Category: Government

New project supports climate adaptation and resilience for Pacific Islands

New project supports climate adaptation and resilience for Pacific Islands

By Will Bugler

Fifteen Pacific island countries are part of the newly launched Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES) project under the Intra-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Programme funded by the 11th European Development Fund’s (EDF). The EUR 12 million project aims to strengthen adaptation and mitigation measures at the national and regional level and support partner countries in climate negotiations and in implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Jointly implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the University of the South Pacific, the project will also have a disaster resilience component. Some of the activities of the project, according to SPREP, include knowledge sharing, strengthening of networks, and trainings and research opportunities.

An inception and planning meeting for the project was held from 1-3 April 2019 at the SPREP Campus in Samoa.

The Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu participate in the project.


Photo Credit: Gemma Longman

US Senators introduce ‘Climate Security Act’ to understand climate impact on national security

US Senators introduce ‘Climate Security Act’ to understand climate impact on national security

By Will Bugler

Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have introduced a bill designed to increase the U.S governments’ understanding of the relationship between climate change and national Security. Brought forward on the 12th of March, The Climate Security Act of 2019 is wide ranging, examining the economic, environmental, and geopolitical impacts fuelled by climate change.

The Climate Security Act of 2019 was cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Tom Udall (D-N.M.); Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Tim Kaine (D-Va.); Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Cory Booker (D-N.J.); and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

If adopted, the Act would create a new Climate Security Envoy within the Department of State. The role would address climate security vulnerabilities and serve as the primary federal contact for climate security issues. The Climate Security Envoy would:

  • Work with climate scientists and security professionals to conduct analysis and risk assessments of the socioeconomic, geopolitical, and security risks associated with climate change.
  • Design climate security policies derived from those findings.
  • Develop and coordinate the application of climate security strategies that integrate climate policy seamlessly within the Department of State and across U.S. Embassies.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with other nations to address international climate security issues.

The Climate Security Envoy would also advise the President of the complexities and dynamics of global security threats exacerbated by climate. In addition, the bill would re-establish the Special Representative for the Artic.

The bill comes at a time when the security risks of climate change are gaining national attention. The previous week, more than 50 former senior military and national security officials  security officials, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, penned a letter to the President emphasizing the need to include climate change in national security planning.


Cover photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash.

The global law firm Clyde & Co. launches climate change liability risks report

The global law firm Clyde & Co. launches climate change liability risks report

By Nadine Coudel and Dr Richard Bater

In March 2019, Clyde & Co. launched its climate change report Climate change: Liability risks, a rising tide of litigation‘. The report explores the liability risks that organisations have faced and continue to face as plaintiffs attempt to use the courts to further their cause or sue for damages.

The report provides a broad overview of the evolving litigation risk landscape arising from the effects of climate change, identifying some of the key themes, controversies and legal hurdles.

The authors suggest that the significance of this trend should not be underestimated, with over 1200 climate change cases having been filed in more than 30 jurisdictions to date. As both litigation approaches and scientific evidence evolve, litigation increasingly represents a powerful tool in the hands of those who seek to attribute blame for contributing to effects of climate change or failing to take steps to adapt in light of available scientific evidence.

In as much as the physical risks of climate change raise both direct and indirect implications for a diversity of sectors, so too do the associated legal risks. As Clyde & Co Partner Nigel Brook remarks, “As the volume of climate change litigation grows and legal precedents build, new duties of care are emerging and the liability risk landscape is undergoing a shift which is likely to affect a wide range of commercial sectors”.

The authors classify litigation which has been emerging over the last two decades into three broad categories:

1. Administrative cases against governments and public bodies;

2. Tortious claims against corporations perceived as perpetrators of climate change;

3. Claims brought by investors against corporations for failing to account for possible risks to carbon-intensive assets or for failing to account for or disclose risks to business models and value chains in financial reporting.

The report also addresses novel approaches that claimants are adopting when bringing climate litigation, as well as the practical and legal considerations that these give rise to.

Finally, the report looks at global trends in climate litigation and their implications for businesses in different industries around the world, highlighting the issues which should be on companies’ radars over the months and years to come. The authors indicate that climate change litigation has already been deployed against companies beyond the oil and gas majors and suggest that this trend is likely to continue.

Litigation has advanced far from being targeted at first line ‘emitters’ to being used as a means of holding companies accountable for how they respond to the physical and financial risks of climate change. Clyde & Co. plans to explore these liability risks in greater depth in future reports.


Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

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 (arif.pervaiz@opml.co.uk)


Cover photo from Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com
Arctic melt spurs geopolitical tensions

Arctic melt spurs geopolitical tensions

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

With the Arctic heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, the borders its sea ice once protected are being left exposed. That so-called unpaid sentry is disappearing fast, giving way to not just new shipping routes but also security challenges countries in the region are reacting to.

Sea ice in the Arctic is being lost at a staggering rate of over 10,000 tonnes per second, by 2035 the region could be ice-free during summer. Speaking to The Guardian, Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, explained “The unique Arctic security architecture has shape and form that come from natural extremities. If the Arctic becomes just another ocean, this breaks down. It’s elemental.”

This is also the reason why military activity in the Arctic is increasing: the prospect of a completely open water body is cause for concern among countries that until recently relied on sea ice for securing their northern borders. However, it should be emphasised that an increase in military activity does not imply imminent conflict. Comparing the situation to that in the South China Sea – where nations compete not through combat but by demonstrating presence – former Norwegian defence minister Espen Barth Eide said “It’s not because there is an immediate threat, it’s that, as an area becomes more important, it’s natural to have a heightened military presence.”

With national security concerns also comes an increased sense of competition for the growing business interest in the region. The Northern Sea Route from Asia to Europe can save ships up to 20 days travel time as opposed to the Southern Sea Route (Suez Canal passage). Parts of the northern passage historically have only been ice-free for two months each year. However, as mentioned above, that is rapidly changing. Remote places like Tromsø in Norway are becoming bustling tourism and business hubs. “Now we have a historically strange situation with political and economic activity in the Arctic. So many people are knocking on our door, including business and state representatives from China, Pakistan, Singapore and Morocco,” said Tromsø mayor Kristin Røymo.

The receding ice is a massive game changer, especially for Russia. Not only does the country have the largest border in the Arctic region but must of the Northern Sea Route currently extends across Russia’s exclusive economic zone. As long as the ice doesn’t recede beyond that zone, Russia will get paid by anyone who uses that shipping route. But as sea ice recedes further, ships will be able to travel in international waters. China, an observing member of the Arctic Council since 2013, is one of the countries exploring this possibility and the potential for infrastructure investments in a “Polar Silk Road”, threatening the exclusive position Russia has been in historically.

In addition to the growing interest in the Arctic for its shorter shipping routes, oil & gas companies are sniffing their chance at exploring new oil and gas fields. Norway came under fire earlier this year for having approved over 80 new exploration licenses. At the Arctic Frontiers conference in January, environmentalists highlighted the dual role of oil as both a driver of climate change, which is heavily impacting the Arctic, and as a driver of increasing resource extraction in one of the most fragile and pristine environments on this planet. These tensions and the growing competition are also putting into question peaceful cross-border cooperation efforts that held up even during the cold war and regulated fishing, scientific research and even reindeer herding.


Cover photo by Menglong Bao on Unsplash
Climate change main component of systemic collapse risk

Climate change main component of systemic collapse risk

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

A new study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) finds that human-induced environmental change is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace. At the same time, the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes and manage the resulting risks is closing fast. According to the researchers, politics and policies are failing to recognise this urgency, eroding the foundations that enable socioeconomic stability and threatening systemic collapse of 2008-proportions if not worse.

The climate is one of six main global systems that are being altered by human activity. The increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing ocean acidification, melting ice sheets and sea ice, rising sea levels, and large-scale ecosystem changes. The ‘safe’ CO2-concentration boundary of 350 parts per million (ppm) has long been breached with levels currently fluctuating between roughly 405-410 ppm – the highest since the Pliocene 3-5 million years ago when average temperatures were about 2°-3° C higher and sea levels about 10-20 metres higher. And change is clearly already happening: the 20 warmest years on record since 1850 happened in the last 22 years. Last year’s devastating IPCC report highlighted this even more, emphasising large-scale change needs to happen now by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels in order to avoid catastrophic warming.

The other systems being altered include ocean acidification, biodiversity, land-use, the nitrogen cycle, and different forms of pollution. Together with climate change, the human impact on these systems has created an explosive new domain of risk. In the report, researchers write “this new risk domain affects virtually all areas of policy and politics, and it is doubtful that societies around the world are adequately prepared to manage this risk.”

The deterioration of natural systems significantly amplifies and interacts with existing socioeconomic issues. The study compares the potential risk of systemic collapse to the subprime mortgage crisis that led to the 2008 financial crisis – the deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, given that in this case we are talking about the very environment we depend on for living as a species, the ramifications of systemic collapse would be much more dramatic.

For example, migration from the Middle East and central and northern Africa is likely to increase as a result of longer droughts and extreme heat. In 2015, when migration caused by the Syrian war reached its highest numbers ever, European politicians found themselves completely overwhelmed by an arguably foreseeable situation of manageable proportions (there are roughly 1 million Syrian refugees in Europe, a continent of close to 750 million, with EU citizens making up roughly 70% of that). Climate change could increase refugee numbers tenfold and displace tens of millions of people. Laurie Laybourn-Langton, lead author of the study, said “There would be repercussions in Europe. Right-wing groups use the fear of migration, as we saw during the EU referendum in Britain. What is that going to look like when far more people are forced from homes due to environmental shocks? What does that mean for political cohesion?”

The report states that current policy efforts to grapple with these problems are not adequately focussed on all the different elements of environmental breakdown and completely miss the mark to provide transformational change to key socioeconomic systems. Societies are not robust enough to deal with the increasingly dire consequences of a breakdown.

The IPPR study is just the beginning of a larger project that, using the UK as a case study, will assess what progress has been made toward responding to environmental breakdown and develop policies that can help create a sustainable, just and prepared world by seeking to understand how political and policy communities can develop the sense of agency needed to overcome environmental breakdown.

Access the report by clicking here.


Cover photo by Josh Zakary/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0): Syrian Refugees in Vienna, 2015.
Climate action needs to be inclusive of women’s diverse voices

Climate action needs to be inclusive of women’s diverse voices

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Structural and cultural discrimination of women make them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, however, they also lack systematic representation as decision makers. Gender equality is essential for transformational climate action, thus the involvement of women in it is key.

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts in a number of ways. For example, a study from 2007 showed that the socially constructed gender-specific vulnerability of women that is built into everyday socio-economic patterns led to higher mortality during and after disasters compared to men. Surviving extreme weather events can leave women with a lack of resources to rebuild their lives, this can range from a lack of legal assets to not having rights to property. The less extreme day-to-day struggles of having to collect water or food also come with their own set of gendered challenges as women often get threatened and abused.

Framing climate change as a human rights imperative, a global security threat, and a pervasive economic strain, a Georgetown University study from 2015 looked specifically at the gendered dimensions of climate impacts and how women systematically suffer more severe health, economic, social, and physical consequences. The report also recognised women as critical agents of change who provide both creative and localised solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, but who are, at the same time, systematically excluded from decision-making processes.

The UNFCCC is trying to counteract this systematic exclusion through a number of measures like, for example, the Gender Action Plan (GAP). Established at COP23, the GAP recognises that “there  is  a  need  for  women  to  be  represented  in  all  aspects  of  the  Convention  process  and  a  need  for  gender  mainstreaming  through  all  relevant  targets  and goals in activities under the Convention as an important contribution to increasing their effectiveness.” The Paris Agreement also mentions the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment several times calling, for example, for gender-responsive adaptation and capacity building. Increasing women’s participation at the political level results in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and delivering more sustainable peace.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind how intersectionality adds fuel to the fire of gender inequality. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, describes the way in which institutions of oppression (sexism, racism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from each other creating very unique experiences for different people. For example, a wealthy white woman and a wealthy black woman can both experience sexism, but the black woman will in all likelihood experience racism on top of that, or even gendered racism; similarly, a disabled woman encounters completely different challenges than a non-disabled woman. But also, the examples outlined further above do not apply to all women, illustrating why the representation of women in decision-making processes needs to reflect their diverse experiences making sure we are creating solutions for all, not just the few.


Cover photo by Arièle Bonte on Unsplash.
EU lawmakers move toward regulations facilitating a sustainable finance system – Part 2

EU lawmakers move toward regulations facilitating a sustainable finance system – Part 2

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor

European legislative institutions are making important progress toward facilitating a European financial system that supports the EU’s climate and sustainable development agenda. This is the second of a two-part series that reviews the legislative proposals, actions, and reports made by the European Commission, Council and Parliament in their efforts to facilitate a sustainable finance system. This article narrows focus to the progress made by the European Parliament (EP) and Council whereas the first part of the series covered the European Commission’s activities.

The EP has sent a clear signal to the finance sector and other stakeholders that it supports the Commission’s efforts in developing legislation on sustainable finance.In May 2018, following the release of the Commission’s Action Plan on Sustainable Investment, the EP passed a resolution on sustainable finance. The resolution emphasises the vital role of financial markets in the transition to a sustainable economy and the need for a policy framework to encourage investments into sustainable assets. The resolution passed easily with 455 votes to 87, (with 92 abstentions), indicating that Members of the European Parliament strongly back plans to align EU capital markets to long-term sustainable goals.

Sustainability taxonomy

As discussed in Part 1 of this series, one of the main activities the Commission is focusing on is the establishment of a standardised sustainability taxonomy. The EP is currently also actively considering this legislative proposal. As it stands, the EP’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) have issued a draft report on the sustainability taxonomy in November 2018. Amendments have been tabled and the wider EP will now consider the proposed regulation during its plenary session to be held from 25 to 28 March. Review in the European Council is happening in parallel and is ongoing, though very little information has thus far reached the public eye. This taxonomy will help in the governance of financial markets by building familiarity and consistency around climate-related investments.

Regulation on disclosures

The EP’s ECON committee is also reviewing regulation on sustainable investment and sustainability risk disclosures, which could have implications for financial institutions involved in pension investing as it could require additional disclosures. The legislative proposal centres around amending Directive (EU) 2016/2341 on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision, also known as IORP II. While the current Directive requires investment firms and insurance intermediaries providing advice to act in the best interest of their clients, there is no requirement for these entities to explicitly consider environmental, social, or governance (ESG) risks in their advice nor to disclose those considerations.

The proposed regulation introduces additional requirements to existing elements of Directive 2016/2341 including:

  • A dedicated and coherent disclosure framework on the integration of ESG risks;
  • Such framework should be used by financial intermediaries both in investment decision-making or advisory processes;
  • End-investors should receive coherent and comparable disclosures on financial product and services relating to sustainable investments and sustainability risks.

In autumn 2018, a draft report was released, and amendments were tabled within the ECON Committee. The ENVI Committee have provided its opinion and the ECON committee voted to enter into interinstitutional negotiations (trilogue) in November 2018. Trilogues between the European Commission, Council, and Parliament are ongoing. The wider EP will consider the proposed regulation during its plenary session, to be held from 15 to 18 April. In the Council, in December 2018, EU ambassadors agreed the Council’s negotiating mandate on the Commission’s proposal.

Tracking the progress and next steps

The wider EP will now begin the review of proposed regulations and amendments relating to both the sustainability taxonomy and disclosure of sustainability risks in spring 2019. The EP’s consideration of regulations relating to the sustainability taxonomy have been assigned procedure number 2018/0178(COD), and regulations relating to sustainability disclosures is procedure number 2018/0179(COD). The full status of both procedures can be checked on the EP’s Legislative Observatory system.

At the time of writing, only the regulations relating to disclosure have entered trilogue. While European regulations are still unfolding, the manner and speed with which lawmakers are considering climate and sustainability disclosures provide a strong signal to financial institutions. Those who are aware of and actively preparing for future legislation in this space may be well placed when regulations drop. Getting to grips with the voluntary TCFD recommendations could be a useful place to start internal discussions and capacity building ahead of more formal regulations.

Acclimatise will be keeping a close eye on how this regulation progresses at the EU level and we will continue to reflect on its implications for financial institutions in Europe. Members of our team are actively engaged in providing technical expertise to the European Commission’s Technical Expert Group, which is developing a framework for the sustainability taxonomy.


Cover photo by Diliff/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0): The Hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg during a plenary session in 2014.
Ten years ago, climate adaptation research was gaining steam. Today, it’s gutted

Ten years ago, climate adaptation research was gaining steam. Today, it’s gutted

By Rod Keenan, University of Melbourne

Ten years ago, on February 7, 2009, I sat down in my apartment in central Melbourne to write a job application. All of the blinds were down, and the windows tightly closed. Outside it was 47℃. We had no air conditioning. The heat seeped through the walls.

When I stepped outside, the air ripped at my nose and throat, like a fan-forced sauna. It felt ominous. With my forestry training, and some previous experience of bad fire weather in Tasmania, I knew any fires that day would be catastrophic. They were. Black Saturday became Australia’s worst-ever bushfire disaster.

I was applying for the position of Director of the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR). I was successful and started the job later that year.

The climate in Victoria over the previous 12 years had been harsh. Between 1997 and 2009 the state suffered its worst drought on record, and major bushfires in 2003 and 2006-07 burned more than 2 million hectares of forest. Then came Black Saturday, and the year after that saw the start of Australia’s wettest two-year period on record, bringing major floods to the state’s north, as well as to vast swathes of the rest of the country.

In Victoria alone, hundreds of millions of dollars a year were being spent on response and recovery from climate-related events. In government, the view was that things couldn’t go on that way. As climate change accelerated, these costs would only rise.

We had to get better at preparing for, and avoiding, the future impacts of rapid climate change. This is what is what we mean by the term “climate adaptation”.

Facing up to disasters

A decade after Black Saturday, with record floods in Queensland, severe bushfires in Tasmania and Victoria, widespread heatwaves and drought, and a crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin, it is timely to reflect on the state of adaptation policy and practice in Australia.

In 2009 the Rudd Labor government had taken up the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader, we seemed headed for a bipartisan national solution ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in December. Governments, meanwhile, agreed that adaptation was more a state and local responsibility. Different parts of Australia faced different climate risks. Communities and industries in those regions had different vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities and needed locally driven initiatives.

Led by the Brumby government in Victoria, state governments developed an adaptation policy framework and sought federal financial support to implement it. This included research on climate adaptation. The federal government put A$50 million into a new National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, based in Queensland, alongside the CSIRO Adaptation Flagship which was set up in 2007.

The Victorian Government invested A$5 million in VCCCAR. The state faced local risks: more heatwaves, floods, storms, bushfires and rising sea levels, and my colleagues and I found there was plenty of information on climate impacts. The question was: what can policy-makers, communities, businesses and individuals do in practical terms to plan and prepare?

Getting to work

From 2009 until June 2014, researchers from across disciplines in four universities collaborated with state and local governments, industry and the community to lay the groundwork for better decisions in a changing climate.

We held 20 regional and metropolitan consultation events and hosted visiting international experts on urban design, flood, drought, and community planning. Annual forums brought together researchers, practitioners, consultants and industry to share knowledge and engage in collective discussion on adaptation options. We worked with eight government departments, driving the message that adapting to climate change wasn’t just an “environmental” problem and needed responses across government.

All involved considered the VCCCAR a success. It improved knowledge about climate adaptation options and confidence in making climate decisions. The results fed into Victoria’s 2013 Climate Change Adaptation Plan, as well as policies for urban design and natural resource management, and practices in the local government and community sectors. I hoped the centre would continue to provide a foundation for future adaptation policy and practice.

Funding cuts

In the 2014 state budget the Napthine government chose not to continue funding the VCCCAR. Soon after, the Abbott federal government reduced the funding and scope of its national counterpart, and funding ended last year.

Meanwhile, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall argued that climate science was less important than the need for innovation and turning inventions into benefits for society. Along with other areas of climate science, the Adaptation Flagship was cut, its staff let go or redirected. From a strong presence in 2014, climate adaptation has become almost invisible in the national research landscape.

In the current chaos of climate policy, adaptation has been downgraded. There is a national strategy but little high-level policy attention. State governments have shifted their focus to energy, investing in renewables and energy security. Climate change was largely ignored in developing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Despite this lack of policy leadership, many organisations are adapting. Local governments with the resources are addressing their particular challenges, and building resilience. Our public transport now functions better in heatwaves, and climate change is being considered in new transport infrastructure. The public is more aware of heatwave risks, and there is investment in emergency management research, but this is primarily focused on disaster response.

Large companies making long-term investments, such as Brisbane Airport, have improved their capacity to consider future climate risks. There are better planning tools and systems for business, and the finance and insurance sectors are seriously considering these risks in investment decisions. Smart rural producers are diversifying, using their resources differently, or shifting to different growing environments.

Struggling to cope

But much more is needed. Old buildings and cooling systems are not built to cope with our current temperatures. Small businesses are suffering, but few have capacity to analyse their vulnerabilities or assess responses. The power generation system is under increasing pressure. Warning systems have improved but there is still much to do to design warnings in a way that ensures an appropriate public reaction. Too many people still adopt a “she’ll be right” attitude and ignore warnings, or leave it until the last minute to evacuate.

In an internal submission to government in 2014 we proposed a Victorian Climate Resilience Program to provide information and tools for small businesses. Other parts of the program included frameworks for managing risks for local governments, urban greening, building community leadership for resilience, and new conservation approaches in landscapes undergoing rapid change.

Investment in climate adaptation pays off. Small investments now can generate payoffs of 3-5:1 in reduced future impacts. A recent business round table report indicates that carefully targeted research and information provision could save state and federal governments A$12.2 billion and reduce the overall economic costs of natural disasters (which are projected to rise to A$23 billion a year by 2050) by more than 50%.

Ten years on from Black Saturday, climate change is accelerating. The 2030 climate forecasts made in 2009 have come true in half the time. Today we are living through more and hotter heatwaves, longer droughts, uncontrollable fires, intense downpours and significant shifts in seasonal rainfall patterns.

Yes, policy-makers need to focus on reducing greenhouse emissions, but we also need a similar focus on adaptation to maintain functioning and prosperous communities, economies and ecosystems under this rapid change. It is vital that we rebuild our research capacity and learn from our past experiences, to support the partnerships needed to make climate-smart decisions.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cover photo by CSIRO (CC BY 3.0): A destroyed property at Kinglake after the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires.
Drought and conflict can spur climate refugees

Drought and conflict can spur climate refugees

By Tim Radford

Austrian researchers have made it simpler to identify climate refugees, claiming to have established a direct causal link between climate change, conflict and the numbers of migrants.

They are not the first to confirm that there is a statistical association between the likelihood of drought, or heat extremes, and violence. Evidence of cause for any civil or international conflict is always complex and often disputed.

But researchers now say that mathematical techniques provide an indirect connection between formally-established drought conditions and recorded levels of applications for asylum.

“In a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources”

The link is conflict, of the kind observed in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Climate change will not cause conflict and subsequent asylum-seeking flows everywhere,” said Jesus Crespona Cuaresma of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“But in a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources.”

Specific conditions

He and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that they looked at data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of asylum applications from 157 countries between 2006 and 2015.

They then matched the patterns of asylum bids against conditions in their parent countries, using a measure that scientists call the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, which provides a guide to the gap between rainfall and heat and drought.

They next assembled a tally measure of battle-related deaths collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme in Sweden. Then they modelled other factors, such as the distance between the countries of origin and destination, the sizes of populations, the migrant networks, the political status of the drought-stressed countries and the known divisions into ethnic and religious groups.

And they found that – in specific circumstances – climatic conditions do lead to increased migration as a consequence of conflict exacerbated by the more severe droughts.

Hard to establish

All conclusions about human behaviour at the political level are difficult to establish. Archaeologists and climate scientists have repeatedly linked the collapse of ancient civilisations to climate change but in most such cases the evidence is circumstantial, and incomplete.

But there is often little or no direct testimony from the faraway past, and no surviving voice to offer a challenge. The connection between climate conditions and human response is less certain in a disputed world.

Researchers have systematically found associations between climate and violence and between climate and the conditions for civil inequality.

Urgent prospect

Some have found an association between drought and the conflict in Syria, but others have disputed the conclusion. Researchers have warned that future climate change could create large numbers of migrants and climate refugees and that both issues are urgent.

But it remains more difficult to establish that climate is the only or even the most pressing factor in any individual case.

So the IIASA finding is a cautious one, backed, the scientists say, by statistical rigour. This identifies climate change, and migration flow, and finds conflict as the causal mediator which links the two, most obviously in the events in the Middle East and North Africa since 2006.

“Our results suggest that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, play a statistically significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum-seeking exclusively for countries that were affected by the Arab Spring,” they write.


This article originally appeared on Climate News Network.

Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988.

Cover photo by Christian Michelides/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0): Refugees at the bridge connecting Braunau (in Austria) with Simbach (in Germany) waiting and freezing.