Category: Events

UK public’s climate concern at all time high according to major new study on risk and adaptation

UK public’s climate concern at all time high according to major new study on risk and adaptation

By Will Bugler

New research has pointed to a large shift in the British public’s attitude to risks of climate change. The study, which was conducted during the height of the Brexit debate, found that climate change was second only to the UK’s departure from the EU as an issue of concern for the UK public.

The study, launched earlier this week at the Royal Society in London, is one of the first major studies into public attitudes towards climate risk and adaptation. The survey, carried out by a team of researchers from Cardiff University and Climate Outreach, showed significant concern around climate impacts such as storms, flooding and, in particular, heatwaves, and suggested strong support for policies to address these.

Acclimatise’s Will Bugler sat on the advisory panel for the study, which found that many more Britons believe climate change is “the most important issues facing the country in the next 20 years” than three years ago. 23% of respondents named climate change as the most important issue, up from just 2% in 2016.

Image: Almost a quarter of respondents list climate change as “the most important issues facing the country in the next 20 years”

“This is a remarkable shift in British public opinion – the biggest change we’ve seen in recent years,” said Professor Nick Pidgeon, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, who led the project.

“With climate policy entering a critical phase, as the UK prepares to host the UN climate summit – and as many areas seek to recover from winter flooding – these survey results provide strong evidence of a shift in perceptions among the British public towards greater concern for climate risks and their impacts.

Climate concern on the rise and scepticism fades

While climate scepticism is still prominent in the UK’s print media, and online, the study, based on 1,401 nationally-representative respondents, found that climate change scepticism was low amongst the British public. About two thirds (64%) felt Britain was already feeling the effects of climate change (as compared to 41% in 2010) and that climate concern has doubled since 2016, with 40% saying they were now “very or extremely worried”.

Storms and flooding remain the highest perceived risks, and people felt that they were likely to increase in the future. The study also found that there was a surprisingly big surge in concern for overheat risks – 72% thought heatwaves were now a serious problem for the UK (compared to 23% in 2013). Other knock on effects due to extreme weather such as effects on food supplies and health impacts were also of very high concern for most respondents.

Strong support for climate action

Importantly, the public concern for climate impacts was matched by a desire for action. There was very strong support for a range of adaptation policies, for example spending on flood defences or tighter building regulations. Three quarters of those asked supported using public money now to prepare the UK, and protecting health, vulnerable groups and the emergency services from climate impacts were top priorities. Interestingly there was less concern about protecting economic growth economic growth through adaptation policy.

“The current sharp rise in risk awareness is a real departure from that trend,” said Professor Pidgeon, “and this is probably due to prominent recent severe weather events, widespread climate protests and greater media coverage.” Overall people felt that adaptation and resilience building was the responsibility of government, however only a relatively small number of people said that they were likely to write to their MP about the issue. This perhaps indicates a lack of public trust in MPs to affect decision making on climate change adaptation.

Implications for climate adaptation communications

Accompanying the perceptions report Climate Outreach developed guidelines to support improved public engagement on climate risk issues. This has seven key recommendations:

  1. Climate change concern is at an all-time high, and adaptation policies are supported across the political spectrum – these are important starting points for public engagement
  2. Climate impacts are increasingly salient, with a surge in concern around extreme heat – this opens up a new front for engaging the public
  3. Climate change is getting ‘closer to home’ – show how climate risks are relevant to people’s lives by relating them to widely-shared values, and build efficacy by making the link to constructive solutions
  4. Framing messages – concerns about mitigation and adaptation reinforce each other and are perceived as two sides of the same coin
  5. Health risks, wellbeing and adaptation – make the connection and frame messages in this way, but don’t assume much existing knowledge
  6. Climate conversations need to go beyond discussions of emissions targets – a ‘just transition’ applies to adaptation as well
  7. From concern to commitment – deepening public engagement on climate change is the challenge ahead

The research was conducted as part of the UK Climate Resilience Programme, an £18.7m inter-multidisciplinary collaboration, funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Met Office as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund.

Dr Kate Lonsdale, co-champion of the UK Climate Resilience Programme, said: “The scientific consensus is increasingly clear that climate risks are increasing in likelihood and severity. “Now we have evidence that people in Britain see these risks are relevant to their lives today rather than something that will happen in the future and in other places.”

Download a copy of the perceptions study here.

Download a copy of the accompanying guidelines for public communications here.

Cover photo take by the author.
Private sector finance will play a key role at COP26

Private sector finance will play a key role at COP26

By Georgina Wade

The COP26 private finance agenda was unveiled at an event in London last week.  Mark Carney, who will step down as governor of the Bank of England next month to focus on his roles as UN special envoy for climate action and finance and the Prime Minister’s Finance Adviser for COP 26 unveiled the agenda. The event also shared a moving preview of Sir David Attenborough’s new film, a keynote from European Central Bank President Madame Christine Lagarde. Acclimatise Chief Technical Officer, Dr Richenda Connell, attended the event.

In his speech, Carney revealed that the objective for the private finance work for COP26, which will unfold in Scotland in November, was to “ensure that every financial decision take climate change into account”. Carney further explained that actions would be needed by regulators and government to catalyse the private financial sector’s efforts, calling on the private finance sector to “help refine and implement” disclosure based on the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures (TCFD) framework.

Additionally, Carney mentioned a focus on the three Rs – reporting, risk management and return – in an effort to help unlock the private financial flows that are vital to the transition. Whereas increasing the quantity and quality of reporting is essential to driving a whole economy transition, stress tests allow banks to understand which of their borrowers are ready for the transition to a green economy, and which ones will struggle. Following suite, returns enable investors to make informed decisions on whether companies and portfolios are transition ready.

The UK-Italy COP26 presidency would be building on existing work and networks to build a large coalition of asset owners and managers who expect their portfolio companies to become net-zero aligned. Examples of such networks include the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, Climate Action 100+, and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

The event was generally well-received with some labelling it as a clear call to action for the finance industry. The event is perhaps the first time a COP host government has fully recognised the critical role finance has to play in climate action, and sought to prioritise its contribution. While Carney’s speech and associated strategy overview document lay out some steps to move forward, the clock is ticking. Private finance may have gotten its very own COP26 agenda in driving a whole economy transition, but there is still plenty of work to be done on the road to Glasgow.

Cover photo taken by Dr Richenda Connell.
Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis

Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis

By Heather Alberro, Nottingham Trent University

The annual World Economic Forum in Davos brought together representatives from government and business to deliberate how to solve the worsening climate and ecological crisis. The meeting came just as devastating bush fires were abating in Australia. These fires are thought to have killed up to one billion animals and generated a new wave of climate refugees. Yet, as with the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, a sense of urgency, ambition and consensus on what to do next were largely absent in Davos.

But an important debate did surface – that is, the question of who, or what, is to blame for the crisis. Famed primatologist Dr Jane Goodall remarked at the event that human population growth is responsible, and that most environmental problems wouldn’t exist if our numbers were at the levels they were 500 years ago.

This might seem fairly innocuous, but its an argument that has grim implications and is based on a misreading of the underlying causes of the current crises. As these escalate, people must be prepared to challenge and reject the overpopulation argument.

At Davos #WEF2020, @algore starts screaming about the urgency of controlling the climate: “This is Thermopylae! .. This is the Battle of the Bulge! This is Dunkirk! This is 9/11!”

Embedded video

Jane Goodall @ Davos: “All these [environmental] things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of population that there was 500 years ago.”

The world population 500 years ago is estimated between 420 and 540 million — 6.7 billion fewer people than today.

Embedded video

A dangerous distraction

Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and Donella Meadows’ The Limits to Growth in the late 1960s and early 1970s ignited concerns over the world’s burgeoning human population, and its consequences for natural resources.

The idea that there were simply too many people being born – most of them in the developing world where population growth rates had started to take off – filtered into the arguments of radical environmental groups such as Earth First! Certain factions within the group became notorious for remarks about extreme hunger in regions with burgeoning populations such as Africa – which, though regrettable, could confer environmental benefits through a reduction in human numbers.

In reality, the global human population is not increasing exponentially, but is in fact slowing and predicted to stabilise at around 11 billion by 2100. More importantly, focusing on human numbers obscures the true driver of many of our ecological woes. That is, the waste and inequality generated by modern capitalism and its focus on endless growth and profit accumulation.

The industrial revolution that first married economic growth with burning fossil fuels occurred in 18th-century Britain. The explosion of economic activity that marked the post-war period known as the “Great Acceleration” caused emissions to soar, and it largely took place in the Global North. That’s why richer countries such as the US and UK, which industrialised earlier, bear a bigger burden of responsibility for historical emissions.

The high-carbon consumption habits of the world’s richest people are more to blame for the climate crisis than population growth in poor regions. Artem Ermilov/Shutterstock

In 2018 the planet’s top emitters – North America and China – accounted for nearly half of global CO₂ emissions. In fact, the comparatively high rates of consumption in these regions generate so much more CO₂ than their counterparts in low-income countries that an additional three to four billion people in the latter would hardly make a dent on global emissions.

There’s also the disproportionate impact of corporations to consider. It is suggested that just 20 fossil fuel companies have contributed to one-third of all modern CO₂ emissions, despite industry executives knowing about the science of climate change as early as 1977.

Inequalities in power, wealth and access to resources – not mere numbers – are key drivers of environmental degradation. The consumption of the world’s wealthiest 10% produces up to 50% of the planet’s consumption-based CO₂ emissions, while the poorest half of humanity contributes only 10%. With a mere 26 billionaires now in possession of more wealth than half the world, this trend is likely to continue.

Issues of ecological and social justice cannot be separated from one another. Blaming human population growth – often in poorer regions – risks fuelling a racist backlash and displaces blame from the powerful industries that continue to pollute the atmosphere. Developing regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America often bear the brunt of climate and ecological catastrophes, despite having contributed the least to them.

The problem is extreme inequality, the excessive consumption of the world’s ultra-rich, and a system that prioritises profits over social and ecological well-being. This is where where we should be devoting our attention.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
Financing adaptation actions: takeaways from Rockaway, New York

Financing adaptation actions: takeaways from Rockaway, New York

By Acclimatise News

I recently attended a presentation about adaptation actions at the individual and community scale in Rockaway, New York – a peninsula that is directly exposed to the Atlantic.

According to the presenter, only a small percentage of Rockaway residents have begun to take adaptation actions either at the individual or community scale. The obstacles include; a lack of understanding among residents regarding future flood risks, available adaptation options and their costs and benefits, and constrained resources.

Most of the discussion focused around the need for awareness raising, suggesting that if residents had better information, they may make more informed decisions. Interestingly, the presenter revealed that 80% of homeowners rebuilt their homes after Sandy in the same way they were before. Of course, this offers no additional resiliency benefits should a Sandy-scale storm, or worse, sweep through the region again. Why would they do this?

Yet, as the presentation continued, ‘lack of awareness’ and a ‘lack of understanding of future flood risks’ struck me as a moot point when the cost data was presented.

The presenter compared the benefits of several adaptation strategies, including the cost of raising a home, calculate based on future flood damage expenditure compared to the cost of those strategies. The present value of damages over the next 30 years depends critically on the elevation of the lowest floor of the house. According to data, the mean present value of raising a home from 0 to 0.5 meters costs $729,045.00 and the additional cost of raising a home to 1 meter would add up to a total of $804,1000.

The presenter emphasized that the potential losses to homeowners from another Sandy could be over $2 million, 2.5 times more than the required investment of raising a house, thereby creating a strong business case for home raising. Yet, regardless of the potential magnitude of losses, $729,045.00 is prohibitively expensive for the average homeowner, particularly in working-class neighborhoods where median household income is $51,249.00. Furthermore, how can you motivate individuals to borrow or spend that amount of money when there is uncertainty as to how climate impacts will play out?

The presenter also argued that reduced insurance premiums would help recoup some of the costs of home raising. Yet, to what extent could a reduced insurance premium offset an investment of more than three quarters of a million dollars?

Interestingly, while there was a lot of discussion about costs of adaptation options, there was little discussion of how to finance them. While FEMA does provide post-disaster relief, homeowners have complained that it can take years for funding to be distributed and that funding won’t be reimbursed for costs already spent on construction. In other words, you can’t raise your home post-disaster and then be reimbursed for it after the fact. This doesn’t incentivise homeowners to build back better.

I took two things away from this presentation. One, that individuals’ decision-making is likely strongly dictated by finances, and two, that adaptation options must reflect the present reality. Proposing adaptation actions in regions where the vast majority of people don’t have the resources to implement them with limited government resources to support them, may not be useful or equitable. Adaptation is urgently required at all scales, yet not all technically viable adaptation solutions will work in every context.

Cover image from the FEMA Photo Library, Wikimedia Commons
Citizens, assemble!

Citizens, assemble!

By Lydia Messling

2019 was the year that the conversation changed on climate change.

The Media and Climate Change Observatory’s analysis showed that across the one hundred newspaper sources, coverage of climate change was up 73% in 2019 compared to 2018, global radio coverage was up 74%, and in the UK and Germany, coverage more than doubled, and the US television coverage increased by 138%.

Figure 1: Newspaper media coverage of climate change or global warming in one hundred sources in seven different regions of around the world, from January 2004 to December 2019.

In a YouGov survey commissioned by the CAST Centre in August 2019, 62% of the UK public said that addressing climate change requires a ‘high’ or ‘extremely high’ level of urgency, with 48% saying they had grown more worried about climate change over the past 12 months.

Figure 2: YouGov survey results of 2000 respondents’ view on the urgency of acting on climate change.

In the lead up to the 2017 general election, only 8% of the British public  considered the environment to be one of the top three important issues, yet in another YouGov survey on issues defining the 2019 UK general election, 25% of Brits put it in their top three, making the environment the 4th most important issue, and neck-and-neck with the economy.

Figure 3: Comparison of 2017 and 2019 YouGov survey results when asking the UK public about opinions on the top three important issues facing the country.

And in 2020, we saw another change in how climate change is talked about.

On the 24th of January, the UK House of Commons launches its citizen assembly on climate change, which will run for four weekends. Unhampered by political rivalries and conflicts of interest, the hope is that ordinary members of the public will meet and form a consensus on how to take action on climate change – succeeding where the politicians have failed. Of the 30,000 people that were invited to participate, only 110 will actually take part, but will form a demographically representative picture of the UK. They will be asked for their thoughts on how the UK should respond to declaring a climate emergency, and what policies should be implemented to meet the net-zero by 2050 target. Many local governments across the UK are hoping to follow suit with councils in Oxford, Bristol, Lincoln, Norwich, Lancaster, Brighton and Hove, and Surrey County Council, to just name a few.

The French government are also holding a citizen’s assembly but equipping them with more bite, having been promised the ability to set France’s policies on cutting carbon emissions by presenting their “unfiltered” proposals to parliament.  Chosen at random, 150 people will meet over seven weekends to discuss issues ranging from plastics and fast fashion, to transport and housing, and to come up with real policy answers to these difficult questions.

Whilst these curated citizen conversations are a radical move with the potential to jump-start action on climate change, they unfortunately don’t necessarily guarantee political action. Even the French approach promising an unedited hearing of the policy proposals, does not guarantee they will pass parliament’s vote. Therefore, it is crucial that we do not just limit climate conversation to citizen assemblies in 2020. The conversations that follow these assemblies, and how well their outcomes are communicated will be vital for ensuring that engagement continues, and for governments to enact the policies needed. Those of us not part of the ‘chosen few’ do not lose our voice either, and can feed into the ongoing conversation and creation of policy options, as well as influencing the context that these citizen assemblies take place. Highly profiled and valued for being representative, the outcomes from the citizen assemblies should be taken seriously and can be a powerful tool in demonstrating a consensus for change. We need to be ready to use the outcomes of these conversations as a way of holding elected decision makers accountable and demonstrating that in a world of uncertainty about climate change and its impacts, the public are certain about taking action, and taking it now.

Cover photo by Lewis Parsons on Unsplash
Climate change: COP26 Glasgow will provide world stage for Scotland’s green innovation

Climate change: COP26 Glasgow will provide world stage for Scotland’s green innovation

By Christopher J White, Francesco Sindico, and Keith Bell, University of Strathclyde

Every year since 1994, the UN has gathered together the world’s governments at its Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of the parties (COP), held in a different country each time. The convention’s ultimate aim is to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system. The onus is on developed countries to lead the way and the convention directs funds to developing countries to help them in their efforts.

COP25, held in Madrid at the beginning of December 2019, did not end well. Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg’s solemn speech gave short shrift to countries neglecting their responsibilities, and the likes of the US President, Donald Trump, and Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, responded with personal attacks.

Tensions ran high when climate justice activists were barred from entering the venue and talks stalled, and negotiations ending two days late with a compromise deal on cutting global carbon emissions. Given the raised status of the world’s climate emergency, it was a disappointing end to a conference for which many had high hopes.

In the cold light of a new year, everyone from activists to world leaders are reflecting on COP25’s ultimate failure to set down rules on creating a carbon market between countries. But already, behind the scenes, the UK is looking to the next summit – because this year COP26 will be pitching its tent in Glasgow.

More than 30,000 people are expected to descend on the city in November 2020. For those who live and work in Glasgow it will be a chance to experience being part of an important climate action event. People from around the country will be able to participate in hundreds of events that will be happening across the city. So why will COP26 be such a big occasion for Glasgow, and what will the city itself bring to the mix?

Why hosting COP26 is a big deal

The world’s governments have met every year for nearly three decades to (try to) agree how to stop – or at least reduce the impacts of – climate change. But the fact that these nations have not been able to meet the overall UNFCCC objectives is one of the reasons we now face a global climate emergency.

As world summits go, they don’t get much more important than the UN’s climate change convention. In those three decades, this will be the first time a COP summit has been held in the UK. From a policy perspective, COP26 will be important for at least four reasons:

1. It will take place in the year when all countries are asked to submit their new long-term goals – so ambition to address the global climate emergency will be high on the agenda.

2. It will have to finish the work that COP25 was unable able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries.

3. From Glasgow onwards, the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the key driver of international climate action.

4. COP26 will come just weeks after the US presidential election with the potential implications this will have for US climate policy and US participation in COP26.

Come November 2020, the eyes of the world will be firmly on Glasgow.

Glasgow on show

The Scots have always been keen innovators.

Scotland has a long and rich history of discovery and innovation, including Glasgow’s past as a world-class centre of shipbuilding, trade and industrial production – a legacy that has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions but has also added much to the quality of human life. From pioneering work on the steam engine and wind turbines, to the invention of television and the life-saving discoveries of penicillingin and tonic and Billy Connolly’s shipyard humour, Glasgow has helped shape the modern world.

Glasgow and its history can also shed light on how cities, societies and people can reinvent themselves from a former industrial workhorse to a city of culture, services and new green technologies. Scotland’s collective commitment to net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045 now puts the country at the forefront of real action on the climate emergency. During COP26, Glasgow’s research and innovation will be on show to the world.

Engineers are leading the development of renewable technologies such as tidal energy and floating offshore wind turbines. Scotland is at the forefront of establishing hydrogen as a viable energy source, providing hubs for related skills and knowledge-sharing, to ensure that new technologies can be integrated into the grid and controlled.

Scotland also leads the way not only on the science innovation, but on ways in which research and development can provide community-informed solutions to sea and climate change challenges, and on how climate change relates to Scotland’s coastline and islands.

Researchers in Scotland are also at the forefront of the science-policy-practice interface, working with people in the field to deliver climate change risk and adaptation policies. And with climate change already a reality, Glasgow is also producing science that helps communities become more prepared and resilient.

Scotland is at the forefront of offshore wind turbine technology. Shutterstock

More than a political event

Glasgow’s experts and innovators will have their moment to shine at COP26 – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with those deciding the direction and effectiveness of the global debate on climate change action. COP26 Glasgow can also be an inspirational event for Scotland’s young people, the generation which will inherit both the burden of climate change and the means to address it.

As we build up to COP26, the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council, alongside the universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian, will be planning numerous events that will run alongside the main COP26 activities.

The countdown has begun. Glasgow will seek to demonstrate to the world how Scottish research and innovation is playing an important role in tackling the global climate emergency.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Artur Kraft on Unsplash.
Not much COP: UN Climate talks fail to deliver on climate adaptation and resilience

Not much COP: UN Climate talks fail to deliver on climate adaptation and resilience

By Will Bugler

Good COP / Bad COP?

Bad COP. By any reasonable measure this COP failed to deliver at a time where the world expects action. The failure of the negotiating teams to make meaningful progress was compounded by the fact that hundreds of youth climate activists were ejected from the Plenary, in a year when climate activists have done more than anyone to move the climate agenda forward.

The COP began with a sense of foreboding with a last-minute shift in venue to Spain’s capital after Chile’s president Sebastian Piñera announced that his country could no longer host the event due to violent anti-government protests. However, Chile retained the COP presidency and had promised that this was to be an “ambition COP”, one that closed the widening gap between the countries’ current greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges and what is required to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

Under banners emblazoned with the hashtag #TimeForAction, delegates largely failed to live up to this promise. The COP ended up going long into extra time after countries failed to reach an agreement on how to proceed in the allotted time. Over the final weekend delegates did manage to pull together a loose agreement on the way forward, but they have left a huge amount of work to do if meaningful progress is to be made before the landmark meeting in Glasgow at the end of 2020.

Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD) and Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) was heavily critical of the process at the COP, claiming that the UN process needs to change fundamentally. Speaking just after the conference had concluded, Dr Huq, who has been involved in building negotiating capacity and supporting the engagement of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at COPs for many years, gave this verdict:

Summary of adaptation-related developments

So, what were the main developments when it came to climate change adaptation at COP25? As in past years, most of it revolved around money. Specifically, how to finance adaptation and how to compensate countries for losses and damages associated with climate change impacts that they bear little responsibility for causing.

  • Share of proceeds: One of the most controversial areas of discussion revolved around what’s known as the ‘share of proceeds’ to fund adaptation. That is deciding what share of the profits from selling carbon offsets should be set aside to help vulnerable countries adapt. The general gist was that developing countries including the African group and “G77 + China” negotiating blocs had this issue marked as a key priority. However, many developed countries are not in favour, saying that money from offsets that is diverted for spending on adaptation effectively represents a transaction tax that would affect trade. The US in particular refused to agree to this, as its position is that tax matters are a no-go area for the UN climate talks. Limited progress was made on this due to these objections. The final agreement contains only voluntary language relating to Article 6.2 (which allows countries to strike bilateral and voluntary agreements to trade carbon units) “strongly encouraging” parties to support adaptation.
  • Loss and damage: The long-running saga on loss and damage continued at COP25, and the issue remained highly controversial. Developing nations are pushing for finance to help compensate them for losses and damages incurred because of climate change impacts, and developed nations, broadly, are highly resistant to this. Negotiators set out to review the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM), which was established in 2013 to deal with the loss and damage issue. Until now, much of the focus has been on building scientific understanding of what proportion of damages might be attributable to climate change. However, as climate-related extreme events (such as hurricanes or wildfires) and ‘slow-onset’ climate change phenomena (such as sea level rise or seasonal changes in weather patterns) are becoming increasingly visible and damaging, developing countries are demanding action. Their demand is for “new and additional” money (separate from other adaptation finance) to help deal with irreversible damage. Developing nations put forward a text for consideration that called for “adequate, easily accessible, scaled up, new and additional, predictable finance, technology and capacity building”. However, this was significantly watered down – specifically omitting language around funding being “new, additional and adequate”, mainly thanks to US pressure and the issue remains unresolved. In an effort to salvage some progress, the EU tried to include loss and damage into the remit of existing mechanisms (specifically the Green Climate Fund). However, this was criticised by some as it will put additional pressure on already underfunded areas of climate finance, and could potentially reduce the amount of money available for adaptation.
  • Long Term Finance and the $100bn goal: The most significant discussions relating to financing mechanisms for climate change adaptation surrounded the climate finance goal and the related issue of long-term climate finance (LTF). The LTF workstream (which monitors progress towards scaling up of climate finance) is due to end in 2020. Most of the functions of the LTF are already replicated under the Paris Agreement, but with the US expected to withdraw from the Agreement, some parties saw merit in extending the LTF. The goal of mobilizing $100 bn annually by 2020 (for both mitigation and adaptation) was also discussed – with questions asked about whether it should be revised or extended. The outcomes of these discussions were unsatisfactory, with negotiators unable to agree even on when they should take a decision on the LTF agenda. This reflects the real concerns that the $100bn target will be missed this year, and points to very tricky negotiations in Glasgow on the issue.
  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF): Little progress was made advancing the guidance documents on the two main mechanisms for delivering climate adaptation finance to developing countries. Discussions were slowed to a virtual standstill by the debate around whether they should be focussing more on loss and damage.
  • Santiago action plan: A bright spot came in the form of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action. An alliance of 51 finance ministries, the coalition presented its “Santiago action plan” which hopes to integrate climate change into decision-making about economic and financial policies.
  • Gender action plan: If anything can be described as a bright spot at COP25 it was the progress made on deciding a new five-year gender action plan (GAP). The GAP is designed to support gender-related decisions in the UNFCCC process. Despite a shaky start to proceedings, a new GAP was agreed that takes into account human rights, a ‘just transition; and indigenous peoples.
  • Koronivia joint work on agriculture: This three-year programme is due to conclude at COP26 in Glasgow and aims to provide guidelines about farming in the face of climate change. Adaptation plays a large part in these discussions, which cover everything form soil health to crop types. As with so many areas, finance remains the sticking point with developing nations demanding more money to help adapt, and developed nations pushing back. While workshops related to the programme continued in the first half of COP25, actual decisions and recommendations making their way into the final text, were thin on the ground.

A disappointing COP overall then, and one that leaves a considerable amount of work to be done at Glasgow in 2020. Finance will remain a key sticking point, however with the US unlikely to be involved in the talks, it is hoped that more progress can be made.

COP 25 signals public and private sectors coming together to green the financial system

COP 25 signals public and private sectors coming together to green the financial system

By Caroline Fouvet

The work of the financial services sector in addressing climate change was high on the agenda at COP 25 in Madrid this year. Indeed, this December, the 2019 UNFCCC climate negotiations saw multiple side events involving green finance, and one common thread that emerged was the importance of synergies between public sector-led efforts and financial institutions’ (FIs) initiatives to build a sustainable low-carbon and climate resilient financial system.

The impact of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations is one of the main underlying factors to these common endeavours aimed to tackle climate-related issues. As it stands, several countries are implementing both compulsory and voluntary measures for the financial sector to take into account transition and physical risks, including the UK and France. Launched at COP, the 2019 Investor Briefing of the Global Adaptation & Resilience Investment (GARI) Working Group, to which Acclimatise contributed, urges investors to pay attention to this growing regulatory trend. While there are a number of ways that the public and private sector will have to work together on climate action, the need for standardisation, increasing green bonds, and macroeconomic analysis of climate impacts were in sharp focus at COP25.

A call for standardisation

One of the main reasons FIs are working hand-in-hand with governments on green finance is the need for standards to consistently address climate-related risks and opportunities. The European Union sustainable finance taxonomy was, for instance, referred to in multiple instances during panel discussions and praised as an efficient tool providing clarity as to what constitutes sustainable finance.

Financial regulators present at COP 25 mentioned their work on standardisation and methodologies. The Colombian financial regulator Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia (SFC) issued a mandatory survey to take stock of the country’s financial institutions’ governance, risk management and opportunities consideration practices, in order to identify best practices and provide common definitions. The Bank of England explained that it was currently working with scientists and FIs to develop four standardised scenarios that will be published in the spring 2020 and trialled by members of the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). The NGFS chair Mr. Frank Elderson also announced that the Network was undertaking detailed technical work on scenarios, stress-testing, environmental assessment methodologies and guidance on integrating environmental risks in supervision.

Increasing green bond growth in developed and developing countries

In the wake of standardisation initiatives, several side events at COP 25 focused on the emergence of green bonds methodologies and the collaboration of governments with FIs to enable their take up. Both developing and developed countries are proactive on the issue, as shown by Nigeria and Ireland. The former issued the first African green bond in 2017 that was successfully subscribed to, thanks to efforts from the Nigerian federal government in giving confidence to investors regarding the green projects the proceeds would be invested into. The country set up the Green Bond Private Public Sector Advisory Group, which brings together capital markets, private corporates, the Government and external development partners to support the green bond programme and enable cross-sectoral dialogue. In Ireland, the government engaged with banks and investors in developing the Irish green bond framework, which underpins the issuance green bonds and use of the proceeds to finance projects that promote Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy.

Macroeconomic analysis of climate impacts

Another area for collaboration was the analysis of climate change impacts on the economy, undertaken by Central Banks. A representative of the Central Bank of Costa Rica explained how 2016 hurricane Otto hit the country for the first time and impacted the inflation rate and GDP growth, leading to repercussions on the financial sector. This pushed the Central Bank to undertake analyses from a risk perspective of what climate-related events such as El Nino meant in terms of inflation, and to communicate on this topic to financial stakeholders. The Central Bank of Chile is also involved in analyses of the climate impacts on the macroeconomy.

Financial sector alignment with the Paris Agreement’s mitigation and adaptation objectives continued at COP 25

Each COP provides a platform for dialogues across continents, sectors and institutions. COP 25 reflected this collaborative spirit between FIs and government-led work to green the financial system. Climate action is now an established concept within the financial sector, as evidenced by the conversations at COP 25, which constitutes an essential step in addressing the climate emergency.

Note: COP = Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Cover photo taken by Caroline Fouvet at COP25.
Acclimatise at COP 25: Promoting cities’ resilience to climate change in Latin America

Acclimatise at COP 25: Promoting cities’ resilience to climate change in Latin America

By Caroline Fouvet

Cities’ role in the face of climate change was a recurring topic at COP 25. Given Acclimatise’s track record in working alongside municipalities to foster their climate resilience, Maribel Hernandez was invited to present her insights at a panel discussion convened by CAF, the Latin American development bank, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union through its Latin America Investment Facility initiative.

The side event, entitled “Cities and Climate Change: from baseline and diagnostics to concrete measures for resilient and low-carbon cities”, convened experts who were involved in CAF’s and AFD’s efforts to support cities against climate change, through local climate analyses, prioritisation of low-carbon and resilient actions, and pre-investment studies of projects with climate co-benefits in the urban context.

Maribel Hernandez, who has co-led the development of a zonal climate vulnerability index for the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, as well as a climate change vulnerability analysis for the Chilean regions of Atacama and O’Higgins, presented her perspective on the importance of such analyses.

Climate risk and vulnerability analyses (CRVAs) are undertaken to identify and assess climate change risks, and relevant bankable adaptation projects that will be implemented under a changing climate. A climate change context entails both obvious but also more hidden risks, and that as a result, CRVAs are necessary to uncover the latter.

An early analysis of climate risks allows to assess project success factors within the context of a changing climate, and to answer questions such as “will the project as it is currently designed operate successfully under a future climate?”, or “will the project result in more operation and maintenance costs than currently envisaged?”. The CRVAs also support having an encompassing view of the project as part of a supply chain in which critical nodes (such as roads and ports) should not be overlooked.

As for projects involving critical infrastructure, long-lived or capital-intensive assets, which are essential for cities’ development, a progressive adaptive management approach is highly recommended. This implies implementing flexible adaptation measures that could be adjusted over time and in response to more data becoming available.

In addition to identifying risks, assessing climate impacts can also lead to the identification of opportunities, linked, for instance, to where resilient investments can be made. Understanding such opportunities strengthens both cities’ climate resilience and development.

With regards to situations when data is scarce and potential solutions to overcome this barrier, the best possible use should be made of the existing information. There exists global and regional observed satellite data and projections data, that can, for instance, provide a useful level of information regardless of whether a location is considered “information-scarce”. Besides, using past information to better understand the future constitutes a way around the lack of data. Finally, stress tests could also be undertaken in the case of scarce information, to assess how the project would perform under different climate scenarios.

In addition, participants stressed the importance of involving local stakeholders that can also contribute substantial knowledge where gaps exist.  This is why engagement with all cities’ actors is an essential component of any climate-related project, which further ensures buy-in of all proposed mitigation and adaptation measures.

This side event, along others organised in Madrid this week, reflects the importance of subnational entities in the fight against climate change. As the “Time for Action” has come, cities are on the frontline to help achieve the Paris Agreement’s low-carbon and climate-resilient objectives, and need to be supported in their endeavour.

Cover photo taken by Caroline Fouvet at COP25.
First time impression of COP

First time impression of COP

By Amanda Rycerz

As a first time attendee of COP, I had a great experience and my initial sense of feeling overwhelmed quickly faded. The IFEMA venue in Madrid, Spain was huge and it took the better part of day one to sort out the lay of the land. There were overly 30 pavilions, spread out over three large halls, in addition to auditoriums and meeting rooms. In fact, on day one I missed an event as I spent the entire duration of the event trying to find the pavilion.

The COP was attended by range of people from youth and students activists to policy makers and dignitaries. The atmosphere was marked by activism (with protests occurring both outside the venue, and inside), business and formal negotiation, education and learning, networking and social interaction. It felt like being in a university where you were free to audit seminars, have coffee with a colleague, work from your laptop in a communal area, and attend an evening reception with a snack and glass of Rioja.

In addition to the official side events, the pavilions hosted their own events. I opted for the approach of surveying each pavilion’s agenda, noting down events of interest and structuring the week’s agenda accordingly. I was only aware of a handful of events before the COP and now there were tons of interesting ones to choose from each day. At the same time many of the events would fall at conflicting times, or take place in the second week when I was no longer there.

Nature-based Solutions were a hot topic this year with events taking place at a range of institutional and country pavilions including; IDB Group, Korea, European Union, International Financial Institutions, France, and more. Acclimatise supported an event at the IDB pavilion focused on scaling private sector uptake of NbS for climate resilient infrastructure. In addition to moderating the IDB event, I attended every NbS event I could find, as well as communications events, indigenous rights and climate change events, and finance events to bolster my understanding on the topic. There were many opportunities for learning and contribution. Many events were highly participatory with the audience contributing more than the speakers or panelists themselves.

The days were long, but energising. I finished my week of COP with a feeling of rejuvenation, interested in following up with contacts I had met and further looking into a topic I had learned about. My only wish would have been to stay longer to make the most of a very interesting conference.

Cover photo taken by Amanda Rycerz.