Category: Infrastructure

Video: Mobilizing finance for climate-resilient infrastructure

Video: Mobilizing finance for climate-resilient infrastructure

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:

Cover photo by Piotr Chrobot on Unsplash.
Businesses call on Trump to reverse decision on scrapping flood risk regulations

Businesses call on Trump to reverse decision on scrapping flood risk regulations

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

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.
BBC podcast: Florida’s sinking real estate

BBC podcast: Florida’s sinking real estate

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

In a recent installment of the BBC’s Worldwide Service “Business Daily” show, Ed Butler traveled to Florida to learn more about the impact sea level rise is having on the state’s booming real estate market.

“The forecast is not too bright,” Butler says as he arrives in Florida greeted by turqoise water, mansions, and yachts. Florida’s coastal real estate is some of the most economically valuable in the United States, but with more than one million homes having been built just a metre above sea level, climate change is posing a significant threat to it and its residents.

So far, the real estate market is alive and well on Florida’s coast and no one seems to be panicking. Mortgage broker Courtland Hunt, for example, offers 30-year loans for people living in areas that already flood frequently and could be under water permanently by 2050. As he puts it, “if the government and insurance companies say these people can buy a home, then I’ll help them buy a home.”

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, on the other hand, voices his concern that coastal mortgages could be the next financial bubble to burst. He says that “right now, South Florida is still a lot of fun,” but he is aware that at some point investors will stop putting more money into the region due to increasing flood risk, salt water intrusion and loss of fresh water.

During the episode, Ed Butler also talks to home owners who have been stranded by high tides, and delves a little bit more into the rising issue of getting coastal homes insured.

Access to the full episode by clicking the link: BBC World Service Business Daily – Sinking State?

Cover photo by Mathew Hurst (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Meeting the challenge of sustainable infrastructure needs to meet the challenge with public-private collaboration?

Meeting the challenge of sustainable infrastructure needs to meet the challenge with public-private collaboration?

Graham Watkins, Inter-American Development Bank

Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean keep demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development. Adopting the 2030 Agenda and ratifying the Paris agreement showed their willingness to remain well below 2C degrees Celsius. Such commitments require mobilizing enormous amounts of resources, in particular from private sector investors.

This week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel during the PPP Americas event in Costa Rica. Increasingly, sustainability is a focus of discussions in the PPP agenda – particularly regarding the importance of climate resilience and stakeholder engagement. The panelists included Guy Felio from Stantec in Canada, John Firth from Acclimatise, Christophe Dossarps from the Sustainable Infrastructure Foundation, and Jaime Garcia-Alba from our sister organization – the International Investment Corporation (IIC)– together, a collective 100 years of experience!

What are the main challenges to moving towards more sustainable infrastructure over the coming years? The discussion focused on several key challenges:

  1. First, we need to emphasize that infrastructure is about providing services – movement, energy, water, sanitation, and communications – and no longer about the asset – roads, power plants, pipelines, sewers, and transmission lines. This will require new approaches to policy and planning that consider that there may be different solutions available to provide the same services.
  2. Future discussions also need to be about existing infrastructure as much as about new infrastructure – there are many opportunities to improve existing infrastructure. Operational costs (which could reach 80% of the total infrastructure cost) are often under-emphasized, compared to capital costs.
  3. We need to address how climate change will affect service supply through direct impacts on assets but we also need to look at how climate change will affect service demand. Sadly, in a review of 15 country PPP regulatory frameworks undertaken by Acclimatise, none referred to the management of climate risks, even though each of the countries had a national climate change policy – which just shows how far we must go.
  4. We need greater emphasis on operational management. To achieve cost savings over project life-cycles, we will need to consider how data on infrastructure is gathered, managed, and used for decision making – permitting adaptive management.
  5. We need to enable greater engagement with the private sector, both as project developers and operators and as financiers, to increase the delivery of services that have traditionally been in the public domain.

The coming 15 years will be extremely challenging – climate change will likely accelerate and so too will technological change – innovation will help overcome the challenges and drive the transition from business as usual to sustainable infrastructure provision:

  1. Modeling uncertainty is necessary and increasingly more sophisticated and useful in planning investments – but in many cases, professional judgment may be more important to deciding on the most appropriate approach.
  2. “Big data” – making available data in ways that it can be used more effectively for decision making – information on service demand and supply and factors that affect demand and supply and ensure that this information becomes more transparent.
  3. Pay attention to risk across the whole life cycle of projects – we need to address the institutional/governance context, planning, procurement and tendering, preparation and design, construction, and, critically, operations and maintenance.
  4. Standardize the way in which we report on risks – building on global reporting and disclosure standards for companies and assets – ensuring that we transparently bridge the communications gap between engineers, developers, and financiers as well as between the public sector, private sector, and civil society.
  5. Finally, we need to agree on our vision for the way forward – to provide a common, clear, and yet simple understanding of what “sustainable infrastructure” is and how to achieve it – as a framework to “house” different approaches to resilience and sustainability.

Delivering this agenda requires systemic change, in particular regarding the way the  public and private sectors work and relate to each other– and, as we have pointed out previously, it requires us to clarify our vision, to commit to working as a team, to collaborate and coordinate to empower change, and to continually communicate our successes to institutionalize the changes.

Cover photo by IDB used with kind permission
Flood and hurricane risk varies widely across US

Flood and hurricane risk varies widely across US

By Tim Radford

New evidence based on groundwater and stream flow reveals mixed messages for the United States, as flood and hurricane frequency depends on region.

The northern states of the US can expect more flooding in a warming world. The southern and southwestern states can look forward to fewer floods. And the evidence comes not from climate models or from flood records over the decades, but from down-to-earth measurements of groundwater and stream flow.

There is a mixed message for Americans along the Atlantic coast as well. Atlantic hurricanes will become more frequent and more intense. But the very conditions that favour hurricane intensity could mean that those that hit the coast will be less severe, according to a separate study.

Catastrophic floods

Both studies are about probabilities: catastrophic floods of the kind that hit Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland and Louisiana in the winter of 2015-16 could happen again. The rainy north could experience long dry spells.

But the probabilities point to a wetter future for the north, and a less moist one for the south, according to Gabriele Villarini, of the University of Iowa, US, who has been looking at 30 years of data from more than 2,000 US Geological Survey stream gauges and comparing it with readings of groundwater from Nasa’s GRACE or Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite.

He and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that northern states held more groundwater, and therefore were more at risk from minor or moderate flooding. Those in the south were experiencing steadily lower levels of groundwater, and therefore were less likely to see rivers and streams bursting their banks after rainfall.

“Generally, flood risk is increasing in the upper half of the US and decreasing in the lower half,” says Dr Villarini. “It’s not a uniform pattern, and we want to understand why we see this difference.”

The finding is consistent: last year Dr Villarini looked at 50 years of data from more than 700 stream gauges in 14 states to confirm that flooding was, indeed, getting worse, even as drought conditions in the southwest were on the increase.

In a separate study he reported evidence of increasing flooding by those hurricanes and tropical cyclones that crossed the coastline to dump huge quantities of water inland.

But quite how bad future hurricane assault on the US is going to be is the subject of much brow-wrinkling. Hurricanes develop as sea surface temperatures rise. So as global temperatures steadily increase because of human combustion of fossil fuels – and 2016 is seen as the hottest year ever recorded – so does the hazard.

Researchers have found that by any objective standard, the hurricane damage to the US has increased, and all the indications are that the insurance bills will go on rising.

As waters go on warming, more northerly states are increasingly at risk and those unlikely things, the superstorm and the megadrought, will become measurably less unlikely.

But like floods – which are made more probable or more devastating by local conditions, river management, and freak tides and storm surges – hurricanes are capricious.

The circumstances that make hurricanes probable may even set up the conditions that make the same hurricanes weaken as they near land. A new study in Nature sees a pattern even in the caprice.

Jim Kossi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s national centres for environmental information looked at two sets of data gathered over three 23-year periods from 1947 to 2015. The first were observations from the US National Hurricane Centre. The second was a measure of sea surface temperatures and wind shear – changes in speed with altitude – over the same period.

Hurricane buffer zone

Tropical hurricanes happen in times of high ocean temperatures and low wind shear. But as they near the coast, they hit an environment of higher wind shear and cooler ocean temperatures. And this may sap their energy. It is as if intense hurricanes create their own coastal buffer zone.

“They have to track through a gauntlet of high shear to reach the coast, and many of them stop intensifying. It is a natural mechanism for killing off hurricanes that threaten the US coast,” Dr Kossin says.

“It is good news. Greater activity produces more threats, but at the same time, we increase our protective barrier. It’s pretty amazing that it happens to work that way.”

The finding is not likely to provide much solace, if only because some think the trend for hurricane frequency and for hurricane damage is rising. Conversely, too, when hurricane activity is low in the Atlantic basin, those hurricanes that do hit the coast could intensify.

And there is another possibility: the relationship between tropical and coastal wind shear conditions may not survive climate change. “There is no reason to think that this is a stationary mechanism,” says Dr Kossin. “It’s entirely possible that changes in climate could affect the natural barrier and thus significantly increase coastal hazard and risk.”


This article was originally published on Climate News Network and is shared under a Creative Commons license.

Cover photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Giles (CC by 2.0).
Surface water flooding, not sea level rise the main vulnerability for many ports

Surface water flooding, not sea level rise the main vulnerability for many ports

By Jim Hight

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from an article that first appeared in the Climate Change Business Journal.

Many seaports will have to invest significant resources to assess their climate-related vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies in the coming decades. But the sheer variety of port settings and configurations means that this common challenge will require individually tailored solutions.

“Every port is different,” said Heather Wood, Ports Market Sector leader for environmental consulting and engineering firm Kennedy Jenks. “They all do the same things, but they’re located in very different places, with different climates, different environmental concerns.”

“Some are smack in the middle of communities that have grown around them while some are in industrial areas with few neighbors,” said Wood. “Some are inland, some are close to the ocean. Some have issues with subsidence like New Orleans and Hampton Roads.”

A port’s most obvious vulnerability would at first glance appear to be sea level rise (SLR). But while SLR and the associated higher storm surges have the potential to overtop wharves and piers, reduce the clearance between ships and bridges and create other impacts—flooding from more intense precipitation is a greater threat to many ports.

“Ports are already prepared for hurricanes and northeasters, and they know when they have to shut down,” said Wood. “It’s the localized flooding that can occur in the middle of operations that could short out a system and disable their increasingly automated systems of sensors, cameras and wireless infrastructure.”

In a study of climate change vulnerabilities for the Port of Manzanillo—Mexico’s largest and fastest growing container port—Acclimatise and Worley Parsons Advisian identified surface water flooding as a more significant near-term problem than SLR. Like many ports, it sits at the bottom of a catchment basin where it receives runoff from the surrounding city. Soil erosion combined with garbage collecting in the drainage system are “already causing disruptions that are likely to increase with very heavy rainfall events associated with climate change,” said Richenda Connell, CTO of Acclimatise.

Without new measures to mitigate flooding, disruptions at Manzanillo from more intense precipitation could double by 2050, leading to higher maintenance costs and more downtime. As part of their report, the consultants provided a cost-benefit analysis of adaptation actions (see chart) to give port authorities and private terminal operators a menu of their options.

SLR figures into long-term planning

Of course, sea level rise must be factored into ports’ long-term planning. “What I see routinely is that when ports are planning for new infrastructure, most are taking climate change into consideration,” said Doug Daugherty, managing principal of technical and scientific consultancy Ramboll Environ. “Where potential issues come up is for the existing infrastructure.”

Some studies over the last 10 years illustrate the potentially enormous scale of the SLR challenge. A 2008 OECD study on vulnerable port cities by R. Nicholls and a 2011 article in Climatic Change by Nicholls and colleagues ranked the top 20 port cities for climate vulnerability.

Heavily populated, low-lying deltaic cities in South Asia rank at the top for vulnerability, with 37 million people expected to be exposed by 2070 in Kolkata, Mumbai and Dhaka. The top three in exposed asset value: Miami, Guangzhou and New York-Newark, where over $9 trillion in property will be at risk in 2070.

In December 2015, four Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering professors published a “Thought Exercise” to estimate the cost of elevating all U.S. ports to a new height based on regional 2070 projections for sea level rise and storm surge. Their estimates: $66 billion to $88 billion, plus 495 million cubic meters of fill, which would cost an estimated $30 billion for dredging, dozing and compaction. And those estimates excluded the costs of adapting buildings and infrastructure.

As the projections from Nicholls et al make clear, ports aren’t stand-alone infrastructure but gateways to cities, regions and countries. And port planning for climate change must be integrated with regional planning, especially for transportation. “Ports can’t function without the rails, trucks and the larger transport network to move freight and the workforce.,” said Wood. “While ports can plan for sea level rise, it’s imperative that other transporation modes do the same.”

Changing projections

Like all coastal governments and property owners, ports face great uncertainty in terms of how quickly sea levels will rise. For SLR projections in its 2011 MasterPlan 2035, the Port of Miami used estimates from the Climate Change Advisory Task Force established by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, which in 2008 predicted a 1.5 foot rise by 2060. But Miami-Dade and other South Florida counties later updated these projections, estimating 2060 sea levels at 11 to 22 inches higher, 28 to 57 inches by 2100.

“The projections keep changing,” said Daugherty, noting recent scientific papers examining whether the Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than currently predicted. “Other scientists are looking at the possibilities that when we get to certain higher temperature ranges we might lose the Antarctic and Greenland ice, which would put us geologically in similar conditions as a past interglacial period with its corresponding much higher sea levels than what is currently projected.”

So, what triggers a port owner to take climate change adaptation seriously and invest the relatively small sums needed for a climate vulnerability assessment?

Ramboll Environ has performed such assessments for California ports in the context of environmental impact reports (EIRs) prepared for port planning and capital projects. Although the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not require an analysis of the environment’s impact on a proposed project—an interpretation upheld by the state Supreme Court in December 2015—many local governments, including port authorities, choose to include an analysis of climate change impacts in their EIRs.

In developing countries, port climate change risks assessments are generally funded by multilateral development banks—and MDBs’ funding is typically triggered by contemplated investments in port expansions or upgrades, according to Connell, whose firm also also worked on a climate adaptation study for the Muelles del Bosque port in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Manzanillo project was funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), and the Cartagena project by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

IDB and other MDBs like the World Bank and IFC “work very hard to use the lessons from these types of studies to spread the word more broadly through their communities,” said Connell. Connell expects port authorities and private terminal operators to eventually become more active in funding such studies in developing countries’ ports, especially those that are expanding.

Ports and large port users have also funded adaptation measures that benefit an entire community. As noted in The Business Case for Responsible Corporate Adaptation published by UNEP, CDP and others in 2015, Brazilian mining firm Vale invested $18.6 million in the Capixaba Hydrometeorological Monitoring Center in partnership with the Government of Espírito Santo. The sophisticated weather forecasting helps Vale and the community be more alert for extreme weather events.

Image: Costs & Benefits of Adaptation Measures, Port of Manzanillo. Source: Accliamtise, Worley Parsons Advisian.

A rapidly changing industry

Planning for climate change impacts, where it occurs, is taking place within an industry that is investing heavily in upgrading channels and infrastructure to accommodate super-sized “post-Panamax” container ships (so named because the Panama Canal is being upgraded to accommodate them).

Ports are competing to become Post-Panamax Ready. According to Panorama, the magazine of Colombian airline Copa, East Coast ports are dredging harbors and raising bridges to become PPR with the expectation that they’ll take market share from West Coast ports.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is investing $1.3 billion to raise the roadbed of the Bayonne Bridge that spans the Kill Van Kull strait between Staten Island and Bayonne, N.J., by 64 feet

With their port clients engaged in such large and fast-paced capital programs, it’s difficult for climate change consultants to get a seat at the table. According to Connell, the key is raising awareness within the ports and shipping industries.

“It’s like anything in the world of climate change adaptation,” said Connell. “The first step is building this broad-based awareness of whether it’s an issue. For ports, the role of organization like PIANC [World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure] in raising awareness is essential to get that first step in place.”

Acclimatise, Ramboll Environ and other firms are supporting PIANC to develop guidance on adaptation. Daugherty is serving as principal U.S. representative to PIANC’s permanent task group on climate change.

Connell says she and her colleagues view such work with industry associations as important for business development and for advancing the practice of climate change adaptation.

“We see that assisting industry associations as they seek to mobilize their members is a very important step in getting as broad a community of stakeholders as possible enlightened,” said Connell. “Acclimatise has also supported oil and gas industry associations in a similar vein.”


Jim Hight is Senior Editor of the Climate Change Business Journal. He has served as a Contributing Editor for both Environmental Business Journal and Nutrition Business Journal and as a Research Analyst for Environmental Business International since 1999. He has written extensively about finance, marketing and regulatory affairs in the environmental and nutrition industries. Jim has consulted since 1983 for a wide range of private companies, public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Cover photo by Andy Liang (CC BY 2.0)
Podcast: Project finance: Nancy Saich (EIB) & Craig Davies (EBRD) on integrating climate risk into investments

Podcast: Project finance: Nancy Saich (EIB) & Craig Davies (EBRD) on integrating climate risk into investments

By Will Bugler
 The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other multilateral development banks invest large sums of money into infrastructure and development projects every year. There is increasing pressure for these projects to incorporate climate risk and resilience considerations into their design and development processes. Ensuring that long-term investments are resilient to climate change and its impacts is a major challenge for investors like EBRD and EIB.

There is a considerable need for effective methods for integrating climate solutions into project development. In response to this need a multistakeholder group of major investors and other partners have come together to release a new report to help practitioners assess climate risks and vulnerabilities and integrate them into their projects. To find out more about this report, I spoke with Nancy Saich who leads the Environment and Climate Office and the EIB, and with Dr Craig Davies, Head of climate change adaptation at EBRD.

To learn more about the ‘European Financing Institutions Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change (EUFIWACC)’ report that is discussed in this interview click here.

Listen here:

Cover photo by Hteink.min (CC BY-SA 3.0): Hydro Energy Water Gate in Oulu.