Water

WEF's Global Risk Report: Clarion Call for Adaptation

WEF Global Risks of Highest Concern 2016

WEF Global Risks of Highest Concern 2016

In 2016, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report concentrates on the likelihood and impact of environmental and societal risks. Three of the top five most likely risks are environmental, including failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation ranking as 3rd most likely and as the most potentially impactful. This year is the first time in almost ten years that an environmental risk has ranked first in terms of impact. Water crises and involuntary migration also rank in the top five for most impactful risks in 2016.  

Over time, climate-related issues have increasingly ranked higher in potential impact and likelihood of occurrence in this vanguard report.. These risks feature prominently in the highest concern list for the next 18 months. And, with a longer term view over the next ten years all five of the risks of highest concern relate to climate change: water crisis, failure of mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather events, food crisis and profound social instability importance of climate-related events.

The report presents many risks that are interconnected, such that they may be mitigated or aggravated by the same action or event. Climate change, as a trend, is heavily weighted, indicating strong connections with many other risks, including extreme weather events, water crises, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse. These data indicate a need for nations, as well as businesses and local governments, to collaborate to address climate change – especially to implement and measure adaptation projects.

Important questions are now presented to the world. Climate change must clearly become a global priority, but what is the best way to go about both mitigating it and, adapting to it?  Some of those questions were addressed in the Paris Decision and Agreement, where a mitigation target is on par with not only a global adaptation goal, but also the humbling Loss and Damage. With Loss and Damage an official part of the agreement and the educated elite that participate in WEF’s survey defining major risks as the lack of adaptive capacity, there is a resounding clarion call to create adaptation actions in water and food security today that save lives and improve livelihoods.

Thanks to Patricia Holland, ND-GAIN Intern, for her help with this blog.

Brazil drought – the Readiness Prophylactic

   

The bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when ranked by the water sector

Last month, Sao Paolo’s epic drought made headlines around the world, not simply because that’s strange for a place known colloquially as Terra da Garoa(Land of Drizzle). Ranked by the water sector, Brazil sits at a comfortable 20 in the ND-GAIN index. But officials in that country’s most populous city have worried about water supplies for several years and even wonder if it might cause a riot.

 

In other parts of the world, of course, drought has been oncoming for decades. These are the kind of places that already have progressed beyond riot stage into all-out-war. Simply consider the bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when sorted for water. That Syria lies at the bottom shouldn’t be surprising.

 

Other countries – Sudan and Pakistan, for instance – aren’t too surprising either because water shortages have sparked popular discontent. In their cases, droughts in agricultural lands have spurred rural migrations to their cities. Some suggest this contributes to fomenting volatile civil discontent.

I am particularly interested in why those countries that share a low berth on the ND-GAIN rankings seem relatively conflict-free. For instance, comparing the trajectory of Jordan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to that of Syria, Sudan and Pakistan, the suggestion arises that improving governance, social structure and economic opportunity in countries could prove to be a prophylactic to water-scarcity driven civil conflict.

 

That possibility makes me hopeful for countries such as Brazil, whose readiness also has increased over time.   On the graph below, Brazil’s curve resembles a giraffe, just like that of Jordan. So while its readiness rank is 111 in the ND-GAIN Country Index vs. Jordan’s 82, Brazil may be able to increase its resilience to drought and, thus, quell any potential water-scarcity driven unrest.   It appears that it might start is in the social sector.

chart (20)chart (21)

Increasing Water Security: Enlivening Communities in Africa and Asia

More frequent and severe droughts triggered by climate change place significant stress on the regions of the globe already most arid. That’s why South Pole Carbon and HSBC India, in partnership with JBF, are working to empower and bring purified water to locals in Africa and Asia. These two unique projects were entered in our 2014 Corporate Adaptation Prize Contest. South Pole Carbon

South Pole Carbon’s International Water Purification Programme (IWPP) facilitates investments in clean drinking water to boost both climate-change mitigation and adaptation:

  1. South Pole Carbon provides poor families with a reliable source of clean drinking water, thus enabling individuals and communities to become more resilient against climate change.
  2. It reduces CO2 emissions by ensuring people don’t have to boil their drinking water.

South Pole offers companies the opportunity to invest in individual projects under the IWPP and to generate adaptation and mitigation benefits, measured in liters of clean drinking water provided and in tons of CO2 reduced, respectively. Under the IWPP, companies can achieve their Corporate Social Responsibility targets while gaining measurable benefits.

Here are the scores and trends of South Pole’s target countries, according to the 2012 ND-Global Adaptation Index:

  • Mexico: 59 (trend: stable)
  • Cambodia: 133 (trend: improving)
  • Uganda: 137 (trend: stable)
  • Malawi: 136 (trend: improving)
  • Tanzania: 140 (trend: improving)
  • Kenya: 153 (trend: stable)

South Pole Carbon Water

Source: South Pole Carbon 

HSBC India & the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation

In conjunction with Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF) in India, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC) builds community leadership and leverages innovations to contribute to climate-change adaptation success through potable water harvesting projects in India. As a global commercial bank, HSBC has executed three community-based adaptation projects in Rajasthan’s Marwar region—the world’s most densely populated arid zone. JBF is a nongovernment organization that has been working in the Marwar region of the Thar Desert in Western India since 2002.

Since 2009, the partnership has built on traditional local knowledge and contemporary social and technical innovations to develop, test and replicate adaptive strategies through management of natural resources, especially water.

HSBC India

Source: HSBC India

India ranked 120th on the 2012 ND-Global Adaptation Index with a score of 53.4. Its high vulnerability score and low readiness score makes it the 55th most vulnerable country and the 60th least-ready country. Its advancement by 10 points on the relative ranking since 1999 indicates the impact that corporate investment can make on resilience.

HSBC and JBF seek to improve the adaptive capacity and resilience of local communities:

  1. Available potable water year round through localized water harvesting and landscape management enlivens communities.
  2. Women who earlier fetched water from long distances in extreme desert conditions are saved from the physical stress, and they can use the saved time and energy for children’s education and development and economic activities that increase family income.
  3. Accessible toilets and safe sanitation facilities prevent fecal contamination of scarce water and improve public health, hygiene and environmental conditions.

Key variables are being tracked, including the increased availability of drinking water, the extent of sanitation and the impact on women’s time. On average, each village achieves a 30 percent improvement in water availability annually, translating into an additional 4-to-5 months of water availability per year. The extent of sanitation has increased to 50-to-70 percent from 6-to-25 percent since 2009. This adds 2-to-3 hours of productive activities for the average woman.

Consequently, HSBC and JBF generate an array of benefits to its communities in India:

  1. Health improvement through access to safe water and sanitation
  2. Women empowerment
  3. Education and child development
  4. Livelihood security
  5. Environmental sustainability

Because the integrated village-models are replicable and scalable in line with India’s national water policy framework, HSBC plans to expand its project in the Marwar region to other water-stressed regions in India, through collaboration among its NGO partners.

Visit the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation website for more of the partnership’s projects in India.

This information was compiled with the help of Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-Global Adaptation Index.

China's Role in Adaptation?

This infographic in Fast Company got me thinking:  Is China the answer to African resilience? final version use africa

Anyone worried about climate change would be agog at what this map says:  That Africa (including, it looks like, even the African Sahel, based on the arrow) will be China’s breadbasket!  But other maps of Africa, suggest this might be a fantasy ND-GAIN’s data (as well as that of e.g. Maplecroft) suggest that Africa is vulnerable, including and especially in its food sector.

map

But what if African economic development changed these risk maps?  Then, could we see the sort of hope illustrated in that fantastic Fast Company arrow?

GAIN identifies two types of countries vulnerable to climate change – those ready for investment (due to their economic, social and governance perspectives) and those that are not.  My audience often asks me, how will those countries unready for adaptation investments become less vulnerable?  China, seemingly, is providing that answer.

The Economist reported on the Centre for China & Globalization and National Bureau of Statistics numbers, which showed that China’s direct investment flows are edging toward a slight majority of outflows this year, with around $130B in outflows and about $120B in inflows projected, and Africa is one recipient of that outbound investment. The story we know well is that state-owned enterprises are searching for resources in Africa.  And mining is a part of this story.   But private Chinese firms also are pioneering in the African marketplace, as Peter Orzag explains in Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that China will extend over $12B in aid to Africa in future years.

Earlier this month, as China’s leader wrapped up a premier tour of strong handshakes and lavish gift-giving around the Pacific following on APEC, I grew hopeful that China turns from a BRIC into a brick-builder that helps African countries and other emerging economies continue to build the foundation of their resiliency.

Adaptation Potential: Africa's Hope and Promise

Adaptation Potential: Africa’s Hope and Promise Hope for building communities resilient to climate change around the world emerges from the unlikeliest of places—Africa. Shortly after release of the ND-GAIN 2014 Index, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, Calestous Juma, maintained that rankings alone fail to account for novel technological opportunities that communities not yet locked into conventional frameworks may readily adopt.

Focusing only on the rankings, Juma added in a CNN opinion editorial, risks sowing “despair among the poor and complacency among the rich.” He believes that developing countries have much cause for hope and that we must not ignore a poor nation’s creativity in the fight against climate change.

As evidence of Africa’s potential for generating responses to issues unique in our time, Juma cited the successful Sahalian drought response borne out of local collaboration as well as the mobile money-transfer initiative in Kenya. Most striking is the work of women engineers in controlling traffic through the use of robot technology in the CRD, a country ranked 5th from rock bottom of 178 countries on the ND-GAIN Index.

This hope and promise are reflected in ND-GAIN’s Readiness Matrix. Nestled in Africa are many of the world’s most vulnerable and least-prepared countries, but they each have made substantial progress in readiness to accept adaptation investment. These countries include Guinea, Laos, Liberia, Sao Tome & Principe, Zimbabwe and, most remarkably, Rwanda, which --has progressed entirely out of the red zone. The message is clear: the time is ripe for adaptation investment. In the coming years, African countries likely will emerge as leaders in the climate adaptation scene as investment continues to grow.

Infographic

In particular, alternative energy holds much promise in Africa. Although many parts of the continent receive abundant insolation – the amount of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area during a given time – and constant winds, alternative energy investment and development still are in their infancy. Limited information access and poor local training further hinder technological leaps, contends Juma.

MozambiqueThe team in Mozambique.

Collaborations between foreign and local agencies can bridge this gap. For instance, ND-GAIN, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and the Universidade Católica de Moçambique (UCM) teamed up to assess the impacts of early-warning systems for climate-related disasters in Mozambique. They evaluated the impacts of Community-based Disaster Management Committees (CLGRCs) and early-warning systems to show what and how interventions lead to increased climate resilience.

Moving forward, it is crucial that we understand the extent of Africa’s adaptation potential and also facilitate its adaptation efforts.  Africa likely will hold solutions to the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Blog compiled with help from Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN