized wastewater collection and treatment plant. 

It is an ambitious drive to improve the urban environment and public health of Mandalay. At the moment, there is no piped sewerage system and no centralized wastewater treatment plant. Any discharge goes directly into canals and creeks, leading to waterborne diseases.  

In addition, the former royal capital of Myanmar has a rapidly growing population. Census data puts the city’s population at 1.46 million and it is expected to more than double by 2040. The agency tasked with urban service delivery and infrastructure development, the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC), is in need of support. It currently is unable to effectively undertake all the responsibilities for urban planning and management due to lack of human and financial resources, limited skills, and planning information.  

This prompted MCDC to request for training activities—the MBUR project. They wanted capacity building interventions that would support the city government’s ongoing projects and which are anchored on practical issues rather than theory.  

To achieve this, the training activities under the MBUR project were designed to build MCDC’s capacity to implement current projects and address the city’s priority issues with the long-term view of building urban resilience. The training programs developed and conducted for MCDC staff centered on climate resilient urban planning and management. The MBUR project team is also closely working with other ongoing loan and grant subprojects of MUSIP, including the UCCRTF-funded Community-Based Solid Waste Management Project.  

On top of this, the project established an urban management database that will lay the foundation for e-governance and urban decision-making processes. 

As of mid-March 2019, the MBUR project has organized 39 sessions attended by 801 participants (81% female) comprised of government officials and students of Mandalay Technical University as well as other universities in the region. 

Thingazar-Creek-Embankment-Design-Guide.
Image from Thingazar Creek Embankment Design Guide: Hard and Soft Banks by MBUR  

Transforming the Thingazar Creek 
 

Along with strengthening local capacity (which is also an aim of MUSIP), the MBUR project recently completed a study on comprehensive landscape improvement measures designed at enhancing the livability of the Thingazar Creek (TGC) area.  

The Thingazar Creek is a major priority project focus area under MUSIP, to improve wastewater and solid waste management, as well as raise the living conditions of residents along the creek. The study has been undertaken through capacity building with several departments within MCDC, contributing actively to data collection, analysis, and proposals.  

The study includes both hard and soft landscaping bankside proposals which incorporate sustainable urban drainage solutions in relation to local socioeconomic activities, accessibility, solid waste collection points, and the finalized sewer locations. The data collected and analysis undertaken will be used as inputs for a forthcoming training designed to promote the many historic buildings and activities in this part of Mandalay to both local and foreign visitors. 


This article was originally published on ADB’s Livable Cities Blog.
Cover photo of U Bein Bridge across the Taungthaman Lake, Amarapura from Wikimedia Commons.
Can mobile gaming help build climate resilience?

Can mobile gaming help build climate resilience?

By Emily Fox

Editor’s note: As the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe, new tools are needed to communicate how people’s actions affect the environment – and what we can do to respond. A powerful and underexplored medium for climate communications is video games, but game’s designers like Alan Scott-Moncrieff are looking to change all that…

With almost a third of the world’s population playing PC and handheld games, what better way to introduce the next generation to environmentalism than with a mobile game app? “Skookum’s quest” is being developed in the United States to entertain and educate children around the world to think “green” and simultaneously crowdfund real-world fixes for our planet.  

The game’s designer is artist Alan Scott-Moncrieff, a resident of Portland, Oregon. Born in Scotland to an American mother, his grandfather was the illustrator of Read with Dick and JaneThe Black Stallion and other renowned children’s books. Scott-Moncrieff studied fine art at Edinburgh then lived and exhibited as an artist for eleven years in Manhattan. Picking up a 16mm film camera in the mid-nineties he went on to shoot an award winning documentary on the Khmer Rouge before founding a leadership school in Cambodia for former street children. 

“We worked with MIT to develop a field lab for students to design and build oil-free innovations for impoverished farming communities throughout SE Asia,” explains Scott-Moncrieff. Forcibly shut down by regional oil interests in 2008, he returned to the United States to work with veteran non-profits addressing suicide prevention and homelessness. Asked if he was angry about the eventual fate of his collaboration with MIT, Scott-Moncrieff replies “no, just more determined. And wiser!” 

Since 2014 Scott-Moncrieff has been designing his mobile gaming app to empower children worldwide to fix the planet. The app will be coded by Seattle Software Developers in Washington and will establish proof of concept for a suite of planned eco-games. This initial game will combine an exciting adventure platform with actual touch points on current environmental hotspots, allow increased scoring through eco-heroism and green plot choices, encourage collaboration with other players to foil poachers and rescue endangered animals, and allow players to acquire validations from real life scientists, ecologists and game wardens in the field. 

A virtual passport will allow international travel and activism within the game, and the opportunity to speak at the UN and other world forums. Monthly winners of the game will gave away a 33% share to a cause of their choosing: within two years this could amount to millions of dollars each month. Scott-Moncrieff believes the opportunity of media coverage and mainstream fame for monthly winners will fuel global subscriptions and exponentially grow the game’s crowdfunding capabilities. 

 “One-in-three grade school kids believe the planet will be uninhabitable when they grow up,” says Scott-Moncrieff. “That’s a devastating fact. This game will serve to re-instil their hope in a healthy future for Earth and give kids the power to fund the fixes they want to see environmentally. Tomorrow’s adults will need to think differently and make greener lifestyle choices, and we can help them arrive at that mind-set through play.” 

“There is no time to wait for snail-like policy changes, government grants and labor-intensive private sector philanthropy. The planet needs immediate super-funding on a monthly basis if we are to assuage catastrophic climate warming.” 

After monthly game updates and enhancements have been paid for, the remainder of profits will be allocated to atmospheric carbon capture, ocean plastic retrieval and aggressive species protection. With over 1.4M students organizing for youth climate strikes across 130 countries over the past months, kids everywhere are clearly poised for engagement and many parents will likely get behind their child’s participation. Players will pay a $1.99/£1.50 subscription per month which Scott-Moncrieff estimates will crowd raise a mega fund of $200M-$400M annually within 3 years, in perpetuity. 

“That’s a lot of Earth-saving power,” he adds, with a smile. 

Scott-Moncrieff also brings many notable contacts to the table from his years in the art world and film industry, and is aligning a think tank of leading scientists, environmentalists, business luminaries and celebrities to help guide allocations and act as spokespersons for the game. Seattle Software Developers have been in the business since the early days of the internet and believes this could be the most important environmental cleanup instrument ever implemented using the most compelling world-crowdfunding mechanism possible. 


If you are interested in learning more, or if you’d like to donate/invest in the game, you can reach Alan Scott-Moncrieff at contact@thunderboltfund.com


Cover photo by David Grandmougin on Unsplash.
Experts mobilized to support Central Sulawesi redevelopment

Experts mobilized to support Central Sulawesi redevelopment

By Joy Amor Bailey

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), through resources from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), was one of the first development partners to offer support for the recovery and reconstruction of Sulawesi in Indonesia after a combination of an earthquake and soil liquefaction left more than 4,000 people dead and more than 100,000 families homeless last September 2018. 

From November 2018 to February 2019, various experts were mobilized to support BAPPENAS, the national development planning agency, in the preparation of the Central Sulawesi Damage and Loss Assessment and the Master Plan of Post-Disaster Recovery and Redevelopment.  

Anchored on the principle of “Build Back Better, Safer, and More Sustainable”, BAPPENAS collaborated with various ministries and local stakeholders in the coordination of activities as well as the drafting of action plans. The experts financed through UCCRTF took advisory roles in the consultation workshops and report writing of five Key Working Groups:  

  1. Development of Disaster Risk Areas 
  2. Rehabilitation of Regional Infrastructures
  3. Socio-cultural and Economic Recovery
  4. Finance and Collaboration, and  
  5. Regulation and Institution

Steps are also being taken to ensure that the Master Plan is implemented effectively. Suprayoga Hadi, primary planner at BAPPENAS, is working closely with other government agencies to cascade the use of the Master Plan, such that it informs upcoming interventions. More recently, Hadi has requested ADB to engage monitoring and evaluation experts who will assist the central government in supervising the redevelopment of various sectors. 


This article was originally featured on the Livable Cities ADB site.
Cover photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash.
Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

By Lydia Messling

Ecosystem-based adaptation principles have governed the decision making processes in developing a brand new city on the outskirts of Manila: New Clark City. Without spending billions on large-scale technological fixes or man-made barriers, New Clark City’s greatest defence against natural disasters will instead come from nature itself. By using ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) measures, solutions have been devised to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, by using and enhancing the features that already exist in the ecosystem.

Currently under construction, New Clark City in the Philippines will be a centre for business and governance, accommodating up to 1.2 million people. Building such a large city is already an ambitious task, but the Philippines has the additional challenge of managing its exposure to many different types of natural disasters, from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to typhoons and flooding. Any new development needs to be resilient to shocks and stresses, particularly as climate change will make extreme weather events more severe.

The Bases Conversion Development Authorty (BCDA), assisted by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, have therefore chosen to apply EBA principles to ensure the city remains smart and disaster-resilient for years to come. EBA principles have informed different stages of the design and planning process, from choosing the location, the building materials, through to the buildings and street layout. Here’s how EBA principles have been applied:

Location

Located in Carpas, Tarlac, the 9,450 Hectare development steers clear of fault lines, reducing the risk of destruction from earthquakes. Being situated at a higher elevation and further inland than Manila, New Clark City is less likely to be flooded, with a minimum elevation of 177ft about sea level. Nestled between two mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre mountain to the east and the Zambales mountain range to the west, New Clark is offered natural protection from typhoons. Whilst there may be some concern about the nearby active volcano Mount Pinatubo, responsible for the second largest eruption in the Twentieth Century, volcanologists say another big eruption is not due for few hundred years.

Building material

Ingeniously, developers are making use of one of the most devastating results of volcanoes – lahars. Lahars are a type of mudslide made up of volcanic material, slurry, and rocky debris. This unstable material violently flows down the sides of volcanoes, often reaching speeds of 22 miles per hour, destroying everything along the way. These lahars do not just occur when there is a volcanic eruption, but can be triggered by melting snow and ice, heavy rainfall, and earthquakes shaking the loose material. As the topography of the area is well known, volcanologists can predict where lahars are likely to flow. Whilst New Clark City will hopefully avoid these destructive mudslides, lahars will be central to its construction. Builders will combine local lahar material with cement to build the city. Removing lahar material can also enhance the profile of the stream and river beds that it flowed down, which further benefits flood resilience, irrigation and water quality. Manufacturing cement usually consumes a large amount of water and energy, meaning that the associated carbon emissions are very high. By adding lahar to the cement, the builders can reduce the amount of water and energy needed. 

Layout

Creating lots of green space is central to the design of New Clark City. The plans are to preserve the river and many trees that are already growing in the area, which will be ideal for helping build flood resilience, improving air quality, and temperature regulation. The addition of wide drainage systems and “no-build zones” means that when a flooding event does occur, New Clark City will be better equipped to respond and limit the impact of it. Instead of being one large block of concrete, the flood water will have controlled run-off and escape routes by using the natural features of the land. For example, the city’s design includes a large central park area that will also act as a flood basin.

Whilst following EBA principles drastically reduced the risk of damage from typhoons and earthquakes, they will not eliminate flood risk completely for New Clark City. In fact, there still remains the possibility that large earthquakes may affect the city, and flooding, despite the elevation and defence planning, may occur. However, the simple, pre-existing features of the ecosystem have helped identify ways in which exposure to risks can be limited and how to quickly and efficiently recover from a natural disaster, making New Clark City resilient.


Cover photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash.
Climate vulnerable countries are unable to access finance proportionate to level of need

Climate vulnerable countries are unable to access finance proportionate to level of need

By Will Bugler

study by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) titled, ‘Climate Change Adaptation Finance: Are the Most Vulnerable Nations Prioritized?’ warns that “the allocation of adaptation finance is not consistently aligned with the sentiment of the Paris Agreement.”

The findings demonstrate that:

  • The most vulnerable nations are the least likely to be selected as finance recipients by both bilateral and multilateral donors;
  • Multilateral donors are found to allocate more adaptation finance to SIDS, yet they are not observed to prioritize vulnerable nations in the selection stage;
  • Multilateral donors are less orientated towards recipient need than their bilateral counterparts; and
  • Countries that are most vulnerable to climate change receive smaller allocations of adaptation finance from bilateral donors than their less vulnerable counterparts.

The paper finds that bilateral donors allocate more adaptation finance to recipients with: a higher level of need, determined by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; more strategic importance, for example with whom they share a larger amount of bilateral trade; and higher levels of good governance, where aid is presumed to be more effective.

Multilateral donors, the authors note, prioritize well-governed nations. In spite of targeting groups vulnerable to climate change, multilateral donors do not prioritize the most vulnerable within those groups. The study concludes that there are barriers that limit the ability of the most climate vulnerable countries to access a share of adaptation finance proportionate to their level of need.

Download the study here.


Cover photo by Sabin Basnet on Unsplash.
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.
Webinar: How can EO data support climate resilient development?

Webinar: How can EO data support climate resilient development?

The European Space Agency’s Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SDClimate Resilience Cluster is holding a webinar to demonstrate the potential for Earth Observation to contribute to climate resilient development objectives.

The webinar “How can EO data support climate resilient development?”  will take place twice on the 11th June 2019:

  • 10-11 am CEST / 3-4 pm PHT
  • 3-4 pm CEST / 9-10 am EST.

Register for your preferred time. Download and share the webinar invitation.

Climate change impacts and sustainable development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, and numerous regional and national level development plans and strategies are explicit about the potential for climate change and its impacts to derail development efforts and reverse the trend of declining global poverty.

However, developing a picture of how climate impacts affect the environment and society can be difficult, especially in regions where data is missing, incomplete or inaccurate. Earth observation (EO) data helps in this regard by providing timely and accurate information in large quantities about the Earth’s atmosphere, landmasses, and oceans.

Combined with socio-economic data, EO data can provide useful information that can show potential climate risks and allow decision makers to develop strategies to build resilience. Since 2008, the European Space Agency has worked closely with International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and their client countries to harness the benefits of EO in their operations and resources management.

About the EO4SD initiative

Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) is an ESA initiative which aims at increasing the uptake of EO-based information in regular development operations at national and international level. Over the past year, the ESA EO4SD – Climate Resilience Cluster – has been working with IFIs to develop an EO-based integrated climate screening and risk management service and build capacity in IFI client states so that stakeholders can use EO-based information for climate resilient decision making.

Regionalism, human rights and migration in relation to climate change

Regionalism, human rights and migration in relation to climate change

By Cosmin Corendea

In a recent research project supported by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and AXA Research Fund, I focused on the main two systems of law in the Pacific – state or national legislation and traditional, customary law – and how the differences between the two could create legal risks when implementing international law associated with climate change, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement. The final policy report, launched in November 2017 at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, produced a set of seven concrete recommendations for policy makers and negotiators when addressing migration and human rights in the context of climate change.

Some of the recommendations emphasise the need of an harmonisation between the two legal systems in the Pacific (state/national and traditional) so as to create a single coherent system that can fill in the gaps and help implement international law, such as Paris Agreement. Other recommendations express an acute need for the process of migration to be continuously recognised by the countries in the region and started to be addressed at both technical and political level.

However, there are two main conclusions of the research that are applicable on a larger scale, beyond the characteristics of one country or region in particular.

The importance of hybrid international law

The concept of hybrid international law, as developed since 2007, refers to environmental law, human rights, and refugee or migration law. It demonstrates an interrelation between the three, and shows that climate change cannot be addressed without referring to human rights or migration – as direct or subsidiary effects.

Today, based on a reciprocal cause-effect relationship, we can’t address environmental degradation – including climate change – without taking into account human rights and/or migration. This analysis applies to all environmental-degradation events and disasters, regardless of whether the process is slow (such as sea-level rise, salinization, etc.) or rapid (flooding, extreme storms, etc.). For example, the immediate consequence of a flood could be human-rights violations in the affected community – children could be unable from going to school (the right to education), elderly people may be unable to reach medical facilities (the right to health care), and so on.

Immediately after the human-rights violation (happening at state level due to its obligation to protect and ensure the access to different rights), decisions are usually made by families and individuals depending on the severity of the event: either to stay (adapt) or to flee (migrate). Research in my book Legal Protection of the Sinking Islands Refugees (2016) shows that almost 30% of the people worldwide decide to migrate, mostly due to the limited capacity of states to assist in the adaptation process.

The decision to migrate is not exclusively based on environmental reasoning. It can include limitations to human-rights access as well economic issues. Most importantly, migration may itself lead to human-rights violations, including the right to a clean and healthy environment and ultimately contribute to environmental degradation and climate change. This interlinked and interconnected view of environmental degradation, human rights and (forced) migration represents a change of paradigm, a concrete conceptualisation of the states’ duty to protect or common but differentiated responsibility application for both sending and receiving communities.

Reflected also in the decision of the households to migrate or adapt – or use of migration as an adaptive tool when affected by environmental degradation – this nexus enlarges any state’s immediate actions, including as the duty to rescue, to a medium- to long-term approach, which is much more complex.

Thinking and working regionally

Another core finding is that the regional approach, in general proves more effective when developing, initiating and eventually implementing a migration policy.

In September 2016, the UN General Assembly discussed issues related to migration and refugees. In adopting the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants”, the 193 UN member states recognised the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at global level. The Global Compact for Migration is framed consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which member states committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and its scope is defined in Annex II of the New York Declaration.

However, it is clear that the actual migration process at UN level has unfortunately become quite political and, moreover, parties are not eager to address climate-related mobility. Although the number of climate migrants is rising every year and there are no global policies to respond, member states are very reluctant to recognise climate change as a threat. While the Paris Agreement created a sense of political momentum, the actual process has lost its shine and interest of some parties, even as they all continue to face concrete migration struggles around the world.

Residents of of the Lekehio Village on Tanna Island, Vanuatu in 2016. The community faced water shortages and environmental threats at the time. While they didn’t migrate, they consider it an option. Author provided

However, there are previous regional experiences that proven to be more effective than global ones such as environmental (bi- and multi-lateral) agreements with a greater impact in domestic legislation and a better reflection of the priorities countries find to be important in those particular cases.

In general, regional documents have an important characteristic that is significantly lost in global agreements, conventions or any other legal forms, and that is represented by identity. Regions have common and distinctive cultural, social and even legal individualities. These spring from communities and define the countries in an idiosyncratic manner, and can include common historical ties, traditions, social structures or cultural and religious manifestations that are better preserved and protected at regional level than globally. In relation to the environment, regions do have specific approaches that are quite difficult to be conserved in global negotiations, but much easier at regional level, as it is very probable to be shared between countries and even define an entire region.

States not only have to address present migration humanitarian crises, but they also must regulate and enable future mobility impacts due to environmental-rights breaches.

Human mobility is a positive process that has taken place for more than 2,000 years, and because of significant environmental challenges and continuous presence of conflict, it will continue to increase in the future. States should not be surprised by the increasing number of migrants, but instead start regulating mobility taking into account environmental components with a strong rights-based approach, in a preventive mode to assure that basic rights are respected, including that to a clean environment, migrants rights, and human rights.

Cosmin Corendea: Migration, Human Rights and Climate Change in the Pacific.