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Environmental threats dominate 2020 Global Risks Report for the first time in history

Environmental threats dominate 2020 Global Risks Report for the first time in history

By Georgina Wade

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report finds that severe threats to our climate account for all of the top long-term risks, with “economic confrontations” and domestic political polarization” recognized as significant short-term risks in 2020. For the first time in the history of the survey’s 10-year outlook, environmental threats dominate the top five long term risks by likelihood and occupy three of the top five spots by impact.

Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2019-2020

The report provides a rich perspective on the major threats that may impact global prosperity in 2020 and beyond. The 15th edition of the report, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), draws on feedback from nearly 800 global experts and decision-makers who were asked to rank their concerns in terms of likelihood and impact.

The report forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions with the added risk of economic slowdown with 78% of survey respondents expecting economic confrontations and domestic political polarisation to rise in 2020. However, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation is this year’s number one long-term risk by impact and number two by likelihood. And while other risk categories made their way into the top ten, climate risks underpin many of those identified.

Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2019-2020

Established environmental risks include:

  • Loss of life
  • Stress on ecosystems
  • Food and water crises
  • Increased migration
  • Exacerbation of geopolitical tensions
  • Economic impacts
  • Capital market risks
  • Trade, labour and supply chain disruption

With climate change striking harder and more rapidly than expected, a planetary emergency resulting in loss of life, social and geopolitical tensions and negative economic impacts is entirely plausible. The report further proves that established leaders and experts agree on one thing: climate change is the prominent long-term risk the world faces. There is still scope for stakeholders to address the identified risks associate with climate change, but the window of opportunity is closing. Citing a need for coordinated, multi-stakeholder action to mitigate against the worst outcomes and build resilience across vulnerable communities and businesses, World Economic Forum President Børge Brende warns, “The window for action is still open, if not for much longer”.

You can access the full report here.

Cover photo by Charles Wiriawan on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
New IDB-UNEP report uncovers  barriers and opportunities to scale private sector investment in nature-based solutions to deliver climate resilient infrastructure

New IDB-UNEP report uncovers barriers and opportunities to scale private sector investment in nature-based solutions to deliver climate resilient infrastructure

A collaborative project between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Acclimatise, and the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), has explored the barriers to, and opportunities for, increasing private-sector uptake of NbS in the infrastructure sector in Latin America and the Caribbean.

While the value of Nature-based Solutions (Nbs) to society is well understood, particularly by the conservation community, the adoption of NbS for sustainable infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) remains low. At a time where infrastructure investments are crucial in keeping up with economic and population growth, it is especially vital that LAC explores multifunctional solutions, like NbS, to help build climate-resilient infrastructure in the face of a changing climate.

Four findings have emerged and include:

  1. NbS needs to be better mainstreamed into policy, legislation, and regulations
  2. Project developers in LAC require additional skills, methodologies, tools, and capacity to incorporate NbS into infrastructure projects
  3. Defining the business case is an important first step to build support and secure finance for NbS projects in LAC
  4. There is a need to improve the conditions and scalability of financial instruments suitable for NbS investment in LAC

The project collaborators agree – coordinated action by all those involved with infrastructure development, including policy makers, project developers and financial institutions, is needed to create the enabling conditions for private sector uptake of NbS.

You can access the report here

Acclimatise’s Amanda Rycerz authored the report and recently led a panel discussion event ‘Scaling Private Sector Uptake of Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Resilient Infrastructure’ at the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference (COP25). Additionally, she produced an infographic highlighting the benefits of adopting Nbs solutions.

Cover photo by Zeno Thysman on Unsplash
PRESS RELEASE: European Commission welcomes the provisional agreement on minimum requirements for water reuse in agriculture

PRESS RELEASE: European Commission welcomes the provisional agreement on minimum requirements for water reuse in agriculture

The new rules, proposed by the European Commission in May 2018, will set out harmonised minimum water quality requirements for the safe reuse of treated urban wastewaters in agricultural irrigation.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “With this provisional agreement, we are equipping the EU with a powerful tool to tackle some of the challenges posed by climate change. Together with water savings and efficiency measures, the use of reclaimed water in the agriculture sector can play an important part in addressing water stress and drought, while fully guaranteeing the safety of our citizens”.

Currently, the practice of water reuse is established in only few Member States and it is deployed much below its potential. The newly agreed rules will facilitate and stimulate the uptake of this beneficial practice, which can ensure a more predictable supply of clean water for the EU farmers and help them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts. By setting minimum requirements, the new rules will ensure the safety of the practice and increase citizens’ confidence in agricultural produce in the internal EU market. This harmonised approach will also facilitate the smooth functioning of the internal market for agricultural produce and create new business opportunities for operators and technology providers.

Under the new legislation, treated urban wastewaters, which have already undergone certain treatments under the rules of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, would be subjected to further treatment to meet the new minimum quality parameters and thus become suitable for use in agriculture.

Besides the harmonised minimum requirements, the new legislation also sets out harmonised minimum monitoring requirements; risk management provisions to assess and address potential additional health risks and possible environmental risks; and a permitting procedure and provisions on transparency, whereby key information about any water reuse project would be made publicly available.

Next steps

The provisional agreement now has to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

Following approval, the Regulation will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.


The Regulation proposed by the Commission aims to alleviate water scarcity across the EU, in the context of adapting to climate change. It will ensure that treated wastewater intended for agricultural irrigation is safe, protecting citizens and the environment.

The proposal delivers on one of the commitments of the Circular Economy Action Plan, and completes the existing EU legal framework on water and foodstuffs. It also contributes to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the EU (in particular Goal 6 on water and sanitation), as well as contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Access the full pdf here

Cover photo by Levi Morsy on Unsplash
Acclimatise staff at COP 25

Acclimatise staff at COP 25

Several Acclimatise staff members are in attendance at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in Madrid this week. Get in touch with these friendly faces if you are there and would like to request a meeting. Follow @Acclimatise on Twitter for more information about their plans. 

Maribel Hernández

Maribel has over 15 years of experience working in climate change adaptation and finance, providing strategic guidance to governmental, multilateral and non-governmental organisations on integrating climate change into their decision-making processes.

Maribel will be at COP25 December 10th-12th.


10/12/19 18:30-22:00 – 4th Annual Climate Resilience and Adaptation Investment Side Event

11/12/19 11:00-12:00 – Cities and Climate Change: from baseline diagnostics to concrete measures for resilient and low carbon cities (Panelist)

11/12/19 14:30-16:00 – Greening the financial market

11/12/19 15:00-16:30 – GCF-1: Raising Ambition, Empowering Action

11/12/19 – 16:45-18:15 – Aligning Financial Systems with the Paris Agreement – The Pathway to 1.5C

12/12/19 – 13:15-14:45 – Nature-based Solutions-Mangrove Conservation and Zero Deforestation Agricultural Production as Cases

12/12/19 – 15:00-16:30 – Breaking new ground: Advancing Loss and Damage governance and finance mechanisms

12/12/19 – 16:45-18:15 – Global Climate Change Policy

Contact Maribel at

Caroline Fouvet

Caroline has over four years of experience in sustainable development and climate change. At Acclimatise, she is a climate finance analyst assisting countries to build their national climate finance capacities, secure accreditation to international funds, and develop project concepts and projects for investment.

Caroline will be at COP25 December 9th-11th.

Contact Caroline at

Amanda Rycerz

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Amanda supports Acclimatise’s clients on projects related to climate services, nature-based solutions and communications. Amanda has supported various communications consultancies for clients, including C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and The Rockefeller Foundation (ACCCRN).

Amanda will be at COP25 December 4th-6th.


04/12/19 18:00-20:00 – Scaling Private Sector Uptake of Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Resilient Infrastructure (Panelist)

05/12/19 10:30-12:00 – Community Climate Action: From Global to Local Restoration

05/12/19 16:45-18:25 – Nature-based adaptation to climate change in cities

Contact Amanda at

Cover photo by John Englart on Flickr.
Technologies to manage climate change already exist – but UK needs to scale up efforts urgently

Technologies to manage climate change already exist – but UK needs to scale up efforts urgently

By Andreas Busch

When it comes to tackling climate change the UK is still taking baby steps. A lot more needs to be done – and fast – to hit the 2050 net zero carbon emission targets, which involves offsetting any emissions by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

While this process can build on future innovations, the technologies are actually already in place to make a real difference – technologies that, of all things, are based on the skills of the oil and gas industry.

The world is currently approaching an average global temperature increase of 1ºC compared to pre-industrial times, largely attributed to increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Meanwhile, the BP Energy Outlook predicts a future increase in the use of fossil fuels.

The world population is growing and more people will be moving from low incomes to higher ones, resulting in a higher energy demand towards the end of the century. So achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will be a tremendous challenge, requiring engineering solutions at mega-scale.

Effective solutions

The world already has effective engineering solutions to manage climate change and to limit global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C – a target set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But there is a desperate lack of conviction from politicians and society to address the climate emergency.

Morgan Stanley estimated that meeting the 2050 targets requires an investment of US$50 trillion. Put into perspective, that’s about 50 times the company value of Apple.

The report states that investments need to be in electric cars, renewableshydrogencarbon capture and storage (CCS) and biofuels. Many of these technologies rely on the need to use the geological subsurface for producing heat in the form of geothermal energy, permanently storing carbon dioxide or for temporarily storing hydrogen. For CCS, CO2 is pumped into porous underground formations (such as water-bearing saline formations or depleted oil and gas reservoirs) at a depth of 1km or more, where a tight sealing layer prevents these fluids from leaking towards the surface.

In Australia, for example, oil and gas giant Chevron has started a large-scale CCS project where 3.4-4 million tons of CO2 will be stored beneath the seafloor annually, but this initiative is by no means unique. There are currently around 18 international CCS projects that are removing between 30 and 40 million tons of CO2 each year. While these figures may sound impressive, they only represent about 10% of emissions produced by the UK alone each year.

CCS is a technology that can be linked to large-scale fossil fuel combustion for decarbonising the energy sector. It can also be linked to direct CO2 capture from the air or CO2 produced from using biofuels, both having the potential to achieve net negative CO2 emissions.

According to the recent IPCC special report, CCS, when deployed globally, could amount to a reduction of hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 emissions by 2050. The scale of the problem is vast and existing global projects need to be scaled-up between 100 and 1,000 times their current size to be truly effective.

What lies beneath

Another energy solution – where size is not an issue – is harnessing the tremendous heat that lies beneath the Earth’s surface to generate electricity and heat. Investment in these geothermal energy projects is increasing, but not at the pace required.

Geothermal energy can provide decentralised, affordable and continuous energy to heat homes or produce electricity. While this energy is right beneath our feet, progress on adopting it is slow due to a lack of investment and political support compared to other renewable energies such as wind and solar.

While the operational cost of geothermal energy production is competitive with other renewable energies, the downside is that investment costs are high, especially when producing from a greater depth. As a consequence, installed capacity is less than 1% of the global electricity consumption.

The same is true of progressing towards a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen can be produced in many ways and used to heat homes, fuel cars or produce electricity. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen to form pure water. It can be produced from renewable energies or from natural gas in a refining process.

The drawback of a hydrogen economy is that it produces CO2 as a by-product, which must ultimately be integrated into the CCS chain. Hydrogen consumption is demand-driven while renewable energies produce energy independent of demand. Overproduction can temporarily be stored in geological formations, and back produced when demand is increasing.

Climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg. Shutterstock

All these technologies depend on using the subsurface either as a temporary or permanent solution. It requires the expertise of geoscientists and petroleum engineers – highly skilled specialists who have delivered a fossil fuel-based economy in the past, and who will contribute to providing energy in the future. But more than that, it calls for visionary political ideas and legislation. For many people it is a crucial issue in the December general election.

But given what is required, society has still not yet fully recognised the urgency required to combat climate change. An energy transition at this scale will change the way people live and work, but it will also require people to properly grasp the scale of the problem. Student activist group Fridays for Future and groundbreaking young campaigners like Greta Thunberg pave the way. But only political leadership, policies and funding can make it happen.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by David Dibert on Unsplash
Measuring urban resilience: Reference guide for city managers helps with monitoring and evaluating climate adaptation activities

Measuring urban resilience: Reference guide for city managers helps with monitoring and evaluating climate adaptation activities

Cities have taken the lead in committing to ambitious climate adaptation goals and executing strategies to reduce climate risks. However, commitments to adaptation action often face challenges in effectively capturing results and documenting change in resilience of urban systems and populations. Robust monitoring and reporting frameworks are typically absent, making it hard to measure achievement, document outcomes and learn from adaptation activities.  

In an effort to counteract this, the USAID-funded Adaptation Thought Leadership and Assessments (ATLAS) project developed a guide intended to serve as a resource for city managers and officials, detailing essential components of an adaptation M&E framework and providing a structure for cities to plan and implement the framework.

The guide details essential components of an adaptation M&E framework, breaking down the methods behind designing the framework, enhancing implementation, and ensuring success. For each section, subsections provide key recommendations, guidance, best practices, and additional resources that go into more detail on the components. The structure of the guide is helpful in clearly demonstrating the different components of the M&E framework, however it also emphasises that in practice much of the planning and development of the M&E process must happen in parallel.

You can access the guide here.

Cover photo by carloyuen from Pixabay
Meet Dr Xianfu Lu, Acclimatise’s new head of Analytics

Meet Dr Xianfu Lu, Acclimatise’s new head of Analytics

This month, Acclimatise has appointed Dr Xianfu Lu to lead its Analytics Division. Xianfu brings a wealth of experience working with the Asian Development Bank, UNDP and UNFCCC, applying the latest climate data to real-world decision-making frameworks. Xianfu will help to ensure that Acclimatise’s analytics services grow to meet the fast-growing demand for new tools and software that support climate resilient decisions. “I am exceedingly excited about joining Acclimatise,” Xianfu said, “the time has arrived for climate action: we now have the Paris Climate Agreement, we have the TCFD recommendations, and we have a corporate community and financial services sector ready to engage.”

Xianfu’s wide-ranging experience makes her ideally placed to ensure that Acclimatise continues to provide analytical tools that make climate data useful for its clients. Trained as an applied meteorologist, Xianfu has been working on climate risk assessment and management for over 20 years. She began her career as a research scientist developing and applying climate risk scenarios at the University of East Anglia and was a coordinating lead author for the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Since then, Xianfu has been putting her technical expertise into practice. She has worked with the UNDP providing technical support to over 140 countries for their vulnerability and adaptation assessments and has worked at the UNFCCC secretariat including leading the support for negotiations on a number of issues related to climate resilience and adaptation within the Paris Climate Agreement. Most recently, Xianfu was the adaptation lead of the Asian Development Bank where she helped establish and operationalise the institution’s climate risk assessment and management framework.

“It’s very exciting to have Xianfu joining the company” said Acclimatise CEO John Firth, “we have ambitious plans for our Analytics business and Xianfu’s knowledge and experience makes her perfectly placed to ensure that our tools and software continue to lead the market.”

Xianfu’s experience at ADB included working with Acclimatise’s Aware for Projects™ tool which forms part of the physical climate risk screening process for ADB’s investments. Her experience institutionalising the climate risk framework gave her a clear appreciation of the challenge of developing tools that can be integrated into decision-making processes successfully. According to Xianfu, this remains the challenge for data analytics companies. “Although there has been a rapid growth in the offerings of data analytics including AI-enabled tools, truly user-friendly and technically robust analytics tools remain a rarity,” she said.

We have never known so much about the Earth’s climate system as we do today. The amount of scientific data and information about past, present and future climate is growing exponentially, as historic records are digitised, satellites provide earth observation data on a daily basis, and climate models become ever-more advanced. However, climate data alone is not sufficient to enable corporates, investors or governments to make better decisions and build climate resilience. “Since physical climate risk is a topic new to businesses and the financial services sector, external professional services are needed to identify, quantify, manage and disclose material risks and opportunities.” Explains Xianfu, “given the technical complexity of assessing and managing physical climate risk… analytics tools and software are needed.”

If done well, climate analytics software can help financial institutions and businesses to assess physical climate risks across their portfolios in line with TCFD recommendations and can facilitate climate-resilient investment decisions. “It is particularly important to highlight that analytics software must be user-friendly so that the task of assessing physical climate risks and opportunities is manageable and makes practical sense and, at the same time, is technically sound,” said Xianfu. “To achieve this, we need not only climate information based on state-of-the-art climate science but also a thorough understanding of the business processes and decision criteria of any given business or financial services industry.”

As well as driving forward the development of new analytics tools, Xianfu will help build on the successes of Acclimatise’s current range of climate tools and software. “With Xianfu on board, we will continue to refine and develop our existing commercial tools such as Aware™ which is used by four of the largest development banks to screen their investments for climate risk and identify investment opportunities, MiCA which enables the mining sector to access relevant climate data for any asset anywhere in the world, and our thresholds tool which combines climate data with asset thresholds to support corporates to understand climate risks to their facilities and operations.” said Bob Khosa, Technical Director of Acclimatise Analytics.

Xianfu is confident that Acclimatise’s fifteen-years of experience of integrating climate risks into decision-making processes through its advisory services can be increasingly leveraged in support of its analytics offerings. “With a most talented and dedicated team and unparalleled experience in delivering climate risk assessment and management services, Acclimatise cannot be a better home for me to apply my unique skill sets, to support the management of climate risks and opportunities for our clients, through which we can help to strengthen climate resilience of economies, communities and natural environments around the world.”

Acclimatise becomes an Associate Member of GEO

Acclimatise becomes an Associate Member of GEO

Acclimatise is proud to announce that it has been officially recognised as an Associate Member of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Formally accepted at the 48th GEO Executive Committee in Geneva, Switzerland last month, Acclimatise will join the GEO Member governments and participating organisations in informing the development and implementation of the GEO Work Programme.

The GEO is an intergovernmental partnership that improves the availability, access and use of Earth observations for a sustainable planet. Promoting open, coordinated and sustained data sharing and infrastructure for better research, the GEO offers all countries the opportunity to benefit from collective knowledge, expertise and skills to develop national Earth observations programmes.

“With the in-depth understanding of its wide-ranging clients’ analytics needs and long-standing industry experience, Acclimatise is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that the Associate Membership of the GEO would present,” said Head of Analytics Dr Xianfu Lu.  “In particular, through leveraging the wealth of data, information and knowledge and the partnerships made possible by the GEO, Acclimatise aims to develop cutting-edging analytics tools that enable climate resilience solutions and investment opportunities.”

Acclimatise is unique in the Earth Observation community drawing on its fifteen years’ of experience advising corporates, financial institutions and governments to develop climate resilience solutions based on EO-data. In doing so, Acclimatise is able to provide significant added value through its unique focus on cloud-based software to deploy EO-based data in combination with climate projections and other socio-economic data sets. Such solutions will support the efforts of governments, corporates and the financial services sectors in delivering climate- and disaster-resilient development.

For more information, view the full list of GEO Associates here.

Cover photo of Iraq flood posted under CC by-SA 3.0-igo from Wikimedia Commons.
Podcast: Legal implications of climate change are a big deal for corporates says legal analyst Marcela Scarpellini

Podcast: Legal implications of climate change are a big deal for corporates says legal analyst Marcela Scarpellini

Climate change and its impacts cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damage each year. As the scale of losses increases, so too will the number of legal cases apportioning blame to those most responsible. There have already been over one thousand litigation cases related to climate change, a number that is expected to rise dramatically as climate change continues, and legislation and regulations increase. However, there is another factor driving the number of legal cases: advances in climate science and the tools to interpret it.

When it comes to litigation, it is important to be able to identify some sort of loss, and also attribute that loss to the actions, or non-actions, of a legal entity. In the past it has been difficult to apportion blame for climate change impacts to individual companies or governments. It has also been difficult to argue that their failure to act to build resilience to climate change constitutes negligence that has led to a specific loss. However, as the science of climate change advances, a new suite of tools is changing all of this.

In this interview we speak with Marcella Scarpellini, a lawyer and legal analyst at right. based on science, a climate metrics and data services provider that is helping companies manage the financial risk of climate change. The company has developed its X-Degree Compatibility (“XDC”) tool, a science-based climate metric that estimates how many °C the Earth would warm by 2050 if all companies were to operate as emissions-intensively as the company under consideration.

The XDC tool can be used by companies, investors, governments or others who want to better understand their contribution to climate change, and gauge how to best respond. It is also useful for lawyers to hold companies and governments to account, showing whether they are contributing to a wold of 1.5˚C and in line with the Paris Agreement or a much hotter world where climate damages will be significantly higher.

“For corporates [climate change] is going to be big” Marcella said “As climate change increases the search for culprits is also going to increase… we know that there is causality between emissions and climate change, so people are going to start pointing fingers. I think for companies it will be in the forms of fines and penalties, of course litigation, and even class action damages are expected.”

Cover photo of Hurricane Katrina Damage / From Wikimedia Commons
Webinar: How can EO data support climate resilient development?

Webinar: How can EO data support climate resilient development?

The European Space Agency’s Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SDClimate Resilience Cluster is holding a webinar to demonstrate the potential for Earth Observation to contribute to climate resilient development objectives.

The webinar “How can EO data support climate resilient development?”  will take place twice on the 11th June 2019:

  • 10-11 am CEST / 3-4 pm PHT
  • 3-4 pm CEST / 9-10 am EST.

Register for your preferred time. Download and share the webinar invitation.

Climate change impacts and sustainable development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, and numerous regional and national level development plans and strategies are explicit about the potential for climate change and its impacts to derail development efforts and reverse the trend of declining global poverty.

However, developing a picture of how climate impacts affect the environment and society can be difficult, especially in regions where data is missing, incomplete or inaccurate. Earth observation (EO) data helps in this regard by providing timely and accurate information in large quantities about the Earth’s atmosphere, landmasses, and oceans.

Combined with socio-economic data, EO data can provide useful information that can show potential climate risks and allow decision makers to develop strategies to build resilience. Since 2008, the European Space Agency has worked closely with International Financing Institutions (IFIs) and their client countries to harness the benefits of EO in their operations and resources management.

About the EO4SD initiative

Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) is an ESA initiative which aims at increasing the uptake of EO-based information in regular development operations at national and international level. Over the past year, the ESA EO4SD – Climate Resilience Cluster – has been working with IFIs to develop an EO-based integrated climate screening and risk management service and build capacity in IFI client states so that stakeholders can use EO-based information for climate resilient decision making.