Category: Knowledge Library

Outrage and Optimism, Episode 1: The Power of Outrage and Optimism with David Attenborough

Outrage and Optimism, Episode 1: The Power of Outrage and Optimism with David Attenborough

A new podcast called ‘Outrage and Optimism’ is bringing the climate crisis into discussion with weekly episodes discussing transformative action and activism. Hosted by Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson, this new series is looking to remake the world.

Episode one discusses why both outrage and optimism are needed to confront the issues of our time and questions David Attenborough about the school strikes, his career, and how we can use outrage to change the world.

Tune into episodes two and three here.

Cover photo by Alisdare Hickson on Wikimedia Commons.
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.
Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice

Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, and co-authored by Acclimatise, provides a framework to help development and climate practitioners to better engage with the private sector on climate change adaptation.

The paper, titled “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice”, provides practical advice to encourage private sector organisations and institutions to invest in climate change adaptation measures.

Stimulating flows of private finance is essential for developing countries to meet the cost of climate change adaptation which has been estimated to reach $100 billion per year to 2050.[

Authored by Acclimatise’s Virginie Fayolle and Caroline Fouvet along with Vidya Soundarajan, Vandana Nath, Sunil Acharya, Naman Gupta and Luca Petrarulo of Action on Climate Today, the paper identifies key barriers and challenges for engaging with the private sector, as well as drivers and enablers that could lead to increased investment.

The paper identifies key barriers and challenges for engaging with the private sector, as well as drivers and enablers that could lead to increased investment.

The paper draws on ACT’s experience supporting national and sub-national governments in five South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Adapting to climate change is costly with recent estimates suggesting that $70 – $100 billion per year is needed between 2010 and 2050.[ Countries in South Asia are some of the most vulnerable to climate change and stretched public budgets will not be able to provide the necessary levels of finance on their own. Finance from the private sector is, therefore, essential if countries are to be prepared for climate change and its impacts. A new paper, released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, aims to help stimulate flows of private finance by providing a framework to help climate and development practitioners, and public sector institutions better engage with the private sector.

As well as stimulating flows of finance, the paper argues that public decision-makers can also benefit from leveraging the ingenuity, skills, and capacity of businesses and the wider financial sector. It also makes clear that the companies in the private sector will themselves benefit from climate cange adaptation, and will not be immune to the physical risks arising from a changing climate.

The paper, titled, “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice”, provides a framework that identifies key enablers that can be used to successfully enage private sector entities on climate change adaptation. These include; awareness raising, enhancing access to technical resources, enhancing access to finance, reforming the regulatory framework; and strengthening governance.

The framework is supported by practical examples and case studies, drawing from ACT’s experience working in partnership with ten national and sub-national governments in South Asia to assist in integrating climate change adaptation into development planning, and delivery.

The paper identifies six key considerations when engaging private sector organisations:

  1. Use real-world examples of climate imapacts that are relevant to the business in question;
  2. Build a shared vision between the public and private sector by identifying overlaps between the government’s priorities and private sector interests;
  3. Develop the capacity and expertise of private sector champions to take action by identifying and supporting industry champions;
  4. Bridge the gap between the demand and supply of private finance by bringing institutional investors together with businesses that provide investment opportunities in the real economy;
  5. Allow adequate time and resources to influence or shape the governance and regulatory framework; and
  6. Bring on board relevant technical expertise by building partnerships and collaborating with other businesses, associations, civil society organisations, government agencies, and development partners.

These strategies can help to break down the barriers preventing businesses from investing in climate change resilience.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance.

The full ACT learning paper “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice ” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the 60-second audio abstract:

Action on Climate Today (ACT) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Photo credit: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
Applying Earth observation data to support robust investment decisions in the face of a changing climate

Applying Earth observation data to support robust investment decisions in the face of a changing climate

By John Firth (Acclimatise), Tanzeed Alam (Earth Matters Consulting), Steven Ramage (GEO), Jed Sundwall (AWS), and Michael J. Brewer (NCEI), Sara Venturini (Acclimatise) and Elisa Jiménez Alonso (Acclimatise)

Editorial note: This is an Acclimatise & Earth Matters Consulting briefing note written in collaboration with Group on Earth Observations (GEO), Amazon Web Services (AWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

The Eye on Earth (EoE) Symposium 2018 was held from 22-24 October 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The event gathered experts from different disciplines to discuss the use of data in support of sustainable development. The symposium was organized by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), a co-founder of the Eye on Earth movement, in partnership with the UAE Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority and the Eye on Earth Alliance.

In a session chaired by Tanzeed Alam of Earth Matters Consulting, panellists Steven Ramage of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat, Jed Sundwall of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Michael Brewer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), and John Firth of Acclimatise Group Ltd. discussed the application of Earth Observation (EO) data to support robust investment decisions in the face of a changing climate.

Of cooperation and access

Steven Ramage presented how GEO promotes science and technology to facilitate the use of EO for policy and decision makers around the world. A large part of this work is coordinating with all the GEO member countries in order to increase cooperation, as well as open data access and sharing. Many countries do not have suitable data at their disposal in order to make better decisions about how to address environmental challenges, including climate risks. Thus, the exchange with countries that do have good quality data can facilitate data access and make a significant difference. GEO also works to promote capacity building for the efficient use of EO data in decision making.

While GEO promotes the science and human networks that facilitate data access through cooperation, Amazon Web Services focuses on the technological side of things. Jed Sundwall shared that Amazon is looking to lower the cost of knowledge, explaining that if data is in the cloud, working with it is faster and cheaper. Nowadays, many customers rely heavily on quick data access to develop and offer services. This can drive change all over because quick data access can reach a diverse user base that goes beyond academics.

The importance of the private sector

Michael Brewer spoke about the value of data NOAA’s NCEI provides across all kinds of sectors, from agriculture and logistics to retail and finance. Many businesses, especially in the USA, use NCEI data to improve their bottom line. It helps them plan ahead and react quickly, be it delivery companies choosing their distribution hubs or farmers determining how much fertiliser to use, and even food retailers deciding what foods to stock in their shops – climate data from EO is an invaluable asset.

John Firth underlined this by presenting some of the work Acclimatise has been doing in the financial sector. Using EO data, banks can better understand and disclose on their physical climate risks. In light of our changing climate, this is of extreme importance because the safe margin within which investment decisions have been made in the past is shrinking fast and drastically. Having access to EO data and knowing how to interpret and extract information from it is crucial to understand how climate change is affecting our society.

Key takeaways

  • We can make greater use of the extensive and readily accessible data provided by the EO community together with other socio-economic and environmental data. Many potential users have little awareness about open data resources that exist and those resources are therefore under-utilised.
  • Use of EO data as such, is not the end goal, but more about how socio-economic and other data can be combined and analysed to better inform decisions. The examples shared at the event have shown how building such ‘bridges’ can better inform investment decisions in different sectors, be it utilities, the agricultural sector or financial institutions.
  • It is key to consider the needs of least developed and middle-income countries in relation to EO data for climate risk assessment and management and adaptation. Many developing countries lack skills and resources to access and make full use of EO data and services offered by major providers.
  • We need the power of EO data to enable actions to be taken by business and governments. Successfully transferring open access data and information from the scientific community to decision-makers to inform policy and business decisions is crucial to support climate adaptation that requires bespoke, local-level solutions over multiple timeframes.
  • There is no straightforward solution to the challenges of availability and accessibility of EO data and how this can be overcome to address the climate challenge at the necessary speed. It is important to accelerate the use of EO data (both space-based and in situ data) for timely adaptation action. There is no easy answer, but solutions involve the need to provide more open data, work collaboratively, and support investments in education and long-term co-design and co-production of knowledge, often badged as capacity-building.
  • Participants agreed that a major change is needed, where positive climate action is embedded in everyday habits and behaviours. Communicating our knowledge of climate change in the language of the audience and tailored to their needs is essential. EO can play a major role in improving narratives and changing habits and behaviours by showing the changes taking place in our own communities. The recent IPCC 1.5°C report highlights there is a small window of opportunity to deliver the objectives of the Paris Agreement, by scaling up mitigation actions to transition to low-carbon economies and building resilience to the physical impacts of a changing climate. EO open access data can be used via visualisation and modelling tools to help governments, business (SMEs and corporates), financial services, NGOs and communities to understand and manage their risks, and influence behaviour change.

Download this briefing note as a PDF by clicking here.

Further information

Access the recording of the Eye on Earth Symposium panel discussion by going to

Acclimatise is a specialist advisory and analytics company providing world-class expertise in climate change adaptation and risk management. Acclimatise focusses solely on adaptation, bridging the gap between the latest scientific developments and real-world decision making to support the public and private sector. Contact: John Firth, CEO and co-founder.

Earth Matters Consulting was established in December 2017 and provides advisory services in strategy, policy and communications for climate change, conservation and sustainability to government bodies, businesses and non-profit organisations. Contact: Tanzeed Alam, Managing Director, tanzeed(a)

Group on Earth Observations (GEO) coordinates international efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). It links existing and planned Earth observation systems and supports the development of new ones in cases of perceived gaps in the supply of environment-related information. Contact: Steven Ramage, Head of External Relations, sramage(a)

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and governments, on a paid subscription basis. The technology allows subscribers access to a variety of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources via the Internet. Contact: Jed Sundwall, Global Open Data Lead, jed(a)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) is the world’s largest active archive of environmental data. NCEI hosts and provides access to over 35 petabytes of comprehensive atmospheric, coastal, oceanic, and geophysical digital data, freely available through the Internet. Contact: Michael Brewer, Chief, Customer Engagement, michael.j.brewer(a)

Cover photo by NASA: Landsat 8 image of the Laptev Sea.
UK vegetable and fruit supplies at risk

UK vegetable and fruit supplies at risk

By Kieran Cooke

A combination of Brexit − Britain’s move to leave the European Union − and climate change is threatening UK vegetable and fruit supplies for its 66 million people.

Brexit-associated delays at ports could result in widespread shortages of a range of imported vegetables and fruit such as lettuces and tomatoes, particularly if the UK crashes out of Europe at the end of March this year with no deal in place.

Now there’s more bad news on the British food front; a just-released report says climate change and resulting abnormal weather conditions are causing significant decreases in the UK’s own vegetable and fruit harvests.

The study, produced by the Climate Coalition in association with the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK, says about 60% of food consumed in Britain is domestically produced.

The unusually warm summer in 2018 – the hottest ever in England since records began in 1910, according to the report – led to a drop in the onion harvest of 40% and a decline of between 25% and 30% in the carrot crop.

In 2017 the UK’s apple growers lost 25% of their produce due to unseasonably warm weather followed by an unusually late series of frosts.

“It’s really hard work growing fruit and vegetables, but erratic and extreme weather pushes you over the edge”

Matt Smee, co-founder of The Natural Veg Men

The study says climate change-related extreme and unpredictable weather is putting at risk future supplies of potatoes – a staple of the British diet.

“The UK could lose almost three-quarters of the area of land currently well-suited for potatoes by the 2050s under climate projections”, says the report.

Last year there was a 20% drop in potato yields in England and Wales, it says. More than 80% of potatoes consumed in the UK are home-grown.

“The climate extremes of the past few years – including the snowfall and freezing temperatures of February and March 2018 and one of the driest June months in England and Wales since 1910 – have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers”, the report says.

Matt Smee, who runs a vegetable growing and delivery service in the north-west of England, told the report’s authors that weather patterns in 2018 made his job near-impossible.

“It’s really hard work growing fruit and vegetables, but erratic and extreme weather pushes you over the edge”, says Smee. “I’d be devastated if I had to deal with this year (2018) again.”

Livelihoods at risk

Lee Abbey, head of horticulture at the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), says farmers’ livelihoods are being hit.

“Farmers and growers are used to dealing with fluctuations in the weather but if we have two or three extreme years in a row it has the potential to put growers out of business.”

The study says that more than half of all farms in the UK report being affected by severe flooding or storms over the past decade, while water shortages in the increasingly hot summer months are a growing problem.

“With climate scientists now predicting stronger and longer-lasting heatwaves for the UK, growers are faced with increasing risks to their operations and survival”, says the study.

The report’s authors say the priority for everyone – not just the food and farming sector – is to work to reduce carbon emissions.

The study reports some positive developments; the NFU says the aim is for the UK’s farming sector to be net zero in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Increasing numbers of British farmers are investing in renewable energy.

Download the report “Recipe for Disaster“.

Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues.

This article was originally published on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash
Online course: Cost benefit analysis for urban climate change adaptation

Online course: Cost benefit analysis for urban climate change adaptation

EIT Climate KIC in partnership with Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Acclimatise, and Pannon Pro Innovations (PPIS) are offering a three-part online course about Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) for climate change adaptation in cities. Acclimatise led the development of the financial aspects of the course.

Urban areas are expected to become even more exposed and vulnerable to climate change impacts such as flooding in the future. Adapting to these impacts is important to protect city dweller, but cost-effective planning of adaptation strategies is very complicated. CBA is a method that can help decision-makers evaluate adaptation projects and strengthen the basis for making sound investment decisions.

Part 1 of the course explains what CBA is and how it applies to urban flooding and climate change adaptation. If you are a local government or city official, this will help you identify whether it can be used for your adaptation project.

In part 2, participants learn a robust, step-by-step approach – along with a CBA Climate Adaptation Tool and case-study – to help them assess the costs and benefits for their own city’s adaptation projects.

Part 3 of the online course demonstrates how to carry out a CBA using the CBA Climate Adaptation Tool. If you are a local government or city official, this will help you discover the financial value of your own adaptation project and use this to secure the investment you need.

7-step CBA process. Source: Climate-KIC

Create your profile on Climate-KIC Education to enroll in this online course and discover many more free learning opportunities.

Face-to-face trainings are under development and will be rolled out in Spring 2019. Stay tuned!

Cover photo by 贝莉儿 NG on Unsplash.

WEF 2019 Global Risk Report once again highlights climate threat

WEF 2019 Global Risk Report once again highlights climate threat

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) most recent global risk ranking in terms of likelihood and impact is spearheaded by climate-related risks. The environmental risk category has been increasingly becoming more prominent since risks related to it started appearing in the top 5 in 2011.

“Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.”

WEF Global Risk Report 2019

The results of climate inaction are becoming more and more visible and in 2019, environmental and societal risks related to climate change account for three of the top five risks by likelihood and four by impact. While the WEF reports that extreme weather was the risk of greatest concern, they also note that “survey respondents are increasingly worried about environmental policy failure: having fallen in the rankings after Paris, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation jumped back to number two in terms of impact this year.” This response is also very likely linked to the findings of the IPCC in their report about the impacts of 1.5° vs 2.0° C degrees of global warming.

Referencing the results of the C40 study The Future We Don’t Want, completed together with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, Acclimatise and the Urban Climate Change Research Network, WEF’s report also prominently features the dangers of sea level rise to cities. Today, already 800 million people in more than 570 coastal cities worldwide are vulnerable to 0.5 metres of sea level rise by 2050. Given the rate of urbanisation, the number of people at risk is expected to rise significantly. The importance of coastal adaptation and disaster prevention is strongly emphasised.

In the Future Shocks section, WEF also outlines the potential misuse of weather manipulation tools that could stoke geopolitical tensions. They see the intensification of climate-related impacts as a growing incentive to turn to such technological fixes that could be used to manipulate rainfall or similar. Additionally to any environmental consequences the use of such technology could lead to, WEF raises the concern that it could also be viewed as a hostile act if nations use it unilaterally.

Detailed results: climate change

In terms of likelihood, it is the third consecutive year extreme weather events has remained in first place. And it is also the third consecutive year it places high in terms of impact. Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation has also remained at top risk since 2015. Additionally, in the top five risks in terms of impact, water crises sits in fourth place and has been in the top five since 2015 – one of its main drivers being climate change.

The evolving risk landscape 2009-2019. WEF 2019.

Extreme weather events and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation are fairly alone in the top right corner of the risk landscape, indicating their pole position in terms of both likelihood and impact.

Global risk landscape. WEF 2019.

The risk-trends interconnectedness map clearly shows climate change as one of the main risk trends connected not just to environmental but also societal risks such as water and food crises, but also large-scale involuntary migration.

Risk-trends interconnectedness map. WEF 2019.

Download the full report and visit the report reader by clicking here.

Cover photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash
Vital Glaswegian infrastructure at risk from climate change

Vital Glaswegian infrastructure at risk from climate change

A report by Climate Ready Clyde found that major roads, bridges, rail lines and hospitals in Glasgow are at risk of being damaged or disrupted by climate change impacts.

The in-depth climate risk assessment found that by 2050 Glasgow, whose metropolitan area is home to about 1.8 million people, will be impacted by increasingly powerful storms, more regular heatwaves and heavy flooding in the winter months.

The ramifications of such events could overwhelm hospitals in the area, damage or disrupt large parts of motorways, put the West Highland line at risk of closure due to coastal flooding, and also lead to increased instances of gale-wind forces which are especially dangerous for bridges.

The group, a coalition of six councils, transport agencies, universities and government agencies, sets out a five-year plan that will put forward recommendations for natural flood defences, more air conditioning and ventilation systems, greater tree cover and use of green roofs, and also wind barriers on bridges. Some council will also seek new powers in order to issue their own bonds and raise money from investors to cover the costs of adaptation and resilience building measures.

Speaking on the release, Climate Ready Clyde’s Chair, James Curran, said “It’s fantastic to be bringing stakeholders together to discuss how we ensure Glasgow City Region not just adapts, but prospers in the face of climate change. The U.N. climate change programme shows that, despite cutting our carbon emissions deeply and quickly, a certain amount of climate change is now unavoidable – and so we need to prepare. Our assessment shows where we need new activity and to focus our ambitions in a new Strategy and Action Plan.”

Read the key findings and next steps by clicking here.

Cover photo by Artur Kraft on Unsplash
Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, titled, “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” shows how tacit and more informal approaches applied by policy entrepreneurs can help influence climate adaptation policy.

There is now a large body of evidence on technical approaches to mainstream climate change adaptation in policymaking.  Tried-and-tested interventions include, undertaking risk assessments to develop the evidence base, building capacity by training key decision makers, providing decision aids such as risk screening and climate budgeting tools. However, informal approaches to influencing policy and action on adaptation play an equally important role and need to be explicitly considered within technical assistance programmes. Informal influencing approaches consider social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour, and an understanding of the mechanisms of local political networks.

This new Action on Climate Today (ACT) learning paperfocuses on the more tacit and informal approaches used to influence adaptation policy. The paper highlights the particular role of policy entrepreneurs who work to promote policy change. They navigate the political complexity of both formal and informal systems of governance to promote successful adaptation mainstreaming processes through brokering, advocacy, and networking to influence policy.

Building on previous policy influencing perspectives from the political science literature, the paper uses empirical examples from the ACT programme in South Asia to create a typology of influencing strategies that includes: 

  • Stories and narratives: Using simplified stories that help decision-makers make sense of complex realities, including by linking climate action to development objectives
  • Rapport and trust: Building trust in the programme and its staff and the advice being offered
  • Cheerleaders and champions: Nurturing and rewarding leaders and leadership 
  • Advocacy and networking: Harnessing and developing networks on adaptation inside and outside government
  • Downstream implementers: Influencing action on the ground by working with those who actually implement, rather than set, policy.

Applying these strategies can help others designing and providing technical assistance to support national and subnational governments to mainstream adaptation into their policies. Support programmes can factor in design elements to maximise this potential, including through the use of political economy analysis, adaptive management approaches, and explicitly designing areas of programming that allow for informal influencing processes and rapidly responding to opportunities.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance.

The full ACT learning paper “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the 60-second audio abstract:

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Photo by Jacek Reszko on Unsplash
Interactive: How climate finance ‘flows’ around the world

Interactive: How climate finance ‘flows’ around the world

By Jocelyn Timperley, Carbon Brief

Climate finance is one of the bedrocks of negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the “COP24” talks taking place this month in Katowice, Poland.

“Climate finance” refers to money – both from public and private sources – which is used to help reduce emissions and increase resilience against the negative impacts of climate change.

Rich countries have promised they will provide $100bn a year in climate finance to poorer nations by 2020. The UNFCCC’s recent biennial assessment found this sum had reached $75bn in 2016, a step forward compared to the $65bn given in 2015.

But what does this climate finance actually look like? How does it “flow” from country to country? Here, Carbon Brief takes a deep dive into a climate finance database collated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The project-level data gives key insights not only into country-to-country flows of finance, but also the type of finance different donor countries tend to offer. For example, it shows which countries offer the biggest proportion to adaptation rather than mitigation projects, and whether grants or loans tend to dominate the money given.

Carbon Brief has produced a series of interactive flow diagrams using the data, available together here as a graphical “story” and further explained below.

Key takeaways

  • Donor governments gave climate finance totalling $34bn in 2015 and $37bn in 2016, according to OECD estimates (note that this is not a full estimate of money counting towards the $100bn pledge – see below for more).
  • Japan was the largest donor, giving $10.3bn per year (bn/yr) on average over the two years. It was followed, in order, by Germany, France, the UK and the US.
  • India was the largest recipient on average, receiving $2.6bn/yr. It was followed, in order, by Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand
  • The single largest “country-to-country” flow was an average yearly $1.6bn from Japan to India.
  • The US was the top contributor to the multilateral Green Climate Fund (GCF) in 2016. (However, the US has now ended its support for the GCF).
  • Around $16bn/yr went to mitigation-only projects, compared to $9bn for adaptation-only projects.
  • Around 42% of the finance consisted of “debt instruments”, such as loans.

Climate finance database

Countries have already agreed that developed countries should be jointly “mobilising” $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer nations tackle climate change.

However, discussions continue on some of the finer details. For example, how the provision of climate finance should be divided between rich nations, what should be counted as climate finance and how flows of finance should be reported.

Several organisations report on the progress towards this climate finance goal, including the UNFCCC’s recent biennial assessment. This major report found that climate finance either directly given by governments to poorer countries, or raised by them from the private sector, stood at $75bn in 2016, which some analysts said put the world on track to achieving the $100bn goal in 2020. Of this, $57bn was public finance (directly from governments) and the rest private finance.

Others, such as Oxfam, argue that, in reality, far less progress has been made towards the $100bn goal. Its recent report estimates that “climate-specific assistance” was as low as $16-21bn per year in 2015 and 2016.

Here, Carbon Brief presents a comprehensive, project-level view on how countries are giving and receiving climate finance – rather than focusing on the headline total

The OECD, a Paris-based intergovernmental economic organisation, asks its 36 member countries to report on their foreign aid, including climate finance. The data captures climate finance that is both bilateral (country to country) and multilateral (via international institutions) It also gives detailed information about funded projects. (The OECD calls this database “climate-related development finance” rather than strictly climate finance).

The table below allows browsing of the data to select donor and recipient countries. It also allows other filtering, such as whether the money was for adaptation, mitigation or both, and whether it was delivered as a grant or a loan. See below for more details on these different aspects of the finance.

The values represent money committed by governments or agencies on the basis of a firm written obligation and backed by available funds. Therefore, it does not represent pledges.

Browsing the database gives detailed information about many of the projects funded. For example, the “Sector” filter shows that six projects in 2016 labelled by countries as climate finance dealt with coal-fired power plants.

It is important to note that the OECD database does not claim to capture all climate finance counting towards the $100bn. The totals of the data given here add up to $37bn, well below the $47bn the OECD recently estimated in a separate, top-down overview of public climate finance from developed to developing countries in 2016. The OECD also put public climate finance at $55bn in 2017. However, no project-level database for 2017 has been released yet.

The advantage of the bottom-up data is the ability to break it down, in some cases to detailed project level, according to Joe Thwaites, associate in the Sustainable Finance Center at the World Resources Institute (WRI).

This project-level data helps international actors to be transparent about the climate finance they provide, he adds. For example, it can help to ensure there is no “double counting” of climate finance as countries scale it up, he says.

Flow diagrams

Carbon Brief has also created several interactive flow charts – known as Sankeys – which give key insights into how climate finance is being transferred from developing countries to poorer nations. The numbers shown in these charts are an average for 2015 and 2016.

1: Country-country finance

This diagram shows the average yearly amount of climate finance given by each OECD country on average in 2015 and 2016, and where that money went.

Donor countries are listed down the left-hand side of the diagram. The right-hand side shows the amounts which flowed to recipient countries or regions.

It also shows how much went to international bodies, such as multilateral climate funds (“multilateral climate contributions”, see second diagram and below for more), and transfers where the recipient was not specified, often due to projects being split across several countries.

Where the recipient is “anonymised”, the flows represent transactions that do not meet official development assistance criteria or private flows, Guillaume Simon, a climate-related development finance expert at the OECD, tells Carbon Brief. These are considered confidential at the level of individual activities, he says.

The table below shows the top ten donors and recipients, averaged over 2015 and 2016.

Largest climate finance donors Largest climate finance recipients
Country $m/yr Country $m/yr
Japan $10,322 India $2,603
Germany $6,493 Bangladesh $1,357
France $3,671 Vietnam $1,344
United Kingdom $2,618 Philippines $1,296
United States $2,370 Thailand $963
Netherlands $940 Indonesia $952
Sweden $918 Kenya $766
Norway $755 Turkey $665
Canada $682 Ethiopia $647
Australia $480 Myanmar $646

As the table shows, Japan was by far the largest provider of climate finance, according to this data, followed by Germany, France the UK and the US. Together these five countries provided 70% of all donor finance recorded in the OECD’s detailed figures.

India, meanwhile, was the largest recipient, followed by Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. Together they received for 21% of finance given by donor countries.

The amounts above are reported by countries themselves. However, Simon says that the OECD secretariat conducts regular quality reviews. He adds:

“It has been highlighted in past reviews that marking practices can vary among donors. A Rio markers handbook has been developed to guide…marking and to increase convergence.”

2: Multilateral contributions

As the first chart above shows, not all climate finance goes straight from one country to another. Instead, a sizeable wedge goes via international institutions, such as multilateral climate funds and multilateral development banks (MDBs). The breakdown of the $5.1bn climate share of contributions to these bodies is shown in the second diagram above.

It shows, for example, that the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was established with a mandate specifically to leverage climate finance towards the $100bn pledge, received an average $1.7bn per year in 2015 and 2016. Japan, the UK and the US contributed the most.

A second set of OECD data, not analysed here, shows climate finance flows from a “recipient” perspective. This focuses on where flows are going rather than where they are coming from. It shows $53bn per year on average being transferred in 2015 and 2016, well above the $36bn average for the “donor” perspective shown here.

The reasons for this difference are complex, Simon tells Carbon Brief. However, it is in part due to the inclusion of extra money leveraged by multilateral development banks (MDBs) from initial donor sums, he says. In addition, inflows and outflows vary for any given year, since funding is not necessarily handed out the same year it is provided.

3: Adaptation vs mitigation

Climate finance reported to the OECD can be tagged as being for mitigation or adaptation purposes, as shown in the third diagram. In cases where it is tagged as both, the OECD does not give details of a split between the two.

Mitigation-only projects received an average 44% of funding in 2015 and 2016, while adaptation-only projects received 24%. Projects with both mitigation and adaptation components sat at 17%, while no information was given for the remaining 14% of projects.

The Paris Agreement says that scaled-up financial resources “should aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation”. As is shown in the OECD data (and elsewhere) this is not close to being the case, with almost double the amount going to mitigation-only projects compared to adaptation-only ones.

According to Thwaites, however, there are inherently a lot of judgement calls involved in how projects are coded as mitigation or adaptation. He tells Carbon Brief:

“A lot of the time it is judgement based, and especially one of the challenges is that it depends where the coding happens.

“If it happens in a [contributor] country office [in a recipient country], they know the projects better. But they may not be as well aware of what the guidelines are in the Paris Agreement and UNFCCC, and all the rules around that. Whereas, if it happens in the capital [of a contributor country], you’d hope that they will be a bit more aware of the international context and the commitments and the negotiations, but they might not have any clue about the project.”

4: Grants vs loans

This fourth diagram shows the type of climate finance flows, separated into categories (pdf) defined by the OECD: grants, debt instruments (such as loans and reimbursable grants), equity (such as buying of shares) and debt relief.

The total amount given as grants – $19.4bn – is only slightly higher than for projects financed by debt instruments, at $15.5bn. This is despite grants making up the vast majority (98%) of the projects detailed in the database, because debt-funded schemes tend to be much larger.

As the chart shows, some countries, such as Japan and France, deliver the vast majority of their finance as debt instruments. The UK, in contrast, delivered 98% of its finance as grants on average over the two years, while grants also made up 93% of US contributions.

Thwaites tells Carbon Brief:

“One of the things that is interesting is when a country makes an announcement of a number that sounds really big and exciting, then you always have to look below the surface.

“So the effort involved for the UK, which does mostly grant finance, to do every incremental amount of climate finance is more effort politically, for sure, than to be able to approve more loans. So there is a question of how do you credit that.”

One reason the grants-versus-loans balance is important is because accessing private funding for adapting to climate change is expected to be far more difficult than for mitigation projects, Bertram Zagema, policy advisor on food and climate change at Oxfam, tells Carbon Brief. He adds:

“Grant money can go to basic things that communities need to adapt to climate change, for example, and private money will only be invested if there’s a business model.”

The UNFCCC biennial report also notes that grants continue to provide most of the money for adaptation finance.

5: Principal vs significant climate component

This final diagram shows the breakdown of projects labelled in the data as having either a “principal” or “significant” climate component.

This climate element of aid spending is collected using “Rio markers”: tags which donor countries add to reported development finance to give more information about what it will be used for.

The project is scored as having a “principal” objective if it is directly targeting climate mitigation or adaptation, and a “significant” objective where climate change is not the fundamental driver for the project. As the diagram shows, projects with only a “significant” climate-related objective dominate.

While it is justifiable that climate finance is spent on projects where climate is one of many priorities in a broader development project, the way this is accounted for depends exclusively on developed countries’ self-reporting, says Oxfam’s climate finance report. This has “led to the use of disparate and in many instances questionable methods”, Oxfam adds.

In this OECD data, no downwards adjustment is made to “significant” marked activities, Simon tell Carbon Brief. But in some cases, countries themselves adjust down the amount they report to the UNFCCC when a project has only a significant climate component, Thwaites explains:

“Basically, when it’s principal, the idea is that you could probably reasonably count 100% of the value. When it’s significant, it’s only a component of a project. And the OECD members take different approaches to that.

“The UK, literally for every project, they go in and make a judgement on a project-by-project basis, which is a huge amount of effort. I think they deserve quite a lot of credit for doing that.”

In its assessment of climate finance, Oxfam at minimum halved the amount it considered as counting as climate finance for projects where climate was not the primary objective. This is one of the main reasons its climate finance total is lower than other estimates.

Adding up estimates

As noted above, the OECD data is one of several assessments of climate finance, which can vary substantially due to different methods and assumptions. Helena Wright, senior policy advisor at E3G, tells Carbon Brief:

“The OECD data is bottom-up project data, but doesn’t include private finance mobilised by projects, and also may not include all types of projects depending on how these are reported.

“It is important for international actors to be transparent about the climate finance they provide, which is why the project-level data collected by the OECD is useful. More transparent data can help build trust that the $100bn goal is met and that climate finance is being provided and received.”

As noted above, the UNFCCC’s biennial assessment of climate finance flows gives a more comprehensive overview. The latest iteration, which covers 2015 and 2016, was released earlier this month and showed public climate finance from developed to developing countries averaged $58bn in 2015 and 2016.

It draws on several different data sources, including the OECD data, and its topline numbers are signed off by a committee with equal number of developed and developing countries, Thwaites tells Carbon Brief:

“It’s kind of like the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] for climate finance. It’s obviously not as high stakes as the IPCC, but everything in the summary and recommendations has been debated very thoroughly by governments, and they’ve gone through every sentence and reviewed it.”

Oxfam’s recent “shadow finance” report, meanwhile, offers a more stringent assessment of progress towards the $100bn climate finance goal, based on both country submissions to the UNFCCC and the OECD data.

It does not include private finance and tries to account for what it regards as an “overstatement” of public support by developed countries.

For example, its assessment includes only the grant element of loans, not their full face value. It also assumes that at most 50% of funds are for climate in projects where climate is only a significant, not principal, objective. It sums up the resulting value as “climate-specific assistance” – which includes only finance which it says makes a “net financial transfer to developing countries in support of climate action”.

Oxfam estimates this “climate-specific assistance” was as low as $16-21bn per year in 2015 and 2016, with just $5-7bn of this going to adaptation. It adds:

“Even if one assumes a large margin of error, [these figures] point to a significant difference between what donors report and net climate-specific assistance.

“A closer look reveals that overall increases in climate finance appear to be largely the result of an upsurge in loans, in particular to middle-income countries. Whilst loans have an important role to play in the right circumstances, it is concerning that loans constitute an estimated two-thirds of public climate finance in 2015-16. Public grant-based support is too low to meet needs, and is rising too slowly.”

Thwaites agrees that there are many questions to ask, but argues there is no one right climate finance solution for everyone. He tells Carbon Brief:

“This all sort of comes back to this philosophical question of whether climate finance is purely a wealth transfer and compensation – and, for sure, some people think it is – or is it a means to enhance the capital stock of developing countries in a way that will help them fight climate change and also improve their economies. And, if it’s in that sense then, a grant for certain activities which may not be the most economically productive form of transfer.”

Discussions on climate finance are currently ongoing at this year’s climate conference in Katowice, Poland, as part of the Paris “rulebook”. Sticking points include accounting rules and the extent to which developed countries should promise concrete sums of climate finance years ahead of time. Some countries are also pushing for talks to start on a new climate finance goal, due to begin in 2025.

Speaking at the COP24 talks, Zagema tells Carbon Brief that the climate finance debates are “vital outcomes” of this year’s COP:

“Whether the $100bn per year promised to developing countries will be any good for the world’s poor, particularly those living in climate vulnerable situations, depends largely on the accounting rules due to be agreed here in Katowice…

“Robust accounting rules are necessary to show the true net value of developed countries’ contributions to helping vulnerable communities respond to the perils of climate change. They will be essential to ensure that this money actually reaches the people hardest hit by climate change.”

Global climate flows

One further complication is that all of the above numbers assess only public finance from developed to developing countries. This does not account for all of the money going towards tackling climate change, such as private finance, in-country spending or flows from one developing nation to another, such as support being offered by China. This is often referred to as “South-South” finance.

The UNFCCC biennial report gives an estimate that includes all of these flows and puts overall global climate finance at $680bn in 2015 and $681bn in 2016, a 17% increase on 2013-2014 levels. The growth was largely driven by high levels of new private investment in renewable energy, the report says.

A report released in late November by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) found global public and private climate finance flows reached a lower level of $472bn in 2015 and and $455bn in 2016. It also estimates that flows reached $510bn-530bn in 2017, based on preliminary data.

For comparison, the World Bank recently said a total of $25-30tn alone is needed to help cities shift towards a low-carbon economy.

Charts produced by Tom Prater for Carbon Brief using Flourish and Tableau with OECD data.

This article was originally published on Carbon Brief and is shared under a Creative Commons license.