The Dominican Republic’s second largest city is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season with a new evacuation plan following last year’s storms that killed around 90 people.
Santiago de los Caballeros is still struggling with the economic toll from hurricanes Maria and Irma, two category 4 storms that left trails of destruction as they crashed through the Caribbean in September of last year.
The fifth largest metro area in the Caribbean, Santiago de los Caballeros has experienced rapid and disorganized urbanisation and physical expansion leading to an increase in informal settlements that are poorly or illegally connected to official infrastructure and services.
Amongst rising fears in many island nations that infrastructure and economies could be devastated by even more powerful storms in the future, authorities are taking measures to mitigate the potential damage caused with the unveiling of its 87-page resilience strategy
As a member of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, Santiago de los Caballeros has prioritised disaster preparedness, alongside developing infrastructure, improving transport and reducing domestic violence.
However, Maria Isabel Serrano Dina, the Chief Resilience Officer for 100 Resilient Cities, says the city is faced with limited resources that are preventing the full implementation of the plan.
“One of the biggest challenges is money. What can you do with a little budget? You have to be creative,” she said.
Working with businesses to sponsor local parks or to take responsibility for street lights is a cost-effective way of funding schemes and giving private sector companies a vested interest in protecting their areas, she said.
Additionally, public education and outreach programmes can help communities get more involved in resilience efforts.
Major challenges to the city currently include improving the drinking water supply and waste management system.
Low levels of awareness of climate risks and the availability of climate services are significant barriers to climate adaptation in the electricity sector, according to new research from Germany. However, the research also finds that the underlying market opportunity for climate services remains strong.
Damage to a critical infrastructure, its destruction or disruption by for example natural disasters, will have a significant negative impact on the security of the EU and the well-being of its citizens. Focussing on the German electricity sector, the report found that stakeholders in the sector claimed to need seasonal forecasts and decadal predictions, the latter aligning closely with energy companies’ time frames for strategic planning. However, despite this, there is currently a low level of demand for climate services from the sector.
The report found that four major barriers prevented the uptake of climate services:
low awareness of the climate-related risks,
low awareness of the benefits climate services can provide,
mismatches between the required and the available timescales and spatial resolution of data and
a lack of trust in the reliability of data.
In order to overcome these hurdles, the report recommends that considerable work needs to be done in the first instance to increase the visibility of the climate services industry and how it can contribute to the climate resilience of key sectors. It proposes that a ‘Climate Service Provider Store’ is created to provide information about where appropriate climate service providers are available.
Additionally, the case study recommends that work continues to ensure that seasonal and decadal forecast become ever-more accurate and that regional cooperation between industry networks and climate services providers are strengthened.
The case study was led by the non-profit research organization HZG under the MArket Research for a Climate Services Observatory (MARCO) programme of which Acclimatise is a proud partner. MARCO, a 2-year project coordinated by European Climate-KIC, hopes that research such as this will help to remove the barriers to the growth of the climate services industry across Europe.
Download the full case study “Critical Energy Infrastructures” here.
Download an infographic highlighting the key findings of the case study here.
In Tokyo, an enormous underground flood protection system pumps excess water out of the metropolitan area into the sea and has reduced flood occurrences massively. But, climate change might take it to its limits.
When you look at a photograph of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, or G-Cans, you might be reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mines of Moria and the terrifying Balrog that lived there. However, it is the world’s largest underground flood water diversion infrastructure, built on the outskirts of Tokyo.
The numbers associated with this cavernous super structure are truly impressive: 50 metres beneath the surface, five containment silos, each 65 metres high and with a diameter of 32 metres, are connected by a 6.3-kilometre network of tunnels. The silos are so big, they could fit the Statue of Liberty inside. The structure also has a large cistern, the “Underground Temple”, 18 metres high, 78 metres wide, and 177 metres long with 59 massive pillars and connected to the drainage facility of the system which consists of 4 pumps that can pump a total of 200 cubic metres of water per second.
The underground system was built in 2006 and cost roughly $2 billion. Now, climate change threatens to erode the capacity thresholds of G-Cans. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, Japan, already one of the wettest areas of the world, will see even more rainfall. Additionally, sea level rise is threatening Tokyo, which is further exacerbated by subsidence. In 2015, heavy rainfall caused by a typhoon filled Tokyo’s flood protection system with almost 19 million cubic metres of water – which could roughly fill 7600 Olympic size pools – and took four days to be pumped out.
For the time being, the facility remains crucial to Tokyo’s flood defences. However, in the face of climate change and possibly looking at a future where this structure alone will not be able to protect Tokyo’s 38 million inhabitants from floods, Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, former chief civil engineer of Tokyo’s Edogawa ward, said to the New Statesman that current flood protection measures “are not enough.” Kuniharu Abe, who heads the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, further adds he is “not sure Japan can build something like this again.”
It begs the question if attempting another infrastructure project of such enormous proportions (literally and financially) even is the correct way forward. Concrete defences often offer a very obvious and visible form of flood protection and can attract more people to flood-prone areas. This is what happened to Saitama, where the G-Cans facility has reduced floods significantly. Many businesses settled in the area and might face a future when frequent flooding returns.
It is important to emphasise that the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel is by no means a story of failure, it has already avoided many floods and will, at the very least, continue to alleviate them in the future. But it tells a story about the fact that adaptation to increasing flood risk, or any climate risk for that matter, is never one-dimensional. No single project will remove the risk. It is important to consider many aspects from infrastructural solutions, zoning and land use, to public risk awareness and preparedness.
It was with great fanfare that last month, the Trump administration announced its ambitious infrastructure plan. The strategy commits US$ 1.5 trillion for improving the country’s roads, airports, railways and bridges. However, the 55-page document fails to mention the words “climate change”, “resilience” or “adaptation” even once. Failing to consider the impact of climate change on infrastructure, much of which will be expected to last many decades, undermines the country’s preparedness for both extreme weather events and climate change.
Weather disasters were estimated to have cost the US economy over US$ 306 billion last year as the country was hit by 16 extreme weather events with losses exceeding $1 billion. A sizeable portion of these losses are attributed to direct damage to infrastructure and the associated disruption that this causes.
“The Trump administration’s misguided infrastructure plan ignores the threats facing our country from stronger storms, higher temperatures, and bigger floods,” said Stephanie Gidigbi, a policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “smart investments in our future would help make our communities more resilient to withstand the effects of climate change, and would recognize the opportunities in cleaner energy.”
Designing infrastructure to cope only with the most extreme weather events of the past will leave it poorly prepared for the potentially more severe weather events of the future. However, extreme events are only part of the picture where climate change is concerned. Gradual changes in temperatures and climatic conditions will also affect infrastructure’s ability to perform effectively.
For example, hotter average temperatures can affect the efficiency of power plants, the stability of asphalt roads, and increase the amount of energy needed to cool buildings. One study published in Nature Climate Change, estimated that warming temperatures will add up to US$35.8 billion to road paving costs by the 2070s. The authors note that “failing to update engineering standards of practice in light of climate change therefore significantly threatens pavement infrastructure in the United States.”
The new infrastructure investment plan also shifts a lot of the financial risk from the federal to local government. Under the new plan, local governments would be responsible for funding over 80% of the investment. Should the infrastructure then be damaged or destroyed as a result of climate change-related weather events, local government budgets could be left with large deficits.
The new plan is consistent with the Trump administration’s commitment to remove legislation related to climate change and contains no consideration of the overall systemic resilience of the countries power, transportation, or water systems. Trump’s plan may succeed in mobilising funding to build new infrastructure, but the likelihood is that the US will be no better prepared for today’s reality of a changing climate.
A new report from clean energy advisory and venture firm Capital E finds that urban investment in smart surface strategies could secure billions of dollars in net financial benefits.
The cost-benefit analysis conducted in three cities, Philadelphia, El Paso and Washington D.C., concludes that smart surfaces can strengthen resilience, improve health and liveability, expand jobs and slow global warming. Smart surfaces include green roofs, solar panels, permeable pavement and reflective pavement.
Additionally, these strategies could potentially deliver half a trillion dollars in savings from urban employment nationally.
The report highlights concerns about cities becoming urban heat islands, especially as more effects of climate change become evident. The damage and cost of increased temperature and air pollution are particularly acute for urban low-income urban areas having profound, directly measurable effects on both physical and mental health outcomes.
Smart surface technologies, like cool roofs, help manage high temperatures by reflecting light and heat rather than absorbing it. Green roofs, so roofs with a plant cover, for example, can also provide a means of improving resilience through stormwater management and water quality while providing a means of filtration.
Additionally, investment in the green economy offers jobs across a wide range of skill levels with relatively low entry barriers. Installing smart surfaces in urban areas would help create relatively well-paid jobs and increasing the availability of positions in construction.
And, city officials are responding positively to the report’s findings. As former mayor of Austin Will Wynn notes, “Delivering Urban Resilience provides an entirely convincing case that city-wide adoption of ‘smart surfaces’ like green and cool roofs and porous pavements are both cost-effective and essential to ensuring that our cities remain liveable in a warming world.”
The Delivering Urban Resilience report also provides a methodology for quantifying the full costs and benefits for smart solutions giving cities the ability to financially quantify green options.
Cover photo by US Air Force: About 2,100 trays of sedum, a regional high desert plant, cover most of the 21st Space Wing Headquarters building roof. It was selected because of its drought resistance. The green roof, installed in 2007, is designed to reduce energy consumption and rainwater runoff, and extend the life of the roof, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lea Johnson).
Inaction by the UK government over new building regulations that would ensure homes, hospitals and schools do not overheat, could spell death for thousands of people every year.
A 2017 report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warns that the number of people dying as a result of heat is expected to more than triple to 7,000 a year by 2040 with hospitals and care homes being particularly vulnerable.
And Britain’s recent seasonal temperature averages have proved to be anything but normal. In June 2017, Britain experienced its longest period with temperatures above 30°C since 1976. On the hottest day of the year in 2016 there were almost 400 extra deaths, while a 10-day heatwave in 2003 brought about 2,000 heat-related deaths and another 680 fatalities occurred during hot weather in 2006.
The CCC made the initial recommendation for new regulations in 2015 but faced rejection by ministers, citing a commitment to “reduce net regulation on homebuilders”.
The Government’s current Heatwave Plan contains advice on protecting vulnerable people before and during hot weather. But it is a guidance; not a policy to adapt buildings to prevent the problem in the first place.
Deputy Chair of the CCC Baroness Brown believes the issue will only get worse with a lack of regulation.
“More than 90 percent of our population live in urban areas and as we have all been experiencing, heat is a significant problem,” she said. “We know it’s bad for productivity, we know it’s bad for wellbeing and we know it’s bad for health yet building regulations don’t cover heat and the management of high temperatures.”
Research conducted by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) found that 45% of building professionals estimate there is ‘little or no additional cost’ of incorporating passive cooling measures in new buildings at the design stage.
Additionally, the report found that retrofitting was more likely to involve a higher cost compared to built-in overheating measures. Experts also stress that air conditioning should not be the first choice as it is expensive, energy-intensive, and expels water heat into the environment, making the problem of overheating worse for others.
With a lack of regulation being the most commonly reported barrier cited by building professionals to address risks of overheating, government intervention is essential. And Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC, stresses there is no time for delay.
“The events of the past year have been, by almost any measure, exceptional,” he said. “However, it is now time for government, and for parliament, to act. Climate change is happening, not waiting. It is neither justifiable nor wise to delay further.
The risk of flooding to millions more people in Asia, Europe and North America will rise, demanding climate adaptation for a warmer world. The probable changes as the world heats are so great that climate adaptation to cope with the inevitable is now essential, scientists are warning.
Even were the US and other nations to honour the promises made in the Paris Agreement of 2015, one fourth of California’s natural wilderness would be under stress from global warming, a new study shows.
And while California becomes ever more parched, its forests at ever-greater risk of insect attack and wildfire, 43 other US states face a dramatic increase in flood hazard, with a tenfold rise in the numbers of people at risk from the worst river floods.
US researchers report in the journal Ecosphere that they looked at the consequences for California if global greenhouse gas emissions continue at their present rate, to go on fuelling global warming.
They mapped 30 different vegetation types – California’s canopy includes a huge variety of mountain conifer, forest coastal woodland, upland sagebrush scrub, grassland and so on – and considered nine climate and precipitation variables, and then looked at computer models of future global warming, which predict – at worst – a global average rise of 4.5°C by 2100.
“Mitigating future climate change must be accompanied by adapting to the climate change we have already caused. Doing nothing will be dangerous”
“If we reduce the rate to Paris Accord targets, those numbers are lowered to between 21 and 28% of the lands at climatic risk.” The research measures only the impact of climate change: not of the accompanying hazards.
During the 2012-2016 Californian drought – the worst on record – more than 127 million trees died of insect infestation, and wildfire devastated huge tracts of forest and scrub.
And according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, more drought could be on the way. They report in Nature Communications that the steady attrition of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean triggers a change in atmospheric convection over the tropical Pacific, which creates the right conditions for an atmospheric ridge over the North Pacific, which means California gets a lot sunnier, and therefore drier.
“On average, considering a 20-year mean, we find a 10-15% decrease in California’s rainfall. However some individual years could become much drier, and others wetter,” said Ivana Cvijanovic, who led the research. “The recent California drought appears to be a good illustration of what sea ice-driven precipitation decline should look like.”
Elsewhere in the US, drought may not be the big problem. German researchers report in the journal Science Advances that they calculated the necessary increase in flood protection over the next 25 years worldwide, as the planet warms.
The overall numbers at risk are greatest in Asia – 70 million people now, and 156 million by 2040. The scientists make the case that governments need to think about adaptation. The surprise was that even the most developed nations would be affected.
Oceanographers built a computer model based on a century of measurements of the tides at 15 locations in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays on the US eastern coast. Overall, by 2100, sea levels could rise by as much as a metre.
They found evidence that sea level rise so far has already begun to change the ranges of low and high tides – in some cases by up to 20% – which in turn are governed by the contours of the two great river estuaries.
“In the Delaware Bay, as you go upstream toward Philadelphia, the shore lines are converging in a kind of funnel shape, and so we see that amplifies sea level rise’s effects on the tides,” said Andrew Ross, a meteorologist then at Penn State University, but now at Princeton. “That amplification gets magnified the farther you go upstream.”
Acclimatise, Climate Finance Advisors (CFA), and Four Twenty Seven have released a new guidance document to increase the climate resilience of large infrastructure investments. The “Lenders’ Guide for Considering Climate Risk in Infrastructure Investments” clearly breaks down the ways in which physical climate risks might affect key financial aspects of prospective infrastructure investments. Ten sub-sectors, including airports, marine ports, gas and oil transport and storage, power transmission and distribution, wind-based power generation, data centres, telecommunications, commercial real estate, healthcare, and sports and entertainment, are analysed and illustrated with topical examples.
“Since Paris, private investors and asset owners have increasingly focused on what investment risks and opportunities are created by climate change. The Lender’s Guide developed by Acclimatise, Climate Finance Advisors, and Four Twenty Seven provides the first practical approach to assessing the impact of climate change on infrastructure investments for owners, developers, and lenders. For the first time, the guide provides infrastructure investors and lenders with a concrete approach to climate risks and opportunities,” said Jay Koh, Chair of the Global Adaptation & Resilience Investment (GARI) Working Group.
This guide provides a framework for questioning how revenues, costs, and assets can be linked to potential project vulnerability arising from climate hazards, such as increasing temperatures or sea-level rise. A heightened frequency of extreme weather events may lead to more disruptions of infrastructure service delivery resulting in lower revenues and increased expenses. In the United States for example, hurricane damage in 2017 to infrastructure in key economic centres, such as Houston, Texas, exceeded tens of billions of dollars (USD), not to mention losses to revenues and increased operating costs due to recovery efforts. In addition to the well-known costs from Hurricane Sandy to New York City’s transit infrastructure, that storm also led to 893 flights cancellations and knocked out about 25% of cell towers belonging to all carriers in a coastal area spread over 10 US states, leading to service (and therefore revenue) disruptions for infrastructure assets far beyond New York City. Additionally, incremental changes in climate such as water resource availability or temperatures are also likely to affect the operational and economic performance of infrastructure over time. Reduced precipitation can for instance decrease river flow and negatively impact the operability of hydropower facilities.
The guide also draws attention to the potential opportunities emerging from resilience-oriented investments in infrastructure. Concrete measures, such as replacing copper cables with fibre-optic ones, have proven successful in enhancing the ability of infrastructure to cope with extreme events and increasing revenue for companies who undertook such transformations.
John Firth, CEO of Acclimatise, states “Understanding the risks, as well as any opportunities, that might arise from a changing climate is paramount to infrastructure investments. This guide helps lenders integrate climate risks and opportunities into their strategic planning, hence improving the performance of their investments. Such a process feeds into the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). ”
Stacy Swann, CEO of Climate Finance Advisors notes that “Financial institutions play a pivotal role in scaling up and directing finance to address climate change. As a general matter, these institutions are always weighing risks against potential returns when seeking good, sustainable investments. Yet, climate risks are often overlooked in this process. This guide can help investment and credit officers begin to ask the right questions about how climate change can impact the financial sustainability of their investments, leading to better – more sustainable – investment decision-making.”
Yoon Kim, Director of Advisory Services at Four Twenty Seven adds “Incorporating climate change considerations into infrastructure investments enables investors proactively to identify and address the risks and opportunities presented by climate change. This guide helps investors and lenders unpack the question of how physical climate risks may affect key considerations related to infrastructure investments to inform investment decisions that make sense now and into the future.”
As the international community is moving forward with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, critical issues such as catalysing resilient investments occupy centre stage and raise questions across various fora, such as GARI. This guide emerged from ongoing discussions among participants of GARI during 2017, and is part of a growing global effort to deliver guidance to corporates and financial institutions to implement the TCFD recommendations.
Acclimatise is a UK-based climate change advisory and analytics company that specialises on climate change adaptation and resilience building. Acclimatise is a trusted advisor for many organisations across a wide range of sectors including government, finance, insurance, water, energy, transport, mining, agriculture, defence, food and beverages, and international development. The company’s 24 staff have successfully worked on more than 350 projects in over 70 countries for 180 public, private and non-governmental organisations. Acclimatise is currently involved in complementary projects for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation and the United Nations Environment Programme – Finance.
Climate Finance Advisors (CFA) is a consulting and advisory firm based in Washington, DC with extensive experience in development, finance, sustainability, and climate change. CFA’s mission is to facilitate the acceleration of sustainable, climate-smart investments and to encourage the integration of climate considerations into investment decision-making and underlying investments. The CFA team is comprised of bankers and finance professionals with more than 75 years’ collective expertise working at the intersection of finance, climate change, infrastructure and project development. The CFA Team has a deep understanding of the financial implications of climate risk for investments, and understands how risks are integrated into the investment decision making process.
Four Twenty Seven is an award-winning market intelligence and research firm specialized in the economic risks of climate change. Four Twenty Seven’s data analytics solutions bring climate intelligence to economic and financial decision-makers. Four Twenty Seven provides financial portfolio climate risk assessments, development of climate resilience strategies, quantification of metrics and indices for benchmarking, monitoring and evaluation, and training and stakeholder engagement to financial institutions, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments worldwide. The company was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Berkeley, California with offices in Washington, DC and Paris, France.
The Global Adaptation & Resilience Investment Working Group (GARI) is a private investor-led initiative that was launched at COP21, the global climate summit in Paris in 2015. GARI is a partner of the UN Secretary General’s A2R Climate Resilience Initiative. GARI has brought together over 150 private and public investors, bankers, leaders and other stakeholders to discuss critical issues at the intersection of climate adaptation and resilience and investment with the objective of helping to assess, mobilize and catalyze action and investment.
In September, the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) organized its annual forum to communicate and exchange information among bodies and entities and with other key stakeholders dealing with climate change finance in order to promote linkages and coherence.
The objective of this year’s SCF forum was to identify gaps in mobilizing and accessing finance for climate-resilient infrastructure and to provide high-level policy inputs and recommendations on how to scale up investment in climate-resilient infrastructure. In particular, it assessed trends in climate-resilient infrastructure, gaps and barriers and explored measures to close the gaps in climate-resilient infrastructure financing.
Recordings and documents to all sessions can be found on the UNFCCC website: LINK.
The video provides a summary of the main themes discussed by participants at the forum:
Just weeks before major Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made landfall on US American soil, on 15 August, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking the so-called Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). Now a large group of influential businesses is asking him to reconsider.
The FFRMS flood risk regulations were put in place in 2015 through an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama and was informed by the rebuilding process after Hurricane Sandy. Brian Pallasch, the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers said to Newsweek “The purpose of that federal flood risk management standard was to ensure that where federal dollars were being spent on infrastructure…that the project sponsor understand and take a look at their flood risk portfolio.”
The current president’s decision had stirred some controversy in August but was largely overshadowed by the aftermath of the shocking events in Charlottesville. However, the story was largely picked up again when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on 25 August as a category 4 storm that unleashed record amounts of rainfall on the region.
In Cedar Bayou, the National Weather Service recorded a total of 51.88 inches of rainfall, which is now the continental US rainfall record. The flooding caused by Harvey was of historical proportion, displaced over 30,000 people and caused wide-spread damage. It also helped amplify the message of those who criticised Trump’s rollback of the FFRMS.
Among those asking the President to reconsider is a group of businesses, part of the Ceres BICEP Network, that includes giants like Nestle, Unilever, and L’Oreal. Their letter points out that, in the long run, FFRMS will help save taxpayers, businesses, and the government money highlighting a FEMA study that showed “every dollar invested in flood mitigation leads to an average of four dollars in savings on rebuilding.” Furthermore, they express concern about the impacts climate change will have on communities and the economy, saying that “as a network of major businesses with operations in the U.S. and around the world, we believe the flood-risk management standard is an example of smart decision-making that will strengthen the country’s resilience against growing climate risks.”
Cover photo: New Orleans, LA, Sept. 14, 2005 — Six Flags Over Louisiana remains submerged two weeks after Hurricane Katrina caused levees to fail in New Orleans. Bob McMillan/FEMA Photo. Public domain.