Category: Features

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.
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.
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.

https://iddrr.undrr.org/
Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Laura Canevari

Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Laura Canevari

What is your role at Acclimatise? What does a typical workday look life for you?

I work as climate risk analyst and business development associate at Acclimatise. My work as risk analyst is focused on adaptation within the private sector, whilst my work as BD associate focuses on developing climate services for financial institutions. What this means in practice is designing mechanisms (i.e. tools, training programs, guidelines) to help financial institutions mainstream climate change considerations into their governance and risk management practices, and in alignment with the TCFD recommendations.

A lot of my work revolves around opening up conversations with new potential partners and clients, speaking at international events, and getting the word out about the great work that we do. I also work a lot “behind the scenes”, thinking strategically about business development for the company (especially in Latin America, where I am currently based), and helping the Acclimatise passionate and collaborative culture permeate with new recruits.

What inspired you to work on climate issues?

The reality of climate change first hit me when I was undertaking my bachelor in Marine Science in Australia. At the time (over a decade ago) I attended the testimonies of Pacific islanders and got struck by the changing realities that they were experiencing; and by the fact that relocation of entire communities was not just some projected change on a chart, or something that would happen sometime in the distance future: it was in fact a reality many people were already experiencing.  I then decided to join a Friends of the Earth action program on climate awareness called “Sisters of the planet” and an activist climate change group at my university. This later led to me pursuing a career both as a practitioner and an academic on climate change adaptation. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am an avid reader of world literature and in particular a fanatic of Russian classics.

More recently, I have started to search for modern “philosophers” with framings that may help me understand and better lead under the current changing reality: T. Picketty, M., Sandel, A. Sen, to name a couple. When I am not behind a book, doing yoga or meditating, I give the floor to the interests stemming from my dual culture. On the Italian side, I love to cook (especially for a small group of close friends); whilst on the Colombian side, I love to dance!

If you could have dinner with anyone (past or present), who would it be and why?

I have always wanted to dine with the Dalai Lama. I think being in his presence would be enough to gain some of his inner peace and his compassionate outlook on life.

What do you think the Coronavirus pandemic can teach us about climate change?

There is nothing fair about COVID-19. Just as there is nothing fair about climate change. It needs to be our institutions, our governments, civil society and us individually that bring justice to the uneven playground in which humans thrive whilst they explore their humanity.

Both issues share a story on the need for solidarity, for being compassionate and for standing for, and giving voice to, those that can´t.

Tell us a little bit about your new business!

In my role as business associate at Acclimatise, I have had the chance to attend so many great events and meetings. I started paying attention and realised that we are just about to reach a massive break through: a total change in paradigm. What I mean by this is that it is now very evident that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but also a threat to our socio-economic and financial systems . Whilst listening to financial institutions talking about “Greening the financial system and financing green”, I realised that there is still an important gap between these institutions and where finance is needed. So, I decided that it was time to move out of the comfort of my Oxford office and head back to Latin America, to help local project developers access international finance for adaptation and resilience building projects. My new company ITACA is doing just that: raising awareness on the risks and opportunities stemming from a changing climate, and helping project developers (especially MSMEs) access international finance. In this way I aim to help accelerate adaptation and resilience in the region, whilst also supporting financial institutions greening their portfolios.

Three things on your bucket list:

Is this where you store dreams you would like to achieve later?

I don’t have one. Anything that I want to achieve, I pursue it in the present moment.


Rivers flood, seas rise – and land faces erosion

Rivers flood, seas rise – and land faces erosion

By Tim Radford

Polar melting cannot be separated from farmland soil erosion and estuarine flooding. All are part of climate change.

Climate heating often ensures that calamities don’t come singly: so don’t forget what erosion can do.

In a warmer world the glaciers will melt ever faster to raise global sea levels ever higher. In a wetter world, more and more topsoil will be swept off the farmlands and downriver into the ever-rising seas.

And the pay-off of silt-laden rivers and rising sea levels could be catastrophic floods, as swollen rivers suddenly change course. Since many of the world’s greatest cities are built on river estuaries, lives and economies will be at risk.

Three new studies in two journals deliver a sharp reminder that the consequences of global heating are not straightforward: the world responds to change in unpredictable ways.

First: the melting of the ice sheets and the mountain glaciers. Researchers warn in the journal Nature Climate Change that if the loss of ice from Antarctica, Greenland and the frozen rivers continues, then climate forecasters and government agencies will have to think again: sea levels could rise to at least 17cms higher than the worst predictions so far.

“Avulsions are the earthquakes of rivers. They are sudden and sometimes catastrophic. We are trying to understand where and when the next avulsions will occur”

That means an additional 16 million people at hazard from estuarine floods and storm surges.

In the last 30 years, the flow from the Antarctic ice cap has raised sea levels by 7.2mm, and from Greenland by 10.6mm. Every year, the world’s oceans are 4mm higher than they were the year before.

“Although we anticipated the ice sheets would lose increasing amounts of ice in response to the warming of the oceans and the atmosphere, the rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined,” said Tom Slater of the University of Leeds, in the UK, who led the research.

“The melting is overtaking the climate models we use to guide us, and we are in danger of being unprepared for the risks posed by sea level rise.”

Dr Slater and his colleagues are the third team to warn in the last month that observations of climate already match the worst-case scenarios dreamed up by forecasters preparing for a range of possible climate outcomes.

Erosion risk rises

The latest reading of glacial melt rates suggests that the risk of storm surges for many of the world’s greatest cities will double by the close of the century. But coastal cities – and the farmers who already work 38% of the terrestrial surface to feed almost 8bn people – have another more immediate problem.

In a warmer world, more water evaporates. In a warmer atmosphere, the capacity of the air to hold moisture also increases, so along with more intense droughts, heavier rainfall is on the way for much of the world. And the heavier the rain, or the more prolonged the drought, the higher the risk of soil erosion.

In 2015 the world’s farmers and foresters watched 43 billion tonnes of topsoil wash away from hillsides or blow away from tilled land and into the sea. By 2070, this burden of silt swept away by water or blown by wind will have risen by between 30% and 66%: probably more than 28 bn tons of additional loss.

This could only impoverish the farmland, according to a study by Swiss scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It could also impoverish people, communities and countries. The worst hit could be in the less developed nations of the tropics and subtropics.

But the flow of ever-higher silt levels into ever-rising seas also raises a new hazard: hydrologists call it river avulsion. It’s a simple and natural process. As conditions change, so rivers will naturally change their flow to spill over new floodplains and extend coastal lands.

Survival in question

But river avulsions can also be helped along by rising sea levels. Since 10% of humanity is crowded into rich, fertile delta lands, and since some of the deadliest floods in human history – two in China in 1887 and 1931 claimed six million lives – have been caused by river avulsions, the question becomes a matter of life and death.

US scientists report, also in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that rising sea levels alone could make abrupt river avulsion more probable, especially as delta lands could be subsiding, because of groundwater and other extraction.

The dangers of avulsion are affected by the rate of sediment deposit in the river channels, and this is likely to rise with sea levels. This in turn raises the level of the river and eventually a breach of a levee or other flood defence will force the river to find a swifter, steeper path to the sea.

Cities such as New Orleans and the coastal communities of the Mississippi delta are already vulnerable. “Avulsions are the earthquakes of rivers,” said Michael Lamb, of California Institute of Technology, one of the authors.

“They are sudden and sometimes catastrophic natural events that occur with statistical regularity, shifting the direction of major rivers. We are trying to understand where and when the next avulsions will occur.” – Climate News Network


This article was originally posted on The Climate News Network.
Five innovations for a resilient built environment in Africa

Five innovations for a resilient built environment in Africa

By Olivia Nielsen and Sabine Kast

Most of the building stock that will be needed over the next century in Africa is yet to be built. As the last continent to urbanize, Sub-Saharan Africa has a unique opportunity to learn from others and adopt resilient and sustainable practices from the onset.

Africa’s cities are already booming as thousands of rural households move to find better opportunities in the cities. Though the COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily slowed this rural-to-urban migration, the trend appears to be inevitable.

The continent is not immune to natural hazards as the South gets hit by stronger and stronger cyclones, causing devastation and loss of life, homes and livelihoods. An estimated 240,000 houses were destroyed or damaged last year alone in Mozambique. North, South and east Africa also experience regular earthquakes.

A new motto has emerged claiming that there are no natural disasters, shifting the blame to poorly designed built environment and inadequate prevention systems which contribute death, destruction and economic losses.

Yet, Africa’s building sector seems to be repeating some of the mistakes of the past. Quality control remains a major issue across the continent where buildings are known to collapse even in the absence of natural hazards.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to urgently invest in disaster preparedness and mitigation. A disaster can quickly destroy decades of economic progress. While earthquakes are a quick disaster, a pandemic is a slow moving one. Our built environment must be designed to withstand these disasters and protect us.

Fortunately, resilience doesn’t need to be expensive and new technologies and innovations are constantly bringing down costs. As we are required to work remotely, we are developing new technologies to improve risk reduction during the pandemic and beyond. A few examples:

  • Machine learning to develop risk maps.  Formal maps are rarely updated in Africa and often only cover major urban areas. Yet, local risk maps are fundamental to supporting proper urban development and reducing risks in the long term. Without risk maps, it is difficult to anticipate which properties may be vulnerable to flooding, landslides or even earthquakes and typhoons. Developing these maps should be a major priority to support planned urban development and make investments that will last. When on-the-ground data collection is time-consuming or made difficult with social distancing requirements, machine learning algorithms can be used to process satellite data and build local risk maps. This technology can help Africa overcome its major map gap and support municipalities across the continent develop urban plans that mitigate the risks of flooding, landslides and sea rise. Without access to detailed risk maps, buildings may be built in precarious ways which may lead to devastating life and property losses. Fortunately, machine learning is making this mapping process cheaper and faster.
  • Artificial Intelligence to assess the built environment. The World Bank’s Global Resilient Housing Group has developed technology to capture images from satellites and drones, which are processed through an algorithm to assess structural deficiencies. Without even setting foot on the ground, thousands of buildings can be assessed in a matter of minutes and enable policymakers to prioritize interventions. For example, buildings that present a high risk of collapsing during an earthquake or typhoon can be efficiently identified and thus retrofitted before the next disaster strikes.
  • Apps to undertake remote quality control. New apps, such as iBuild+ Miyamoto, have been developed to enable homeowners to quickly undertake a damage assessment of their home. Just like telehealth, they now have expert engineers at the tip of their fingertips- for a fraction of the cost! By uploading geotagged photos of their homes, households can access expert advice at a fraction of the costs. This app can also be used to monitor the quality of construction works and identify issues in real time before it is too late.
  • Programs to address and rate the resilience of new buildings: IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is piloting a new program, the Building Resilience Index. The Index standardizes and quantifies disaster risk, gives guidance on risk management, and creates a reporting system on adaptation and resilience for the construction sector. The new tool will enable construction developers to identify ways of improving building resilience while minimizing costs. For investors and households, the Index will provide reassurance that the building can withstand significant hazards and protect both lives and properties.
  • Low-cost retrofit solutions. Retrofits are so rarely undertaken because they are deemed too expensive by both households and policymakers. Building new homes is easier to implement instead. But now, new construction technologies, such as Polypropylene (PP) bands or fiber-reinforced paint, are emerging that will not only make these retrofits cheaper but also much easier to implement. With little training, households can easily apply these retrofits themselves and bypass engineering and labor costs- which can often be crippling. Though easy to apply, these technologies are effective and enable households to greatly reduce the likelihood of structural collapse.

Construction will be a major driver of economic recovery worldwide, accounting for around 13% of the global GDP. These innovations can be part of a global effort to build (back) better. As cities in Africa continue to grow, climate change continues to accelerate and jobs are desperately needed, there has never been a better time to invest in resilience!


This article was posted on PreventionWeb.
Coronavirus Speaker Series: Digital Technology and Resilient Cities ft. Aida Esteban Millat

Coronavirus Speaker Series: Digital Technology and Resilient Cities ft. Aida Esteban Millat

Aida Esteban Millat is the Senior Director for Urban Mobility and Smart Cities for Visa Latin America and the Caribbean. Aida leads the Urban Mobility and Smart Cities initiatives and is responsible for defining the product strategy and expansion of mass transit capabilities throughout the region’s markets. As a passionate advocate promoting cities as hubs for innovation through technology, design and entrepreneurship. Her international experience includes the development of new methods to approach urban challenges that are now used by more than 100 governments and their stakeholders around the world in cities like Barcelona, London, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and Cape Town.

Download the presentation here.

Watch the video here.


View the rest of the coronavirus speaker sessions here.
Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Will Bugler

Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Will Bugler

What is your role at Acclimatise? What does a typical workday look life for you?

I manage Acclimatise’s work on communicating climate risk and resilience. We’re one of the very few climate change consulting firms that specialises in communicating risk, so I feel really fortunate to be able to work alongside colleagues with such varied skillsets, from technical risk analysists and data wizards, to policy specialists and communications scientists.

Who knows what a typical workday is anymore in these times of COVID?! Most of my time at work is spent writing about climate resilience in some form or another, interspersed with drinking tea.

What inspired you to work on climate issues?

It’s the defining issue of our times, and to some extent, I felt compelled to – we’ve got a host of these really big, intersecting challenges that are all converging at the moment: climate change, biodiversity loss, soil quality, ocean acidification – they demand our attention. The implications of inaction are hard to fathom.

What album, book, and luxury item would you take with you on a deserted island?

This is like the UK radio show “Desert Island Discs”… I’m going to assume that I get the Beatles’ records as standard (they’re already on the Island). In that case probably, The Velvet Underground’s eponymous 1967 record. The book would be 100-years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – apt for the island, and is such an epic. Luxury item – Swiss Army knife.

What have you been up to during lockdown?

I’ve been holed-up on my folk’s farm in Herefordshire for most of the lockdown, so have been lucky to have had some space to roam. I’m a keen runner, so have been exploring some of the more isolated trails in the surrounding hills – social isolation at its finest.

Why should climate change and communications go hand-in-hand?

Climate change has always fascinated me because it’s an issue that we know a huge amount about how to solve, and yet we are collectively failing to do so. This is why I think climate communications is such a central issue, and is what drew me to it. We’ve known what causes climate change for over 100 years, we know what needs to be done to slow it down, and we know a lot about what to do to make ourselves more resilient to its impacts. The science is settled. Yet governments have been talking for over 25 years about how to fix it, without making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. The way that the climate threat has been communicated and translated into policy and behavioural change has been a major issue. In many ways, our collective failure to successfully tackle climate change is one of communication.

What is a subject that you would love to learn more about?

Oh, so many things! Talking to my fifteen-year-old nephew about physics really lets me know how little I know about things that are just incredibly amazing. But human behaviour has always fascinated me, what influences it, how it changes, what drives us to do what we do…

View Will’s team page here.


Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Anu Jogesh

Meet the Acclimatise Team ft. Anu Jogesh

What is your role at Acclimatise? What does a typical workday look life for you?

I am the Policy and Governance lead at Acclimatise and I also coordinate our South Asia and South East Asia projects. These days a little noticeboard hangs outside my home office, “On a call. Do not disturb!” This is for my 8-year-old who likes to pop in whenever he feels like!

Obviously work has changed because of the pandemic. I work from home like many others. My work typically includes research, writing, and virtual calls on ongoing technical assistance projects, as well as managing some of these projects. We’re also designing and conducting our first virtual training.

Fortunately, my 8-year-old has learnt to make my chai every morning and he brings it up in pot on a tray, which is a fantastic way to kick off the workday.What inspired you to work on climate issues?

What inspired you to work on climate issues?

My journey towards climate research and engagement has been a meandering  one! As a business journalist in the 2000s, I was keen to report on environmental issues. When I moved from a business to a general-news channel, there was an established correspondent focussing on ‘green issues’ such as forestry, water security, biodiversity, so I naturally gravitated towards reporting on ‘brown issues’ – energy, air quality, and climate change. I’ve since gone down the proverbial rabbit hole, from a climate reporter, to an academic researcher, to a full-time climate change practitioner, and I don’t regret the decision!

What is your favourite location you’ve ever travelled to and why?

My favourite location would have to be Ladakh in India. It is a high altitude trans-Himalayan desert. The scenery is otherworldly. As you climb higher, mountains take on eerie colours (because of mineral deposits) and the ground feels like a lunar landscape. I walked kilometres around a glacial lake looking for a rare species of crane, disappearing because of climate change. It was a perilous journey (some folks in our team suffered altitude sickness and had to descend) but breath-taking all the same.

What skill would you like to master?

Patience and time-management!

Tell us about a personal project/cause that you are working on outside of your day-to-day job right now.

I’m currently working with a team of climate specialists, reporters and communicators on setting up a climate school for journalists in the region.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

Write, publish more! And a toss-up between playing indoor cricket or baking with my son.

Climate resilient public private partnerships: A toolkit for decision makers

Climate resilient public private partnerships: A toolkit for decision makers

By Written by Gianleo Frisari, Anaitee Mills, Mariana Silva, Marcel Ham, Elisa Donadi, Christine Shepherd, and Irene Pohl

This “Toolkit for Climate Resilient Infrastructure PPP” and the accompanying report “Improving Climate Resilience in Public Private Partnerships in Jamaica” are the result of an 18-month project of the Climate Change Division at the IDB in collaboration with the Public-Private Partnership team at Development Bank of Jamaica and IMG Rebel.

The aim has always been to provide DBJ’s PPP professionals and, ultimately PPP professionals in the Caribbean Region, with pragmatic, practical solutions to integrate the assessment of climate risks and resiliency opportunities in the preparation of infrastructure projects through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

The need to consider climate change issues in the provision of infrastructure services through PPPs originates from two key observations in the context of Jamaica, but easily extendable to other climate vulnerable countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: On one side, these countries face many risks associated with climate change, with their infrastructure stock vulnerable to hazard events like hurricanes and landslides, as well as to chronic slow changes as sea level rise and perturbations in temperature and precipitations patterns. At the same time, Jamaica and many countries as such have been seeking to develop and build its infrastructure with an increased role for the private sector, developing Public Private Partnerships models that are constantly evolving in the region. As very long-dated contractual relationships, the success of PPPs is highly dependent on an accurate, sustainable and efficient distribution of risks and benefits between the public and private counterparts of the transaction – risk distribution that could be significantly perturbated by climate change, making the task of structuring efficient 20-30 years PPP contracts incredibly difficult if those risks are not identified, assessed and managed throughout the whole process of structuring a PPP transaction.

This project was borne then of an effort supported by IDB and the Government of Jamaica to understand how, if at all, Jamaica currently considers climate change within its PPP policies and project development processes and what steps the country can take to ensure that it does so. Considering the high potential for replication for such instruments, and the common challenges that several climate vulnerable countries face when developing their infrastructure projects, this companion Toolkit has been developed, including decision support tools for policy makers and developers partaking in the PPP development process and which applies to Jamaica as well as any country government seeking to ensure their PPPs are more resilient, was developed in conjunction with this effort. Report and Toolkit as well have been developed following the typical structure of the PPP process, from Project Identification, to the Business Case, the Transaction Structuring and the Management of the Contract during the whole life of the PPP project. In each phase, climate change risks may arise, as well as opportunities for an improved design for resilient and/or more productive infrastructure, and it would be important for such cases that risks and opportunities alike would be considered and followed-through in the different phases of the transaction to ensure, for example, that critical aspects identified in the project preparation phase are then included in the preparation of the tender documents and, as well, inform the performance indicators in the contract management phase.

The analysis for the report and toolkit has identified several instruments and tools already used to address climate change issues in the context of infrastructure production – albeit not always in a systematic way – that could be integrated in the PPP process in a more institutionalized and standardized manner, identifying options for a low-cost and seamless implementation in a Resilient PPP model. The Toolkit, finally, is to be considered a living document; we hope it could provide initial guidance to professionals implementing PPP projects in the region, while being open to improvements and updating as we collect evidence on other instruments that can be used to manage climate change risks and/ or create resiliency opportunities for the infrastructure of the Latin America and the Caribbean.

Download the toolkit and accompanying report here.


This article was originally published on the IDB website.
Cover photo by wilsan u on Unsplash.