Category: Disaster Risk Reduction

New report promotes CCA and DRR cooperation through the use of foresight methods

New report promotes CCA and DRR cooperation through the use of foresight methods

By Georgina Wade

The European research project PLACARD (PLAtform for Climate Adaptation and Risk reDuction) has released a follow up report to their 2018 foresight report, expanding on the importance of collaboration between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) communities.

            Through the establishment of a coordination and knowledge exchange platform, PLACARD aims to support multi-stakeholder dialogue and consultation between CCA and DRR research, policy and practice communities, and across scales. Specifically, the latest PLACARD report aims to promote cooperation through the use of foresight methods for policy and decision-makers.

Foresight methods help decision-makers explore and anticipate future developments through a range of forward-looking approaches that promote participants to think about, debate and shape the future in a participatory, inclusive, and action-oriented manner. In particular, these methods are useful for CCA and DRR collaboration due to their systematic, participatory, future-intelligence-gathering and medium-to-long-term vision-building process aimed at enabling present-day decisions and mobilising joint actions.

Figure 1: Schematic representation showing how CCA and DRR overlap.

With this report, PLACARD investigates the different methodologies, determining how they may be affectively applied to better integrate CCA and DRR in research, policy and practice.  An analysis of 20 of the most commonly applied foresight methods are reviewed with regards to their definition, strengths and weaknesses, form of application, and current application in CCA and DRR science and/or policy activities. In addition, the report aims to promote the application of foresight methods to CCA and DRR science and practice, and to contribute to the setting of a joint research agenda on foresight.

The research project has confirmed that the use of foresight methods can go beyond the current support to CCA and DRR research, policy and practice, and promote better connections and integration across the two communities.

 In fact, effective foresight may:

  • Enhance the effectiveness of participatory processes, cooperation and dialogue;
  • Produce salient knowledge and capacity building that is relevant for future decision-making and policy support;
  • Facilitate the understanding of issues and concepts such as complexity, uncertainty, non-
  • linearity, wildcards and surprises;
  • Generate levers that build flexibility into policy measures and across policy areas;
  • Address different time scales simultaneously (e.g., connect long-term CCA/prevention with short-term DRR/preparedness);
  • Be used in the context of trust building and the development of shared values;
  • Allow for the use of a holistic perspective in connecting different policy areas.

            PLACARD’s report concludes with a confirmed hypothesis – foresight methods and their practical application can be a useful tool to support decision-making in CCA and DRR, but that its implementation in Europe can be extended and further improved.

Download the full report here

Coverphoto by John Dal on Climate Visuals, Creative Commons.
Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

Building capacity of the CDIA to help develop climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific

By Jennifer Steeves

Acclimatise has joined forces with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), in an assignment supported by the Agence française de développement (AFD) and Expertise France, to integrate climate change into CDIA’s infrastructure development activities in Asia Pacific. Last month, Acclimatise’s Senior Advisor in South Asia Jennifer Steeves travelled to Manila to run a capacity assessment workshop with CDIA, to better understand the team’s current capacity and future goals for mainstreaming climate change. This was a first step in designing a capacity building programme and developing practical approaches to ensure CDIA considers climate change throughout its project development process.

Infrastructure has played and will continue to play an important role in economic growth and poverty reduction in the Asia Pacific region, with $1.5 trillion/year in infrastructure investment required in the next decade (ADB, 2019). CDIA, established in 2007, is a multi-donor trust fund managed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that supports medium-sized cities in Asia and the Pacific to prepare sustainable and bankable infrastructure projects, link these projects to finance, and strengthen individual and organisational capacities in cities. CDIA supports infrastructure projects that promote poverty reduction, environmental improvement, climate change mitigation and/or adaptation, and good governance.

Though CDIA estimates that eighty percent of its work contributes to climate change adaptation and/or mitigation to some extent, it is now looking to strengthen the way it considers climate change concerns at every stage of its project development process. Supported by AFD and Expertise France, this intervention in turn will help ensure that CDIA’s partner cities have the best chance to identify climate-resilient and low-carbon infrastructure projects at an early stage – and importantly, link these to finance.

Acclimatise will be working with the CDIA team over the coming months toward this aim. Having now identified potential entry points for integrating climate change into CDIA’s operations, from scoping mission to ToR development to monitoring & evaluation, the next step will involve a delivering a bespoke training programme, followed by developing concrete guidance and interventions within the project cycle to systematically address climate risks and opportunities. The assignment will end with field missions to selected partner cities to apply the approaches developed with CDIA.

Cover photo provided by author.
Financing adaptation actions: takeaways from Rockaway, New York

Financing adaptation actions: takeaways from Rockaway, New York

By Acclimatise News

I recently attended a presentation about adaptation actions at the individual and community scale in Rockaway, New York – a peninsula that is directly exposed to the Atlantic.

According to the presenter, only a small percentage of Rockaway residents have begun to take adaptation actions either at the individual or community scale. The obstacles include; a lack of understanding among residents regarding future flood risks, available adaptation options and their costs and benefits, and constrained resources.

Most of the discussion focused around the need for awareness raising, suggesting that if residents had better information, they may make more informed decisions. Interestingly, the presenter revealed that 80% of homeowners rebuilt their homes after Sandy in the same way they were before. Of course, this offers no additional resiliency benefits should a Sandy-scale storm, or worse, sweep through the region again. Why would they do this?

Yet, as the presentation continued, ‘lack of awareness’ and a ‘lack of understanding of future flood risks’ struck me as a moot point when the cost data was presented.

The presenter compared the benefits of several adaptation strategies, including the cost of raising a home, calculate based on future flood damage expenditure compared to the cost of those strategies. The present value of damages over the next 30 years depends critically on the elevation of the lowest floor of the house. According to data, the mean present value of raising a home from 0 to 0.5 meters costs $729,045.00 and the additional cost of raising a home to 1 meter would add up to a total of $804,1000.

The presenter emphasized that the potential losses to homeowners from another Sandy could be over $2 million, 2.5 times more than the required investment of raising a house, thereby creating a strong business case for home raising. Yet, regardless of the potential magnitude of losses, $729,045.00 is prohibitively expensive for the average homeowner, particularly in working-class neighborhoods where median household income is $51,249.00. Furthermore, how can you motivate individuals to borrow or spend that amount of money when there is uncertainty as to how climate impacts will play out?

The presenter also argued that reduced insurance premiums would help recoup some of the costs of home raising. Yet, to what extent could a reduced insurance premium offset an investment of more than three quarters of a million dollars?

Interestingly, while there was a lot of discussion about costs of adaptation options, there was little discussion of how to finance them. While FEMA does provide post-disaster relief, homeowners have complained that it can take years for funding to be distributed and that funding won’t be reimbursed for costs already spent on construction. In other words, you can’t raise your home post-disaster and then be reimbursed for it after the fact. This doesn’t incentivise homeowners to build back better.

I took two things away from this presentation. One, that individuals’ decision-making is likely strongly dictated by finances, and two, that adaptation options must reflect the present reality. Proposing adaptation actions in regions where the vast majority of people don’t have the resources to implement them with limited government resources to support them, may not be useful or equitable. Adaptation is urgently required at all scales, yet not all technically viable adaptation solutions will work in every context.

Cover image from the FEMA Photo Library, Wikimedia Commons
PRESS RELEASE: CCRI brings together companies across the infrastructure investment value chain with assets totalling USD 5 trillion

PRESS RELEASE: CCRI brings together companies across the infrastructure investment value chain with assets totalling USD 5 trillion

The Government of the United Kingdom, the Government of Jamaica, Willis Towers Watson, the Global Commission on Adaptation and the World Economic Forum are announcing the launch of a private sector-led Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI). Acclimatise is delighted to see this launch and are official supporters of the CCRI.

Climate change will impact on all aspects of society and will pose the biggest challenges to the world’s most vulnerable. Recently Hurricane Dorian has reminded us of the destructive power of weather systems. In a warming and unstable climate, these events are more likely to occur and will gain in power. Extreme weather poses an existential threat to the world`s most vulnerable nations, but also to the world’s most advanced economies’ critical infrastructure.

The Coalition is the first of its kind, as a financial-sector led initiative, that brings together over 30 organisations across the investment value chain to address climate resilience challenges. Chaired by the CEO of Willis Towers Watson John Haley, the coalition aims to transform infrastructure investment by integrating climate risks into decision-making, driving a shift toward a more climate resilient economy for all countries, including the most vulnerable.J

“This new coalition realises that current efforts to adapt to physical climate risks and deliver resilience for exposed communities and assets across the globe are severely lacking and need to be addressed urgently. The conditions for success are ripe, the coalition will be able to harness a unique combination of the rapid advancement of climate risk analytics coupled with ambitious regulatory and investor-led initiatives. Pricing the risks posed by climate change will create opportunities to build a network of resilient infrastructure in high, medium and low-income countries, enabling us to better prevent future human and financial disasters.”

John Haley, CEO of Willis Towers Watson

There is a crucial need to develop new sources of data and analytical tools to better understand the risks posed by climate change to our societies and economies.  This will enable us to better address these risks, preventing future human and financial disasters. Infrastructure enables the flow of goods, services and people which allow societies to thrive. Properly pricing climate risk in financial decision-making will align investment flows towards infrastructure capable of withstanding a changing climate. Providing a methodology to quantify the economic and financial benefits will provide a substantial and critical incentive for financial markets to embed resilience upfront.

“Making infrastructure resilient to climate change has been regarded for too long as a burden and a cost. In reality, it’s a high return investment, yielding on average a 4-to-1 return. It also saves lives, reduces risks, and encourages further investment. This dynamic new coalition will help make climate risks visible, leading to better decisions and smarter investments for the future. The Global Commission on Adaptation is proud to be part of it.”

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, and Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation

The Coalition will develop a common approach to assessing climate risks, which will enable them to ensure all their investments are resilient, and will unlock additional private finance for resilient infrastructure investment.

“Achieving the transition to a carbon neutral future will require mobilising mainstream private finance.  Advances in reporting and risk analysis are paving the way for investors to realise the opportunities in climate-friendly investment by re-orienting their focus to more sustainable long-term value creation. In this context, the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment’s focus on integrating climate risks into decision-making will help finance the infrastructure investment needed to build an economy more resilient to climate change.”

Mark Carney, Governor of Bank of England

Notes to Editors:

The Coalition will be officially launched at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on the 23rd of September 2019 in a panel entitled Towards a Resilient Future.  A press conference will follow from 13:30-13.55 in the Media Briefing Room (S-237) in the UN Headquarters, New York.

Supporters of this coalition include:

Business: Aberdeen Standard Investments, Acclimatise, Arup, Clyde and Co, DWS, Environment Agency Pension Fund, GARI, GRESB, IGCC, IIGCC, Impax, Jupiter Intelligence, KPMG, Legal and General, Lightsmith Group, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey, Meridiam, One Concern, Schroders, Standard Chartered, Willis Towers Watson, Zurich Insurance Group.

International institutions: Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, FAO, Global Commission on Adaptation, Global Infrastructure Facility, Global Water Partnership, Green Climate Fund, Green Finance Institute, TCFD Secretariat

This coalition is supported by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Jamaica, the Solomon Islands and Belize.

Through to the end of 2019, the Coalition will develop case studies to build the business case and identify the critical enabling environments for climate resilient infrastructure investment. By COP26 in 2020 analytical tools including a physical risk pricing framework and methodology to prioritise national resilient investment needs, will be developed, alongside a range of instruments to prevent capital flight from the most vulnerable regions, such as a technology transfer programmes, technical assistance facilities and/or blended finance facilities. Going forward, innovative capital market instruments such as Resilience Bonds will be structured, and the pricing framework will be implemented across resilient infrastructure investment funds.  6 country pilot projects will trial these innovations, protecting economies and citizens` lives from growing climate impacts. 

This Coalition is the result of a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, the Government of the United-Kingdom, the Government of Jamaica, Willis Towers Watson and the Global Commision on Adaptation. It is part of the package for the United Nation Climate Action Summit`s Adaptation and Resilience track, led by the UK and Egypt.

An information pack for journalists is available. For further information, please contact Alem Tedeneke, Media Lead, World Economic Forum at

Photo of Hurricane Dorian, taken from Wikimedia Commons
World Bank: Lifelines for Better Development

World Bank: Lifelines for Better Development

Infrastructure is at the heart of lives and livelihoods. It can enable schools and hospitals, businesses and industry, and access to jobs and prosperity. In developing countries, however, disruptions to infrastructure are an everyday concern, reducing opportunities for employment, hampering health and education, and limiting economic growth.

In low and middle-income countries, direct damages from natural hazards to power generation and transport alone cost $18 billion a year, cutting into the already scarce budget of road agencies and power utilities. But the main impact of natural shocks on infrastructure is through the disruptions they impose on people and communities, for instance, businesses unable to keep factories running or use the internet to take orders and process payments; or on the households that don’t have the water they need to prepare meals or on people unable to go to work, send children to school, or get to a hospital.

Along with poor maintenance and mismanagement, natural hazards are one of the main causes of the disruptions that costs households and firms at least $390 billion a year in low- and middle-income countries. And this is a conservative estimate that does not factor in the indirect burdens, such as those placed on women who are often the ones in charge of securing water for households, or the effect on small firms that are unable to grow and innovate because they must bear the cost of electric generators.

“Resilient infrastructure is not about roads or bridges or powerplants alone. It is about the people, the households and the communities for whom this quality infrastructure is a lifeline to better health, better education and better livelihoods. Investing in resilient infrastructure is about unlocking economic opportunities for people. This report offers a pathway for countries to follow for a safer, more secure, inclusive and prosperous future for all.” – David Malpass, World Bank Group President

According to Lifelines, a new report from by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recoverythe net benefit of building more resilient infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries would be $4.2 trillion, with $4 in benefit for each $1 invested.

Solutions to improve the resilience of infrastructure exist and investments to do so are both sound and profitable. What does this resilient infrastructure look like? It could be digging deeper foundations, using alternative materials, building flood protection, strengthening electrical poles and cell towers, improving road design, and building stronger water treatment plants.

But it is also necessary to look beyond each individual asset and build more resilient systems and networks. Building redundancy in networks, that is by increasing the number of connections that serve a community, for instance, can be a gamechanger. A city that is accessible through multiple roads and powered through multiple transmission lines is less likely to find itself isolated or without power when a devastating storm strike.

At the same time, not all disruptions can be prevented, so ensuring that households and businesses plan for and manage them – for instance, by ensuring that each home has emergency supplies, or that communities have robust and adaptable supply chains – will also be essential.

Spending Better

Closing the infrastructure gap to meet the Sustainable Development Goals will require substantial investments in new infrastructure and in the maintenance of existing assets. However, it’s not only about spending more, it’s also about spending better. Investing in regulations and planning, in the early stages of project design, and in maintenance can significantly outweigh the costs of repairs or reconstruction after a disaster strikes. These kinds of early investments may be difficult to fund in low-income countries. They can therefore be considered as priorities for the international community and development aid.

This report lays out how to unlock this $4.2 trillion opportunity with a range of clear and concrete recommendations:

  1. Get basics right. Tackling poor management and governance of infrastructure systems is key. For instance, a poorly-maintained infrastructure asset cannot be resilient.
  2. Build institutions for resilience. Wider political economy challenges also need to be addressed, and critical infrastructure assets and systems need to be identified so that resources can be directed toward them.
  3. Include resilience in regulations and incentives. Financial incentives can be used to ensure that the full social costs of infrastructure disruptions are accounted for, encouraging service providers to go beyond just meeting mandatory standards.
  4. Improve decision making. Access to better data, tools, and skills is needed to build resilience: for instance, digital elevation models for urban areas are not expensive and are critical to inform hundreds of billions of dollars in investments per year.
  5. Provide financing. The right kind of financing at the right time is key. For example, the amounts of resources needed to support regulators and consider natural risks at the early stages of infrastructure design are small compared to the billions needed to repair and recover in the aftermath of a disaster.

There is no time to waste. With a rapidly changing climate and large investments in infrastructure taking place in many countries, business as usual over the next decade would cost us $1 trillion more. By getting it right, however, we can provide the critical infrastructure services – lifelines – for better development for those who need it the most.

Download the Report

This article was originally published on The World Bank website.
Cover photo by Patrick Beznoska on Unsplash.
Communities lead the way in creating a more resilient Siargao Island

Communities lead the way in creating a more resilient Siargao Island

By Asian Development Bank

Named Best Island in Asia by Conde Nast Traveler in 2018, Siargao Island in the Philippines draws hordes of international and local tourists for its white sand beaches and top surf breaks. The growing crowds, however, are beginning to place a toll on the capacity of the island.  

The municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao Island is one of the nine cities part of the Building Resilience at Community Level project of the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF). The project aims to support urban poor communities, especially vulnerable groups, through an inclusive process that enhances people’s well-being and resilience against disasters and climate change shocks and stressors. To achieve this, each city is tasked to identify and implement a community-led project.   

Enter the Siargao Urban Resilient Future (SURF) Project. This was born from six months of exhaustive participatory planning and decision-making. A community stakeholder group (CSG), composed of members from various groups in the city, led the discussion and assessed the challenges of Del Carmen. The SURF Project aims to conduct water assessments to study alternative water sources in the island and it will work on establishing a waste recovery and recycling center and implement a community-based solid waste management program with expanded service coverage.  

Challenges raise community’s concern  

The Del Carmen CSG found that their municipality faced a number of key issues. First, Siargao perennially has water shortages. The island has a limited supply of freshwater—local springs dry up during the summer months, while groundwater sources are now experiencing saltwater intrusion. This leaves poor residents particularly affected, as well as those living in remote areas. There is no potable water and water for domestic use.  

This volatile water supply also negatively affects the agriculture, tourism, and fisheries sectors, as well as the biodiversity and marine ecosystems in Del Carmen.  

Second, because of the city’s booming ecotourism industry, there is an influx of migrants, tourists, and commercial establishments that have caused a sharp increase in solid waste. There is no established waste collection system in Del Carmen and in the whole island of Siargao only 10% of waste is properly collected. Solid waste management is a big challenge for the municipality and if not properly addressed, it could adversely impact the pristine state of the island and the quality of life for residents and tourists alike. 

Members of the community stakeholder group in active discussion of community issues and developing a plan of action to address these issues. 

Inclusive approach increases project ownership

UCCRTF team guided the CSG in ensuring that the SURF Project applied a community-led approach. Those traditionally excluded from local planning and decision-making were given a voice. In particular, the engagement of youth, women, senior citizens, farmers and fisherfolk, and people with disability was prioritized in all the stages of the resilience planning process.  

This participatory planning approach provided significant added value in terms of the community owning the process. They were crafting discussions, decisions, and actions based on community needs and at the same time were increasing community understanding and support for the project.

Aside from Del Carmen, the Building Resilience at Community Level project funded by the UCCRTF includes Patuakhali and Faridpur in Bangladesh; Yangon in Myanmar; Sialkot and Abbottabad in Pakistan; and Malay (Aklan), La Trinidad (Benguet), and Janiuay (Iloilo) in the Philippines.  

The CSG discusses the problem of water scarcity during a workshop. 
Main photo: Then Mayor and currently Vice Mayor-elect Alfredo Coro sharing the future development plans for Del Carmen. 

This article was originally published on Liveable Cities.
Cover photo Siargao Boardwalk from Wikimedia Commons.
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.

Punjab’s PACT on climate resilience

Punjab’s PACT on climate resilience

In August of 2018, members of the Energy Department in Punjab, Pakistan, investigated potential climate-related risks to a number of their projects using the beta version of a new online screening tool, the first of its kind in the country. While screening a project to install solar panels in schools across Punjab, officials realised that water stress and drought, projected to worsen with climate change, pose a serious risk to the successful implementation of the project. For one, they would not be able to properly clean the panels if no water was available. Additionally, as noted by Mr Sadaf Iqbal, Manager (Environmental and Social Safeguard), Energy Department, “poor water quality which could have destroyed the solar panel performance over the long term was not considered. The tool [could help project officers] to incorporate these key considerations in the design at the planning stage.”

Members of the Energy Department testing the Punjab Adaptation to Climate Tool (PACT)

While a number of national and sub-national governments have sought to mainstream climate change in development planning, Punjab is arguably the first provincial government taking steps to proactively manage climate risks by screening for water-related climate risks on a project-by-project basis, using an online tool. The Punjab Adaptation to Climate Tool (PACT) is designed to help departments identify and integrate climate considerations into project design, ultimately making their investments more sustainable and resilient to a changing climate. Hosted by the Punjab Planning and Development Department (P&DD), it is currently used by 3 departments: agriculture, irrigation and energy.

A PACT for what?

A highly flood prone country, Pakistan has experienced heavy floods every other year since 1992 (8 incidents in the period between 1992-2015). In 2010, the country recorded its worst ever impacts from heavy flooding due to extreme monsoon rains, incurring losses of 10 billion rupees (PKR) (US $71 million), with at least 1900 deaths and around 160,000 square km of land inundated. The short and long-term impacts of the 2010 floods made the government sit up and take notice of a growing problem.

Like many countries, Pakistan has climate policies and plans; the 2012 National Climate Change Policy was followed by a Framework for Implementation in 2013. But a lack of on-ground implementation led to the 2015 Lahore High Court judgement, in which Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah stated: “For Pakistan, climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling and experiencing its impacts across the country and the region. The country experienced devastating floods during the last three years. These changes come with far reaching consequences and real economic costs.”

In a legal precedent by national and international standards, the judgement directed all of the main federal ministries and provincial level authorities to plan for managing climate change impacts (internationally termed climate change adaptation), paving the way for PACT. 

Climate change no longer a distant threat in Punjab

Climate change is already a reality in Punjab (see box). The High Court’s judgement provided political momentum for government officials to respond to climate change – yet they don’t always know how to respond. PACT is a step toward meeting this need, a first-of-its kind tool which systematically considers water-related climate risks in the project development process, enabling departments to proactively plan for the future. 

Climate impacts in Punjab

Floods are not the only climate-related threat in Punjab and Pakistan. In spite of being drained by 5 rivers, Pakistan has the lowest per capita water availability in South Asia. The country is the 4th largest abstractor of groundwater globally; groundwater depletion and drought are its top-ranking climate-related risks. These are only set to worsen with projected temperature rise, altered precipitation patterns and river flows, coupledwith increasing demand for water to grow crops. Agriculture, which uses 88% of the country’s total water supply, will be especially hard-hit. In 2007-08, heavy rains, rising temperatures and water shortages reduced Pakistan’s agricultural sector growth rate from 4% to 1.5%. Extreme heat is another top climate concern. During the heatwave of 2015, around 1300 people lost their lives. On 30th April 2018, for the first time ever, Pakistan recorded a temperature of 50°C, the highest recorded in the month of April. Within Pakistan, Punjab is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of a changing climate, facing long periods of drought, interspersed with flash floods, riverine floods and urban flooding. Punjab is Pakistan’s most densely populated province and the second largest in terms of area. Its land is predominantly floodplain, which has helped the province become an agricultural hub, accounting for 77% of Pakistan’s total area under agricultural production. On the other hand, this has greatly increased its vulnerability to flooding, particularly in the summer monsoon period when the volume of water in all five rivers rises. Floods lead to loss of human life and destruction of crops and land, with knock-on economic impacts.

How does PACT help manage climate risks?

PACT is a web-based climate and water risk screening tool, developed specifically for, and in consultation with the P&DD and the departments of agriculture, irrigation and energy under the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, in partnership with climate adaptation advisors Acclimatise and international and national experts[1]. The tool has been designed to fit within departments’ existing processes; Mr. Nusrat Tufail Gill, Chief Environment & Climate Change, P&DD highlights that PACT helps “to mainstream climate change in projects and include adaptation during project development and planning stage.” Considering climate risk becomes just another step in the project development cycle.

Adopting a risk-based approach to climate adaptation, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), PACT is underpinned by the best available science on climate change in the region and local stakeholder inputs. It includes 15 climate-related indicators, with a focus on water. Through an intuitive interface, the tool asks project officers to answer a series of questions on the project’s characteristics based on their experience and perception, without requiring climate change expertise. The final result is a risk rating that indicates to what extent achievement of the project’s objectives is at risk due to climate change.

The process of answering PACT’s questions can yield insights into climate vulnerabilities that users may not have previously considered.  For example, officers from the energy department, when testing the same project for solar panels in schools, noted that cloud cover, linked to precipitation, decreases the effectiveness of solar panels. As future climate change may mean more frequent and/or heavy rain in certain areas of Punjab, this needs to be factored into the project design.

For agriculture, PACT can help “identify climate resilient interventions and their sustainability for development of climate smart irrigated agriculture projects in the Punjab,” noted Dr Maqsood Ahmed, Deputy Project Director (Watercourses), Punjab Irrigated-Agriculture Productivity Project (PIPIP), Agriculture Department.

PACT also helps departments make the best use of financial resources; as Dr Muhammad Javed, Director Strategic Planning and Reforms Unit of the Irrigation Department Lahore, noted, “by mainstreaming climate change, the cost of a project could rise initially but in the long run, sustainability of the project would help conserve financial resources.”

Throughout the screening process, PACT points the user toward resources with more detailed information on climate impacts and adaptation solutions. The aim is that over time, departments will develop their own knowledge and capacity on climate change adaptation, in part by using PACT.

On the road to climate resilience in Punjab

Political and legal statements on climate change, like the Lahore High Court judgment, do not always translate into action. There are several factors that have helped PACT become a reality in Punjab. The P&DD took early interest and leadership in adopting a screening tool, providing support throughout the development process. Nominated individuals from the three pilot departments were also actively involved in the process, through testing and providing inputs at each step. Selected officials were trained in the tool’s use from an early stage, which meant they could mentor their own colleagues.

With the finalisation of PACT, P&DD will host it on their website, and has advised all departments to use the tool within their project development cycles. Over time, the aim is that the number of projects which consider climate change from the design phase will increase, ensuring the sustainability and resilience of projects and the communities they serve. While the tool has been designed with the agriculture, irrigation and energy departments, it has the potential to be used by other departments, as well as by non-government and private entities. The tool can also be regularly updated as climate data improves in the region and globally.  

PACT functions as an aid to decision-makers, enabling increased sustainability and resilience in project planning, design and outcomes – a big step forward in terms of proactively and systematically responding to climate change. The Government of Punjab has established itself as a pioneer in the region by investing in building climate change capacity in sectoral departments, setting an example for other national and sub-national governments in South Asia and around the world.

For more information about PACT, please contact Arif Pervaiz (

Cover photo from Asianet-Pakistan /
Final meeting to approve country work programme that aims to boost capacity of Belize to access world’s largest climate fund

Final meeting to approve country work programme that aims to boost capacity of Belize to access world’s largest climate fund

Like other low-lying coastal nations, Belize is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Its geographical location leaves the country exposed to the risk of rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes that have traditionally hit the area with catastrophic consequences. Additionally, its economic dependence on natural resources heightens its vulnerability to rising temperatures and the resulting impacts on a variety of socio-economic sectors and on the environment of coastal areas and forests.

Research indicates that climate change impacts could cost the twenty-four island nations of the Caribbean a total $11 billion by 2025, but these figures are likely to be an underestimate. The costs of inaction cannot be ignored. And while preparing for such impacts and a low carbon pathway are critical, they are costly. The Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF), offers an attractive source of funding to achieve these goals. The GCF is currently capitalised at USD 10.3 Billion and is the largest climate change fund in the world.

To date, GFC has funded two projects involving Belize, including a multi-country project on energy efficiency and renewable energy implemented through the European Investment Bank (EIB), approved in April 2017; and a national project promoting climate-smart agricultural production implemented through the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD), approved more recently, in February 2019.

Belize has also received support through grant funding from the GCF to boost the capacities of the country to access international finance for investments in climate change projects. Since February 2018, the Belize’s  Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum (MEDP) in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has been running a project, “Capacity Building of National Designated Authority (NDA) and Preparation of Country Strategic Framework”, to strengthen the capacities of the MEDP and to prepare a Country Strategic Framework to guide Belize’s engagement with the GCF.

The project is approximately 14 months in duration, expected to end in April 2019, and is being delivered with the support of Acclimatise, a UK-based climate change adaptation and climate finance consultancy, together with a national consultant.

The MEDP plays an important role in facilitating access to the GCF in Belize and is responsible for acting as the focal point for communications with the GCF and national organisations, identifying national funding priorities, giving no-objection to project proposals, and nominating national organisations for accreditation.

Since the project inception, a broad consultative process has been set up, involving all relevant public sector agencies, businesses and business associations as well as academia and civil society organisations in Belize. Through three workshops and a large number of one-to-one meetings with key stakeholders and donors, conducted between April and November 2018, the MEDP and the project team have built a Country Programme containing a pipeline of potential projects to be funded by GCF and key steps for their implementation. This pipeline not only provides funding priorities for climate change but also aligns with the country’s sustainable development priorities and key sectors.

A final meeting will be hosted by MEDP on 27th March 2019 from 8:30 to 4:30 pm at the Radisson Hotel in Belize City.

The meeting aims to present key aspects of the draft Country Programme and the priority projects proposed for GCF funding and receive feedback from participants. All relevant stakeholders in Belize have been invited to provide comments on the draft document and to participate to the consultative process to inform and validate the Country Programme. By project completion, Belize will have significantly increased its capacity on accessing GCF finance.


About Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum (MEDP)

The Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum in Belize formulates and recommends national development policies, strategies and programmes to promote macroeconomic stability, sustainable socioeconomic development and the reduction of poverty.

About the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC):

The Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to mitigating and adapting to climate change. CCCCC sought accreditation to the GCF in 2015 to undertake and scale up both mitigation and adaptation projects across the region in order to drive a paradigm shift in the region’s development patterns.

About the Green Climate Fund

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

It was set up by the 194 countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. It aims to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation, while being guided by the Convention’s principles and provisions.


Ms. Yvonne Hyde, of the Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum:

Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons
West Bengal’s climate change conundrum Part III: Extraordinarily rapid sea-level rise in Sundarbans turns families into refugees

West Bengal’s climate change conundrum Part III: Extraordinarily rapid sea-level rise in Sundarbans turns families into refugees

By Chirag Dhara

Editor’s note: Kolkata and the Sundarbans face a deadly melange of climate change impacts: intensifying heat waves and rainfall extremes, an exceptionally rapid rise in sea levels and intensifying cyclones. Chirag Dhara, a climate physicist, visited Kolkata and the Sundarbans in November 2018. He interviewed a wide cross-section of people – college students and professionals, taxi drivers and street dwellers – on their experience of changes in their city’s climate.

He also spoke to experts and activists working in health, science and environment. This five-part series integrates public perception with expert opinion. It contextualizes local climate trends within country-wide and global trends, using photographs, videos, satellite imagery, infographics, concept schematics and the latest developments in climate research. Important scientific concepts have been simplified to better explain the causes and consequences of these changes. This is the third part of the series.

Read all the stories in the series here

West Bengals climate change conundrum Part III: Extraordinarily rapid sea-level rise in Sundarbans turns families into refugees
Primary School on Sagar Island in the Sundarbans in January 2014. Image courtesy: Nagraj Adve
The same school four years later in November 2017, consumed by the rising waters of the Bay of Bengal. Image courtesy: Utpal Giri

The corroding Sundarbans

The photographs above of a school on the edge of Sagar Island, in the Indian Sundarbans, were taken less than four years apart. Classes were in full swing when Nagraj Adve, a climate change activist and writer, visited in early 2014. At the time, the school was a few hundred metres from the water line. While it was not uncommon even then for high tide waters in the monsoon to reach the school, waters in the Bay of Bengal have swelled so rapidly that the sea has now completely swallowed the school and intrudes a hundred metres beyond it.

The school has moved half a kilometre further inland as have families that chose to continue living on the island. Others have left, now effectively climate refugees. Sadly, the plight of the school is the rule, not the exception, in many parts of the Sundarbans.

The two overlaid images of the Sundarbans below were acquired by NASA satellites 19 years apart. A cursory visual inspection is all it takes to see how the coastline has eroded almost everywhere along the Bay-facing coastline. Some small islands have gone completely under.

The Indian Sundarbans images by NASA’s Landsat satellites 19 years apart. Left: November 2018. Right: November 1999. Note the erosion of the bay facing the coastline. Data access:

Why is the Sundarbans eroding away? What does its future hold? To what extent are we — humans — responsible for these children having lost their school?

Global sea levels are rising

The rise in global sea level on average from 1993 – present. Data source: Satellite sea level observations. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sea levels have been rising in all the world’s oceans for the past century. There are many natural reasons why sea levels change, but also two major ways in which human-induced global warming is impacting sea levels today.

For one, with rising temperatures, trillions of tonnes of ice have melted in the past century from glaciers and ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica because of global warming, adding vast quantities of water to the oceans.

A time lapse of Earth for the past 32 years showing how glaciers are declining. Ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica are not evident in these images because these ice sheets are kilometres thick. Please see the Q&A section below for details. Data: NASA’s Landsat, ESA’s Sentinel 2A satellite imagery among others. Visualization: Google Earth Engine.

For another, water expands as it warms causing the same quantity of water to occupy more space. The combined effect of these two processes is a rise in global sea levels of about 3 mm/year on average.

Q&A: How are Greenland and Antarctica contributing to sea-level rise?

Greenland in the northern hemisphere and Antarctica at the south pole each hold enormous quantities of frozen fresh water in their kilometre(s)-thick ice sheets. As global temperatures rise, these ice sheets are rapidly melting, adding water to the world’s oceans.

Satellites monitoring ice thickness found that nearly 2 trillion tonnes of ice has melted from Antarctica while Greenland has shed nearly 4 trillion tonnes in 14 years of observation alone (2002 – 2016).

There has been moderate ice accretion is some parts of Antarctica driven by ocean circulation patterns. Yet, on the whole, the continent has been losing ice rapidly because of ice-melt. Source:NASA satellite observations (GRACE)
Greenland ice is melting twice as fast as on Antarctica. Source:NASA satellite observation (GRACE)

In addition, water expands as its temperature rises, as do most substances, in a process called thermal expansion. This causes the same mass of ocean water to occupy more space at a higher temperature contributing yet more to sea-level rise. Thermal expansion of water for even a small temperature rise so important that it is considered the single biggest cause of anthropogenic sea-level rise in the long run, even more important than ice-melt.

The combined effect of these phenomena has been to raise global sea-levels by about 3 mm/year on average in recent decades. 

However, the seas are rising considerably faster in some of the world’s oceans than in others.

Uneven sea-level rise around the world. The rate at which sea-levels are rising (mm/year) relative to the global average during the satellite era 1993 – 2018. Reds denotes a rate of rise above the global average and opposite for the blues. Of particular interest here is that sea levels are rising faster than the global average in the Bay of Bengal. Source: PNAS

Sea levels are rising much faster along the Sundarbans’ coastline

Natural factors such as how heat is transported by ocean currents and periodic climatic phenomena such as El Niño are some major reasons for why regional differences in sea-level rise come about. Yet, global warming plays into this as well. Temperatures are rising faster in some parts of the world’s oceans than others. Consequently, water expands faster swelling the seas more rapidly in those regions.

Primarily for this reason, waters of the Bay of Bengal have been rising up to twice as fast as the global average at about 4.4 – 6.3mm/year.

Unhappily, physical features specific to the Sundarbans and extensive upstream damming of the rivers flowing into it has combined to make the situation even graver.

Q&A: Why should a few mm/year rise in sea level be of concern?

A sea-level rise of 3 mm per year may not seem like much. Yet, it can produce significantly greater inland sea water intrusion over time especially in low lying coastal areas.

The gently sloping area adjoining the coast is called the Continental Shelf, where the average downward slope is only about 0.1o. The 3 cm rise that would occurs in a decade, at current rates of sea-level rise, would cause sea levels to intrude further inland by a disproportionately larger 17 meters (65 feet).


Sea levels today are about 20c m higher than pre-industrial times (1850s) meaning that land has ceded about 115 metres to the sea in coastal areas with gentle elevation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report released in October 2018 warns that sea levels may rise up to 77 cm by 2100 even if global temperatures rose “only” to 1.5 C in the next 80 years. The reality we are presently facing is far worse. We are currently on track for temperature rise of 3 to 4 C by 2100.

The sinking Sundarbans

Contours of river deltas are naturally dynamic being shaped by sediment deposition by the vast amounts of soft, fertile silt transported by the rivers constituting them. Land accretes by sedimentation, but is lost by silt compactification and coastal erosion. Sediment transport into the Sundarbans has been severely affected by upstream damming, especially the Farakka dam in West Bengal built on the Ganga in 1975. Dams trap sediment and greatly reduce downstream transport. As a result, subsidence have outpaced accretion on average in the Indian part of the Sundarbans and the Delta is sinking at a rate of about 2 to 4mm/year.

The combined effect of already high rate of sea-level rise in the Bay of Bengal and land subsidence has been an effective sea-level rise in the Sundarbans that is nearly three times as fast as the global average (~ 8mm/year), and as high as 12mm/year on Sagar Island.

The consequences are all too obvious and exactly what has occurred: Satellites have found the sea advancing by a staggering 200 metres (650 feet)/year in parts of the Sundarbans, and a total of 170 square kilometres (the size of Kolkata city) has surrendered to the sea in the 37 years between 1973 and 2010 alone.

These are facts that students and teachers of Boatkhali Kadambini School need little convincing about.

Impacts of sea-level rise on the Sundarbans

Higher sea levels have devastating impacts on low-lying coastal habitats, and the Sundarbans is one of the most densely populated yet biodiverse ones in the world.

Aside from the school on Sagar Island becoming permanently inundated in a space of merely four years, the entire stretch where there were houses and agricultural land has been swallowed by the sea. The large-scale destruction of Mangroves has exacerbated coastal erosion. The surging seas have turned fertile agricultural lands and groundwater increasingly saline.

Families are moving inland or leaving the island entirely, often to big cities like Kolkata, effectively becoming climate change refugees.

There is yet another tragedy in store for the Sundarbans. A study focusing on the Bangladeshi Sundarbans (contiguous with the Indian Sundarbans) found that the remaining Tiger habitat and population would be almost entirely wiped out for a 28 cm rise in sea levels above the 2000 levels, which is likely to happen in the next 50 to 90 years.

Sea levels are expected to continue rising with increasing intensity in the Sundarbans. The fate of the Boatkhali Kadambini Primary School is an early warning sign, a precursor, of the devastation the Sundarbans faces. It is the fate that awaits all life in the Sundarbans, humans and animals alike, if we do not heed these signs and act at once to adapt if not to mitigate.

This article was originally published on Firstpost. Chirag Dhara is a climate physicist currently freelancing for Firstpost. You can get in touch with him on

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash