Drought and heat together menace American West

Drought and heat together menace American West

By Tim Radford

Climate change really is a burning issue. Simultaneous drought and heat are increasingly likely for more of the American West.

LONDON, 13 October, 2020 − The American West is about to get hotter. It is also about to get drier. To make things worse, extremes of heat and of drought will happen more often at the same time.

And to compound the damage, such simultaneous assaults are likely to extend over larger areas and become more intense and more frequent, thanks to climate change driven by profligate use of fossil fuels and other human decisions.

This is not a prediction based on computer simulations of the future. It is already happening, and the story can be traced − according to the journal Science Advances − in the narrative of hot spells and dry weather over the entire contiguous United States for the last 122 years.

Not only have combined hot and dry episodes increased in frequency, they have also grown in size in geographic terms. Where once they happened in confined localities, they now extend over whole regions, such as the entire West Coast, and parts too of the Northeast and the Southeast.

Another Dust Bowl?

“Dry-hot events can cause large fires. Add wind and a source of ignition, and this results in ‘megafires’ like the 2020 fires across the west coast of the United States. Drought and record-breaking heatwaves, coupled with a storm that brought strong winds and 12,000 lightning events in a span of 72 hours, caused more than 500 wildfires,” said Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, of McGill University in Canada, who led the research.

Heat extremes can be damaging or even devastating. So can drought. When the two coincide, their compound impact can be tragic. The study also suggested that in some way such double jeopardy events could be self-propagating: they could spread downwind, seriously bad news for the American West and other areas at risk.

Long before any fears of the climate emergency, the US Midwest was scarred by drought, and in the 1930s Oklahoma and Kansas in particular became a “Dust Bowl” and inspired the classic novel The Grapes of Wrath by the American writer John Steinbeck.

“We observed that concurrent dry and hot events of similar intensity are becoming more frequent,” said Mojtaba Sadegh, an engineer at Boise State University in Idaho, and the senior author.

“Our results point to an urgent need to take action to enhance resilience to compound hot and dry events”

“The difference is that, in the 1930s, lack of precipitation led to the local atmosphere becoming hotter, whereas in recent decades increased temperatures are driving aridity. The triggering mechanism for compound dry-hot events is changing from lack of precipitation to excess heat.”

The warning of worse to come coincides with news that California’s fires have become so bad that they warrant a new classification: the “gigafire”, with so much smoke emitted from the combined fires of California and Oregon that fumes have been detected in New York, in northern Europe, and far into the Pacific.

Researchers have repeatedly warned of the double hazard of heat and drought and the combined impact on the US, as a consequence of climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions from power station chimneys and automobile exhausts, as well as destruction of the natural wilderness.

“This research raises an alarm about increasing frequency and intensity of compound hot and dry events,” said Dr Sadegh. “Three such events between 2011-2013 in the US caused $60bn (£46bn) in damages. Our results point to an urgent need to take action to enhance resilience to compound hot and dry events.” − Climate News Network

Cover photo by Madu Shesharam on Unsplash.
New report reveals current state of climate disclosure amongst ASX200 companies

New report reveals current state of climate disclosure amongst ASX200 companies

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ASCI) published a report on the status of climate reporting among ASX200 companies* in late September 2020. The ASCI is comprised of 37 Australian and international asset owners and institutional investors who collectively own around 10 per cent of every ASX200 company. To develop a picture of how these corporates are taking climate action and disclosing, the ASCI analysed all publicly available documents produced by ASX200 entities (as of 31 March 2020). This includes Annual Reports, Sustainability Reports, standalone TCFD Reports, company websites and ASX announcements.

The report indicates that there has been a surge in disclosure against the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations. In 2017, just 11 companies disclosing against the TCFD framework, which has grown to 60 ASX200 companies by 2019. A further 14 companies have also committed to disclose against the recommendations.

The research also shows that there has been an increase in the action on climate transition risks. For example, there has been increased adoption of net-zero emissions commitments, as net-zero commitments have emerged as the latest strategic front in managing climate change exposures, according to the ASCI. The research also shows that science-based targets are gaining traction.

While the report generally showcases increased action in relation to transition climate risks, it also flags how firms are taking action in relation to physical climate risk. ASX200 companies are starting to disclose physical climate risks in a meaningful way, though at present just 10 firms were identified in this category, including a variety of corporates, ranging from commercial banks to natural resources and oil & gas companies. ASCI’s research shows that physical risk analysis and disclosure is still in early stages. As it stands, quantification of the financial impacts of physical climate risks and necessary capital expenditures for climate adaptation are not yet disclosed by ASX200 companies.

Corporates in Australia and beyond can look to this report to understand how large corporates are taking climate action and disclosing that. The report rightfully points out that investors and other stakeholders need companies to begin to quantify the potential financial impacts of physical climate risk or the cost of capital expenditure to build resilience. Whilst the TCFD recommendations provided a framework for disclosing transition and physical climate risks and opportunities, they left organisations to develop their own methodologies and approaches for implementing the disclosure recommendations. Acclimatise, along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA), a range of partners from the financial, corporate and regulatory sector as well as consultancy firm Four Twenty Seven, developed a set of recommendations on how institutions can include physical climate risks and opportunities into their financial and corporate reporting. This is available on the EBRD’s physical climate risk knowledge hub, accessible by clicking here.

The full ASCI report is available by clicking here.

* The ASX200 is a stock market index listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. It is based on the 200 largest ASX listed stocks, which together account for around 80% of Australia’s sharemarket capitalisation, according to ASX200 List, 2020.

Cover photo by Jordan on Unsplash.
How to reduce the impact of climate risks on business: takeaways from the Russian Chapter roundtable

How to reduce the impact of climate risks on business: takeaways from the Russian Chapter roundtable

The roundtable “Questions to Assist Non-Executive Director Oversight of Physical Risk Climate Management”, was held on 15 October 2020, hosted by the Directors’ Climate Forum Russian Chapter in cooperation with Deloitte CIS, Acclimatise and MinterEllison. Experts from Russia and the UK discussed with independent directors of the largest Russian and international companies how face new climate challenges, how to enhance risk management processes, as well as what procedures and practices need to be implemented today not to jeopardize the company’s activities in the near future.

Physical climate risks are currently one of major business concerns. Climate change affects productivity and asset values, increases the cost of capital, and changes the supply and demand curve of products and services. At the Russian Chapter roundtable, their views on this problem, as well as their experience in developing a sustainable business strategy were shared by:

  • Olga Pascault, Founder and Chair of Management Board at Russian Chapter, Member of the International Advisory Board at APQ Global, Independent Director at NESsT UK;
  • Elena Haykin (Sapozhnikova), Founder and Member of Management Board at Russian Chapter, partner of the Digital Horizon investment group, independent director of PJSC Inter RAO;
  • Ian Colebourne, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte CIS;
  • Andrey Yakushin, Head of Corporate Affairs Development Division at the Central Bank of Russian Federation;
  • Richard Bater, Climate Risk Analyst , Acclimatise (UK);
  • John Firth, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Acclimatise (UK);
  • Ellie Mulholland, Senior Associate, MinterEllison, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative.

Opening the event, Olga Pascault and Elena Haykin (Sapozhnikova) emphasized that in terms of the probability of occurrence and possible scale of losses, climate risk is among the most significant.

On the one hand, companies’ actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative impact on the environment help to avoid physical consequences, but at the same time lead to significant transitional risks – market, technological or regulatory. On the other hand, the inability to reduce emissions can limit transitional risks, but will aggravate climate change, and it is very important for the company to find a reasonable balance.

Ian Colebourne told the participants about Deloitte’s international initiative WorldClimate, which drives responsible climate choices within and beyond the company by focusing on four principles: Net-zero by 2030, operating green, empowering individuals and engaging ecosystems.

Ian noted that Deloitte also contributed by supporting its clients on their paths to a low-carbon future with climate risk assessment and management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

In his speech Andrey Yakushin emphasized how the Bank of Russia helped in financing sustainable development. In particular, special attention was paid to the Bank of Russia Regulation No. 706-P, “On Securities Issue Standards”, which provided a legal basis for issuance of labeled green and social bonds; Recommendations of the Bank of Russia on the implementation of principles of responsible investment, as well as creating in the Russian Federation a taxonomy of green activities and a verification system for green projects carried out jointly with the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia and VEB RF.

Dr. Richard Bater outlined the most likely physical climate risks facing the Russian Federation and noted that in our country the average temperature is rising at more than twice the global average rate and the number of climate-related extreme events also increasing. So, businesses ought to honestly answer themselves today if they have the right intelligence and knowhow to remain competitive and compliant in the face of a changing climate, when environmental adaptation has already become an important part of the political agenda at the federal level.

John Firth introduced the Guidance for Directors, prepared by Acclimatise, and set it within the context of wider global action by corporates, financial institutions and regulators to better manage and disclose physical climate risks. He also highlighted the role of the independent Board of Directors in shaping this agenda and tracking results.

Ellie Mulholland presented on the governance and liability issues that arise from a warming world, rising expectations of investors and regulators in global capital markets, responsibilities of independent directors in the context of climate change and how different warming scenarios in the future will impact resilience of assets and capitalization of the company.

In conclusion, the speakers answered the questions of the participants and invited them to the next Russian Chapter event – the webinar “Addressing Climate Change Issues: Impact on the Audit and Risk Committees’ Agenda”, which will be held on November 12, 2020.

The roundtable was supported by DLA Piper and international public relations agency PBN H+K Strategies. The recordings of the event can be found at the Russian Chapter’s site.

Download the report here.

Russian Chapter serves as the Russian hub for the global platform on climate change for board members, that operates under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. By implementing the Climate Governance Initiative (CGI), the World Economic Forum supports the growing awareness and competencies of boards of directors for effective climate governance.

Cover image by Michael Dam on Unsplash.
IDF report identifies how barriers to global risk understanding can be overcome

IDF report identifies how barriers to global risk understanding can be overcome

Latest IDF White Paper ‘The Development Impact of Risk Analytics’ demonstrates the importance of risk insight as a foundation for sustainable development, and how access to risk understanding can – and should – be accelerated.

LONDON 20 October, 2020: The Insurance Development Forum (IDF), a partnership led by the insurance industry and supported by the UN, World Bank, NGOs and other international organisations, is calling for an international collaboration to share and propagate capabilities in disaster risk understanding where it is needed the most.

This call to action is the message of the IDF’s latest white paper – The Development Impact of Risk Analytics – a truly cross-sector report bringing together risk expertise from more than 30 organisations across private sector, development agencies and specialists, academia and international NGOs. The paper demonstrates how the adoption of open risk modelling principles and frameworks can help countries and cities integrate invaluable local knowledge with global research, and most importantly develop their own view of risk for strategic risk management and operational risk finance.

The report assesses the powerful contribution of risk quantification in the context of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how the use of open risk analytics principles and platforms can overcome cost and other barriers to access, while increasing confidence in the analysis. This empowering capability is critical as vulnerable economies seek to build social, environmental and financial resilience in the face of increased climate risk, pandemic and other threats.

Specific country case studies build the case for local empowerment through building national and city risk functions. A deeply evidence driven chapter describes the distinct experience of women and girls in disasters, and how gender considerations can – and must – be integrated in the process of understanding and managing risk.

Providing compelling evidence from all sectors and from across the globe, the paper recommends that the way to accelerate risk understanding at scale is through public, private and academic collaborations, made possible through shared use of open source platforms and data standards. The private sector has developed risk understanding as a survival skill and stands ready to work with sovereign ministries, development partners and humanitarians in strategic risk prevention, residual risk transfer and anticipatory action. Critically, this will build a shared language of risk across providers and users of risk capital.

Between them, the expert contributors identify that disasters and climate risk are intensifying, and their impacts – as we have seen recently with COVID-19 – are a global concern. As the authors suggest, to better prepare for these scenarios we need to move from managing disasters to managing the risk itself.

Nick Moody, the paper’s editor and member of the IDF’s Risk Modelling Steering Group, said:

“Our subjective personal experience and observations will always be a factor in complex decision-making, and we all know that no model will ever be completely correct. However the practice of integrating local and global research and openly sharing assumptions reduces uncertainty and, frankly, fear. It builds the confidence so essential for attracting investment in resilience. This means that risk understanding should not be the privilege of the few.

The good news is that the methodologies, research sources and open source technology already exist; primarily we need to solve the problem of distribution; we need to make risk knowledge accessible where it is needed the most. We hope this paper fuels the conversation and leads to an SDG focussed public-private programme applying open source principles and standards, where risk analytics can become accessible as a strategic resource to all nations and cities at risk.”

Jan Kellett, Special Advisor, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Finance Sector, said:

“Development is about empowerment; risk owners are understandably keen to move from aid dependency to sustainable local capacity, capable of responding to the differentiated needs of communities, genders and vulnerable groups.

However it is hard for a nation or city to achieve this while barriers remain to building local risk understanding, and to integration of local experience and research. Governments and cities increasingly need to integrate strategic risk thinking into their resilience planning and financing frameworks, but to do so they need accessible tools and methodologies.

The re/insurance sector can bring significant risk modelling and risk management expertise to help unlock sustainable investment. This paper shows how cross-sector collaboration, open standards and enabling technology can harness these strengths for public good and economic development.”

Katherine Miles, advisor to the InsuResilience Gender Working Group, said:

“This report relates compelling evidence that women and men face different climate and disaster risks and vulnerabilities. People centred metrics are crucial to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. To ensure risk prevention and resilience programmes are gender-responsive, the report shows the value of gender-information and sex-disaggregated data.

Empowering more women in technical and leadership positions will be key to generate and apply these insights: from national climate and disaster risk planning to the design, implementation and regulation of all types of risk transfer mechanisms.”

Access the report here.

About the IDF

The IDF is a public/private partnership led by the insurance industry and supported by international organisations. The IDF was first announced at the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) Paris Climate summit in 2015 and was officially launched by leaders of the United Nations, the World Bank and the insurance industry in 2016.

PR Contacts

  • Helen Wright, Lysander PR
  • Roddy Langley, Lysander PR

Cover photo by DFID, Climate Visuals.
New brochure: Inundation Monitoring Service in the Philippines

New brochure: Inundation Monitoring Service in the Philippines

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development Climate Resilience (EO4SD CR) has released a new brochure providing an overview of its work with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) where EO data was provided to improve the flood risk management related to its projects in the Philippines.

The Philippines is regularly inundated by disasters, including flooding events. However, flood risk management in the country has been largely ineffective. To help ADB secure more detailed data on floods in the Philippines, the Cluster developed an Inundation Monitoring Service (IMS) for Jalaur River Basin that detects seasonal fluctuations in water bodies and monitors long-term changes. The maps provided by the IMS show the extent of flooded areas over time, helping the ADB build a more detailed understanding of the flood response needed in a particular area. This allows for better infrastructure investment in flood protection, and disaster response and early warning.

Click here to download the brochure.

In addition to the delivery of the IMS product, the Cluster provided a capacity building programme to support ADB staff in better understanding EO-derived data and services so that they can apply it to their own work. Capacity building activities include targeted support through practical training, and awareness raising and knowledge transfer through online courses and webinars.

The EO4SD CR cluster provides insight about the potential of Earth Observation (EO) data to support climate-resilient decision making at the regional and national scale. In collaboration with several International Financial Institutions, the EO4SD CR cluster has developed EO-based screening and risk management products that can be integrated into different platforms and project cycles.

Other summaries of EO4SD CR projects can be found here, as well as a webinar series outlining how different EO data products have been used and hands-on guided sessions on how to use the different data platforms.

The Jalaur River Basin is located on the Eastern side of the Philippine island of Panay.

This article was originally posted to the EO4SD website.
Climate migration: what the research shows is very different from the alarmist headlines

Climate migration: what the research shows is very different from the alarmist headlines

By David Durand-Delacre, Carol Farbotko, Christiane Fröhlich, Ingrid Boas

Predictions of mass climate migration make for attention-grabbing headlines. For more than two decades, commentators have predicted “waves” and “rising tides” of people forced to move by climate change. Recently, a think-tank report warned the climate crisis could displace 1.2 billion people by 2050. Some commentators now even argue that, as the New York Times noted in a recent headline “The Great Climate Migration Has Begun”, and that the climate refugees we’ve been warned about are, in fact, already here.

These alarming statements are often well-intentioned. Their aim is to raise awareness of the plight of people vulnerable to climate change and motivate humanitarian action on their behalf. But such headlines aren’t always accurate – and rarely achieve their intended effect.

Our main concern is that alarming headlines about mass climate migrations risk leading to more walls, not fewer. Indeed, many on the right and far right are now setting aside their climate denialism and linking climate action to ideas of territory and ethnic purity. In this context of growing climate nationalism, even the most well-intentioned narratives risk feeding fear-based stories of invasion when they present climate migration as unprecedented and massive, urgent and destabilising.

The risk is only made worse when headlines point to racialised populations from the global south as on their way to the European Union, the US or Australia: places already in the grips of moral panics about migration.

Nigel Farage stood in front of 'breaking point' anti-immigration poster.
A moral panic. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

We do not deny that climate change influences migration. We cannot ignore the damage done to communities around the world by rising sea levels, worsening droughts and catastrophic forest fires. These raise new and serious challenges we must contend with. Yet the above narratives are misleading and damaging, when the concept of human mobility requires a deeper and more nuanced approach. It’s important we take these harsh realities seriously but avoid being too alarmist or seeing everything as being determined by the climate.

In general, we are concerned by the inaccurate portrayal of migration. People have always moved under the combined influences of changing environments, economies and sociopolitical dynamics. Climate migration is neither new nor extraordinary. It is not even that different from other forms of migration – climate migrants still tend to move to places they know or have connections to through their social networks.

These are key aspects of the idea of “climate mobilities”, which we developed in a Nature Climate Change commentary with 31 co-authors including anthropologists, geographers and political scientists. We point to how mobility in the context of climate change is highly diverse – what the vast body of empirical research on the subject has shown is far different from the image of mass movements of people moving abroad.

Instead, we see highly varied and fragmented climate-related journeys. For instance, climate mobility can take the form of short-term, short-distance movements, rural-to-urban migration, or voluntary immobility. Contrary to the alarmist rhetoric of mass international migration, most movements do not involve crossing a border. For instance a million Somalians were internally displaced by a drought in 2016-17 – this dwarfs the numbers involved in any international climate migration.

Two women and their babies walk across a dry desert.
The 2016 drought also displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia – but again, almost all stayed within the country. UNICEF EthiopiaCC BY-NC-SA

Fully understanding climate mobilities requires a broader evidence base than is typically used. Many problematic narratives rely mainly on quantitative modelling, reading peoples’ experiences only through that lens. More research collaboration with the social sciences and humanities would improve our understanding, as these disciplines can provide a sensitivity to context that models alone will never achieve.

Affected people are telling their own stories

As we turn to a more diverse set of perspectives, affected people must themselves be included. They are already telling their own stories, in their own words. It’s crucial that we listen, especially when they contradict our research findings and personal intuitions. Listening to Pacific Islanders, for example, tells us that easy tales of “sinking islands” aren’t the whole story. Activists throughout the region have distilled their message of themselves as powerful actors in the fight for climate justice (and against climate migration) in the catchcry: “We are not drowning, we are fighting”.

Protesters hold up signs
‘We are not drowning, we are fighting’ Carol Farbotko, Author provided

Halfway across the world, interviews with young farmers in Senegal living in precarious situations found that, while climate change does threaten their livelihoods, it is not their key concern, and they do not see migration as a problem. They want stronger local government, more local economic opportunities and the choice to migrate regardless of cause, if it can mean a better life for them and their families.

Finally, research and reporting on climate migration needs to better consider destination areas. Policymakers throughout the global north are notoriously incapable and reluctant to take the complex realities of migration into account, to the point of sometimes disregarding the research they fund. Instead they justify anti-immigration policies such as the UK’s “hostile environment” by presenting the interests and desires of “native” populations as competing with those of new arrivals.

These narratives of inevitable economic and cultural conflict need to be challenged. For this, we can draw on a large body of work that shows migrants aren’t all rich and successful, or poor and excluded, and that successful projects take these differences into account, listen to migrants themselves and promote open dialogue with established populations.

Building an open, diverse, and accepting society in times of crisis and change is a difficult task. We should take care not to make it harder by promoting fear-based stories of climate migration.

This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
New brochure: Earth Observation data for the Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP)

New brochure: Earth Observation data for the Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP)

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development Climate Resilience (EO4SD CR) has released a new brochure providing an overview of its work with the World Bank in providing Earth Observation (EO) services to the Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP).

The CCKP is one of the most high-profile, publicly accessible, climate data platforms in the world. Developed to service the needs of expert and non-expert users, the CCKP provides global data on past climate and future climate change projections, as well as socio-economic data to support users in their climate-resilient decision-making. The brochure describes how the CCKP has been successful in serving as a hub for climate-related information, data, and tools to inform policy and practice, providing online access to comprehensive global, regional, and country data related to climate change and development.

Click here to download the brochure.

The EO4SD CR cluster worked with the World Bank during its most recent upgrade of the CCKP, identifying EO data that could be seamlessly integrated into the existing CCKP architecture so that it could be accessed instantly by users. Alongside the EO service provision, the Cluster delivers capacity building support to foster the sustained uptake of EO-based data and services by IFIs and Client States to support climate change resilience. For the World Bank, the capacity building will provide government officials and the World Bank’s Task Team Leaders with information on how to access and test EO-derived data, helping users to make sense of EO data and understanding how it can be useful for them.

he Cluster provided Essential Climate Variable (ECV) data in both map and time-series formats which allowed for images and time-series data to be easily integrated and overlaid. This data included air surface temperature, sea surface temperature, and sea level anomalies, amongst others. The ECI data can be displayed in a map format and allows for the selection of several data points compared through time series data. This helps to show levels of variation across different geographies and times.

The EO4SD CR cluster provides insight about the potential of Earth Observation (EO) data to support climate-resilient decision making at the regional and national scale. In collaboration with several International Financial Institutions, the EO4SD CR cluster has developed EO-based screening and risk management products that can be integrated into different platforms and project cycles.

Other summaries of EO4SD CR projects can be found here, as well as a webinar series outlining how different EO data products have been used and hands-on guided sessions on how to use the different data platforms.

Graphic representation of data provided to CCKP (surface air temperature aggregated over Mozambique) as displayed in the EO4SD climate platform. The surface air temperature is obtained from the ERA5 meteorological reanalysis provided by the Copernicus program.

This article was originally posted on the EO4SD CR website.
What is holding back the promise of nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation?

What is holding back the promise of nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation?

By Heidi Tuhkanen

The case is increasingly clear that nature-based solutions offer cost-effective ways to address climate change adaptation. This perspective piece examines the issues that deserve greater attention to expand the use and financing of such measures.

The benefits of using green infrastructure and nature-based solutions to address the adaptation needs arising from climate change are increasingly clear. Such projects have been shown to be cost effective, to provide social benefits, and also to mitigate emissions that contribute to climate change.

Meanwhile, the need is great. According to the Climate Policy Institute, an estimated $180 billion annually will be needed over the next decade to cover the cost of adaptation – a figure that the public sector cannot meet on its own. In recognition of the shortfall, finance mechanisms have surfaced to fund nature-based solutions by enabling investment from a range of private and public-sector actors.

So, why are so few projects in the pipeline?

The problem is certainly not a lack of interest. More than 150 people attended a recent seminar on the subject that I helped to organize with the UN Environment Programme and The Nature Conservancy at Climate Week NYC. Our seminar on private-sector adaptation finance and nature-based solutions in coastal areas (recording here) is one of many events, such as Financing Nature Based Solutions for Water Security and Financing Blue Carbon, that have recently explored the issue.

These events raise matters that must be addressed to generate greater investment in nature-based solutions, particularly in coastal and marine areas, and to capitalize on the potential of these strategies. Discussions at the Climate Week NYC seminar raised key insights about issues that should be high on the agenda.

Key insights from The Private-sector Adaptation Finance and Nature-based Solutions seminar

1. Expand understanding about the value of nature-based solutions.

All levels of government and the private sector need a greater appreciation for and awareness of the potential for nature-based solutions. More awareness is needed about the value of natural assets – and the far-reaching, cascading effects that their loss could have on societies and economies.

2. Increase the awareness of innovative financing tools.

Many of the finance mechanisms are new and being piloted in specific cases. People don’t know about them. At the seminar, a number of new financial mechanisms were presented. Blended finance mechanisms – like debt-for-nature swaps, risk- sharing instruments, and first-loss instruments – combine public- and private-sector finance to help offset the risks, and to distribute the benefits that nature-based-solution projects involve. Nature-based insurance is being used in Mexico to fund coral reforestation and maintenance, recovery from hurricane damage, and worker training for reef reparation. Fee-based funding – first in the form of a departure tax and currently in the guise of a Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee – is being used in Palau to transfer funds from tourists to the communities and governments that manage the Marine Sanctuary. Carbon credits in Kenya are funding community-based mangrove reforestation, which not only buffers disaster risks, but also captures carbon. Similar efforts are being replicated in other places. Furthermore, green and blue bonds exist, though they have yet to be used at high levels.

3. Understand the challenges of financing nature-based solutions.

Similar to many adaptation projects, nature-based solutions are often too small and too high risk to attract investors; thus, mechanisms are needed to pool, mainstream and de-risk projects. Projects also tend to be tailored to local conditions; pilots take time to get off the ground; and many of the effects are long term – all of which limit replicability. Further work, however, is being done to see how such arrangements could be replicated in other geographies and with other ecosystems. New ways are needed to manage natural resources and new partnerships between multiple stakeholders (public and private) to leverage private financing for projects that provide public goods and benefits. To push the demand for adaptation, higher standards and/or regulation, along with risk awareness are needed.

4. Address the issues posed by the neediest countries.

Many current examples of private-sector financed, nature-based models are from middle- and high-income countries. By contrast, low-income and least-developed countries are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts, and therefore in greatest need of investment. Private or blended finance opportunities are limited because of perceived high risk and low return on investment. My own research concludes that green bonds are limited in terms of their use in such countries as a mechanism to scale up private financing for adaptation and resilience.

5. Give greater attention to the trade-off between social and environmental benefits.

Livelihood benefits to communities are often mentioned as a component of nature-based solutions. What will the distribution of benefits be among stakeholders with private financers in the picture? How can projects ensure equitable access to benefits throughout society?

6. Examine the potential for hybrid measures to extend the benefits of nature-based solutions.

Hybrid nature-based solutions combine grey and green infrastructure. They may offer a way to increase the availability of alternatives to grey infrastructure. In fact, hybrid models may be the only solution available for some situations. For example, pure nature-based solutions may not be an option in dense urban areas, and may not be sufficient for adapting to severe climate impacts. Some hybrid models are actually traditional methods that are making a comeback. One example is the use of fences to start the formation of sand dunes to help protect coastal regions. However, innovation and experimentation with these solutions are needed to come up with new possibilities as well as to assess their effectiveness and replicability.

Although we are still far away from reaching the funding needed for adaptation, these new and diverse opportunities for private finance of nature-based solutions move us closer to the goal. The Global Commission on Adaptation recently called for the demonstration of innovative finance models to scale-up investments in nature-based solutions. This call specifically seeks to mobilize private finance. This call and other initiatives recognize the potential of such approaches. Nature provides benefits that are the backbone of societies and economies. It can also be the backbone of resilient adaptation.

This article was originally posted on the Stockholm Environment Institute website and was republished on PreventionWeb.
River deltas become even riskier as climate warms

River deltas become even riskier as climate warms

By Tim Radford

River deltas are among the world’s richest habitats. They are also, increasingly, home to the most vulnerable people.

LONDON, 8 October, 2020 − Already, more than 30 million people worldwide are in danger of catastrophic floods − and now they face further danger from the river deltas which are their homes.

Ocean storm surges which are one threat could wash away their homes, their livelihoods, and even their lives. Another, rising tide levels, could turn their gardens to salt and sap the foundations of their lives. With many more, tropical cyclones could sweep in and literally rain their houses into the sea

What all these vulnerable people − in New Orleans, in Bangkok, in Shanghai, in the mouths of the Ganges-Brahmaputra, in any of more than 2,000 settlements − have in common is that they live on a river delta: that vital, ever-shifting zone where a great river spills its silt into the ocean.

And climate change driven by ever-rising ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere − a consequence of ever-greater reliance on fossil fuels − can only make such hazards ever more dangerous. But the first challenge is: who, exactly, is most at risk? And where?

“To date, no-one has successfully quantified the global population in river deltas and assessed the cumulative impacts from climate change,” said Douglas Edmonds, of the University of Indiana in the US.

Costly endowment

“Since river deltas have long been recognised as hotspots of population growth, and with increasing impacts from climate change, we realised we needed to properly quantify what the cumulative risks are in river deltas.”

Dr Edmonds and his colleagues report in Nature Communications that they assembled a global database of 2,174 delta locations, to identity the populations settled on and around them in 2017, and the topography most at risk.

River deltas add up to perhaps 0.5% of the planet’s land surface, but they are home to 4.5% of the world’s population. Humans have settled on river deltas for at least 7,000 years: the rivers deliver nutrient-rich silts for new farmland, and the river estuaries have provided a focus for regional and international transport, to become some of the world’s greatest cities.

But such riches come at a cost: as the rivers have been contained and engineered, the land cover has changed and the land surface subsided. So as sea levels rise with climate change, deltaic areas could become 50% more vulnerable to coastal flood.

“No-one has successfully quantified the global population in river deltas and assessed the cumulative impacts from climate change”

Precisely because river deltas form at or even below sea level, they are highly prone to storm surges driven by tropical cyclones. And by 2100, these could become from 2% to 11% more intense.

The researchers found that in 2017, around 339m people had made their homes on 710,000 square kilometres of habitable land around river deltas: in this century alone, the population on deltas had grown by 34%.

Of these, 31m lived on floodplains vulnerable to the kind of storm surges that happen once a century. And of this 31m, 92% lived in developing or least-developed economies, often breathing polluted air, with poor housing and limited access to public services such as drainage. So, as usual, the poorest were also the most at risk from climate change.

In fact, as scientists have been warning for a decade or more, coastal flooding is a hazard inevitably on the increase, and an increasingly costly one, worldwide.

Even in the US, floods will become a serial nuisance in many cities and an estimated 13m Americans could eventually become climate refugees.

Very cautious estimates

Climate change is likely to deliver a hotter, wetter world with more soil erosion that could trigger catastrophic delta flooding. Hurricanes and typhoons driven by rising sea temperatures are likely to exact an ever-greater toll on human life and wealth.

The Indiana scientists warn that their estimates of those most at risk and the costs they face are likely to be highly conservative. They did not, for instance, consider the special case of what they call “compound interaction.”

This is sociological shorthand for what could happen when climate-related disaster overtakes those who are poorest, crowded into the least protected and unhealthiest zones of the cities. Altogether, 105m people have settled on the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, half of them on low-lying farmland. The second most crowded is the Nile delta, with 45m people.

“To effectively prepare for more intense future coastal flooding,” Dr Edmonds said, “we need to reframe it as a problem that disproportionately impacts people on river deltas in developing and least developed economies.” − Climate News Network

This article was originally posted on The Climate News Network.
Cover image by Pinakpani on Wikimedia Commons.
UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020 Edition

UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020 Edition

Tomorrow marks the UNDRR’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.

This year’s edition continues as part of the “Sendai Seven” campaign, focusing on Target E: “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.”  This year’s theme is about conveying that many disasters can be avoided if there are disaster risk reduction strategies in place to manage and reduce existing levels of risk.

You can find dedicated resources, stories, articles and events taking place around this day, here.