Paying for Resilience: Market Drivers and Financial Means

When I worked for the City of Chicago applying its Climate Action Plan, our work was funded by the lack of climate resilience: The City had successfully sued the electric utility for failing to provide service during an extreme heat event, and the settlement paid for many staff and climate-related. That’s a rare situation, though. Today, requests from cities, nonprofits and philanthropy to figure out finance to help fulfill resilience dreams fill my inbox.

In the last few months, I’ve offered counsel to cities as diverse as Minot, N.D. (at the invitation of FEMA), Miami Beach (at the invitation of the Urban Land Institute) and Buras, La. (at the request of the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities). Speaking with these local and innovative government leaders has helped me refine my own understanding of the current state of resilience finance in the U.S.

Here are at least four market inspirations I have gleaned that could drive more resilience finance:

  1. In its report “Climate Adaptation and Liability,” the Conservation Law Foundation unveils numerous cases describing a new era in the “duty to care” for designers, real estate professionals and municipal government officials as events that future climate scenarios envision replace force majeur events.
  2. Although the federal National Flood Insurance Program distorts price signals in the risk transfer elements of the market – and I strongly encourage you to engage on its reauthorization, perhaps starting by reviewing this excellent piece – in such highly vulnerable markets as Houston and Miami, an insurance price signal is emerging as flood insurance premiums rise faster there than elsewhere.
  3. Credit rating. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have made announcements that the physical risks from climate change will be factored into municipal credit ratings, and S&P has been clearer about this impact, for instance as shown in the article How Our U.S. Local Government Criteria Weather Climate Risk. Municipalities don’t want their debt to be more expensive and, therefore, less attractive to investors, so this is a big deal.
  4. Big data. With the emergence of big data modelers such as Airworldwide, RMS and Core Logic in the past decade, more financial services professionals will have growing access to the cost of both actual and avoided loss from extreme events. While cities cannot afford these big modelers, financial sector parties are applying them to city problems and generating new methods to create “bankability” – revenue generation from projects that traditionally don’t generate rates or fees. For instance, resilience bonds, described in a very approachable way by re:focus partners in this report, link future insurance savings to a bank of funds for current risk mitigation projects.

Along with these drivers, progress continues in the debt market, creating more means to fund city resilience. Most importantly, that headway should include a swift pivot of general obligation bonds from traditional investments that neither create collateral benefits nor consider climate change scenarios to resilience investments promising more long-term return and performance given future risk. That is really the only way to ensure we create resilient cities. But with close to 80,000 issuers of municipal bonds in the country, the four key drivers above are key for ensuring this transition.

At the same time, the growth of innovative bond mechanisms could also help cities increase funds for resilience. The District of Columbia has had success with green bondsfor its water and sewer authority, while the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has created excellent examples of sustainability bonds’ utility. The resilience bonds mentioned above are another in this category. Of course, catastrophe bonds – some with hurricane triggers – are another insurance-linked mechanism for getting money to cities after disasters.

In a future post, I will suggest ways cities can invite more resilience finance, given these market levers and financial means.

This post originally appeared on Triple Pundit.

Why Development should focus on Climate Adaptation

This Op Ed originally appeared on May 4, 2016

Just as climate change disproportionately affects the poor,

so must efforts to reduce its toll.

One of the biggest threats to a thriving world today is that the world’s poorest people face disproportionate risk from climate change. The World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat report notes that climate change threatens to erode progress made on reducing poverty, while a Stanford studyreveals that global incomes for 2100 could be 23 percent lower than they would be in a world without climate change. While it is sobering that over the past 30 years one dollar out of every three spent on development has been lost as a result of climate risk, the long-term impact of lower incomes relates to shrinking global markets and thus has impact on economies around the world.

For leaders working on development issues in least-developed and lower-income countries, these trends call for more resources to support climate adaptation, such as improving water security through conservation and modernizing infrastructure to withstand extreme storms.

A trifecta of global influence has identified adaptation as a key climate action strategy for national and local governments, the private sector, and donors: the Paris Climate Agreement, which mentions adaptation more frequently than mitigation; the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which prioritize adaptation; and Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, which calls out the imbalance between the global north and south in a climate-changed world.

In an average year, climate change affects more than one out of five people. Scientists from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a climate adaptation think tank I lead at the University of Notre Dame, have calculated that people living in the least-developed countries have 10 times greater chance of being affected by a climate disaster than those in wealthy countries. They also have calculated that it will take more than 100 years for lower-income countries to reach upper-income countries’ current level of capacity to adapt to changes in climate.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too.

Not only that, theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that while climate change heavily burdens the poor, it also worsens preexisting poverty by exacerbating the effects of other poverty causes, such as loss or erosion of physical and financial assets, including land, housing and jobs. Take Africa as an example: In 2015 alone, the continent faced about 50 events that were influenced by climate change — such as droughts, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and floods — as calculated by the International Disaster Database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. These events affected more than 20 million people, killed 1,139 and created damages amounting to more than US$2.5 billion. Such events and changes to historical trends are likely to worsen the symptoms of poverty. One likely outcome is decreased production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions — by up to 50 percent by 2020 in some African countries — increasing malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths in children under five every year around the world.

Climate change disproportionately harms the poor in wealthy countries, too. Superstorm Sandy was one of the most expensive extreme weather events in history, costing corporations and governments more than US$40 billion. According to a report by Rutgers University, although registration for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance by ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, which means they are above the poverty line but still not financially stable) exceeded registrations by non-ALICE households by 13,000, FEMA provided US$61 million more to non-ALICE households. Of the homeowners who applied for assistance, only 10 percent of ALICE applicants had received relief by February 2013 as opposed to 26 percent of all household owner applicants. Even after this relief, disparities remain. While ALICE households received some other help — through public assistance, private insurance and nonprofits — as a group they’re still left with $2.2 billion worth of residential damage and lost income that’s likely to stay unrelieved.

With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens.

Climate adaptation requires several basic steps. First, leaders in government, the private sector and philanthropy should examine the relative hazards based on climate models for areas relevant to their work. Then they should identify adaptive capacities that are lacking and creating the greatest risk based on those exposures. ND-GAIN can help, identifying which countries are most prepared — including resource constraints — to handle and adapt to global challenges brought about by climate disruption. Other helpful resources include the World Economic Forum’sGlobal Competitiveness Report, an assessment of the economic drivers of countries’ productivity and wealth, which helps determine viable markets for corporate investment in projects in other countries, and the World Resources Institute’sAqueduct, which identifies water risks around the world.

View Ensia homepage

With hazards and vulnerabilities in mind, leaders can create strategies that increase adaptive capacities, especially for those most sensitive to climate hazards, including the world’s poorest citizens. Increasing access to electricity, water and sanitation and improving community health-care options are further examples of the dozens of adaptation actions available. Quickly, leaders will see that not only are there parts of their current efforts they can claim are adaptation — which will burnish their brand and inspire further effort — but there are numerous collateral benefits to adaptation: lifting more out of poverty, strengthening economies, preventing civil conflict, buttressing food security, protecting natural resources and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

Buffering Against Climate Risk: Lessons for the Refugee Crisis

This blog was initially published by our partner, the RANE network: As the world watches countless economic migrants and war refugees journey perilously from their volatile homelands to relatively stable countries that respond with tactics as varied as their histories, two overarching questions arise: How did we arrive at this stage of human suffering? And what can we do to avoid it from occurring again?

I think it is worth examining why some countries withstand stress while others don’t. In my work with the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, I focus on how countries adapt to the stresses and shocks of climate change. I think there are valuable lessons from this examination of climate risks to help explain why some countries are buffered from creating refuges when times get tough.

In ND-GAIN’s country index, we identify those countries that have significantly improved their economic, social or governance components (which we examine as a way to understand a country’s readiness to take on adaptation investment) and have decreased their climate vulnerability over the past two decades

There is a unique set of 10 countries who have decreased their vulnerability and increased their readiness more over the last 20 years.

While this set of countries seem more diverse than similar – different locations, government type, history and economic systems, these countries share common features, and one in particular stands out from the 46 indicators ND-GAIN examines: political stability. It turns out that the stability afforded by good governance in the form of political stability may buffering them from stress turning to crisis in the case of both climate risk and emigration.

It is interesting to examine the diversity in these countries’ approach to gaining political stability. The countries can be categorized into three groups: those who improved, those who worsened but then rebuilt and those who remained mostly unchanged.

In the first group are Rwanda, Angola, Georgia and Turkey. Each has improved its political stability since 1995. Rwanda and Angola, for instance, have made significant peacekeeping strides from their violent past of civil wars and genocides. Human rights have improved there, too.

The group of countries whose political stability worsened but then rebounded includes Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Oman. Saudi Arabia’s leader suffered a stroke, which led to an odd period of leadership. The war in Iraq and al-Qaeda’s presence in the region also affected it and led to decreased political stability. Since, however, the Saudi government has retained some of its lost political stability, which helps it prepare for climate change.

Oman also suffered from events in Iraq but made great progress since in its elections and freedoms. Belarus, which gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union but then endured abusive authoritarian rule, regained political stability after its people protested.

Those countries that remained mostly politically stable in the past 20 years include Uruguay, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. While they experienced quite a bit of change during this period, they dealt with it within their current political system, and this has led to their success in climate change preparedness.

As Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin notes, “… it’s what doesn’t happen that proves success. When disruptions do not become disasters, we’ve won. When a community is resilient and stays strong in the face of a crisis, (we) mark a victory.”

These 10 countries, then, may well hold lessons to today’s heart-breaking emigration from Syria and elsewhere. In the 10, we see political stability as a buffer to the shocks and stresses of climate change — and perhaps as well to the tragedy of exodus from them.


Countries whose vulnerability to climate change, other global challenges decreased while readiness to improve resilience improved. (Top 10 out of 182)

Country ND-GAIN Country Index Score Improvement 1995-2013
United Arab Emirates 16.06
Saudi Arabia 13.98
Turkey 12.56
Rwanda 12.24
Oman 12.04
Georgia 11.23
Mauritius 11.11
Angola 10.85
Uruguay 10.65
Belarus 10.56


Joyce Coffee is managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN). 

Advancing Climate Resilient Development

USAID and its Climate Change Resilient Development project hosted a symposium in mid-March on Advancing Climate Resilient Development at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The project, led by Engility/IRQ, was tagged as a project to watch in ND-GAIN’s 2014 Corporate Adaptation Prize competition. USAID ResilientUSAID ResilientThe Wednesday morning panel, Urban Day: Applying Technical Research and Tools in Developing Cities, focused on lessons learned from putting urban adaptation projects in place. A top-notch panel included John Furlow, USAID; Glen Anderson, Engility Corp.; Charles Cadwell, The Urban Institute; and Heather McGray, World Resources Institute (and lead rapporteur).


Heather issued a compelling report and to that, I offer this set of actions for all of us who consider ourselves climate-adaptation catalysts.


  1. We need to look before we leap, especially when it relates to pilot projects, where a healthy skepticism exists. We deserve to be impatient with small-scale action. The failure to glean lessons from pilots stands as a definite problem. Pilots should be chosen with comparability and scale-out in mind. One potential solution: Select an external group of leaders hold you accountable. In Chicago, we tapped a Green Ribbon Committee for our Chicago Climate Action Plan. At ND-GAIN, Kresge-ND-GAIN Advisors serves as our Urban Adaptation Assessment.
  2. We must integrate climate resilience into our work. A segregation/distinction between adaptation and development no longer exists. This is beneficial in a variety of ways, especially helping constituents recognize they already have built momentum and achieved success on adaptation (by reviewing their development work from the adaptation perspective.) But we should not assume all development professionals ask the climate adaptation question of their work, and we should continue to provide assets to help them to do so.
  3. We must emphasize that a good climate tool is one that is customized to the user and crafted from the user perspective. This holds true particularly with the climate scenarios and modeling. While data becomes more and more available, we also need data that is easy to access and interpret. We should invite our IT colleagues to help keep climate leaders on the cutting edge of data access.
  4. We must step up our collaboration with urban planners*, who climate change practitioners only recently have discovered. This is especially important since adaptation is a local issue. (As I have written about before, urban planners serve on the front lines of response, prevention and opportunity.)  Many urban planners reading this might contend they have been pragmatic climate-change practitioners for a long time, dealing with droughts, excessive precipitation, extreme heat, scarce natural resources, and the like.  
  5. We need to grasp that while the Private sector is an important driver of adaptation, it is markets – not plans – that drive what the private sector does.  We should make sure plans and markets follow the same direction. To do this, we must understand that market growth pertains to sustaining lives and supporting livelihoods. Generally, the corporate stakeholder is a sustainability stakeholder when helping to build markets. From that perspective, we review the work of corporate stakeholders, provide them with knowledge and collaborate with them in a way that furthers all of our goals.

*and here is a shameless plug for MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning!

Lunar New Year Predictions from the Climate Leadership Conference

At a session this week (2-23) organized by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions at the Climate Leadership Conference, C2E Staff Scientist Joe Casola facilitated a discussion that asked the 60-plus corporate, nonprofit and government leaders attending to foresee 2035 and predict what business resilience will look like. The absorbing conversation was part of the session “Emerging Best Practices for Identifying Climate Risk and Increasing Resilience.” Other leaders were Rutgers Energy Institute’s Robert Kopp, fourtwentyseven’s Emilie Mazzacurati and Pacific Gas & Electric’s Christopher Benjamin.

Since we are in the midst of the Lunar New Year season, a great time for fortune telling, I thought you would enjoy the group’s top ideas:

Top Six:

  1. Supply-chain risk synonymous with climate risk, making supply-chain, climate-risk mitigation business as usual.
  2. A doubling of interest in small business and Main Street, aided by Chambers of Commerce that help build public/private partnerships to increase local government adaptation.
  3. Climate risk as a shared responsibility across corporate verticals, no longer an exclusive fit with offices of sustainability.
  4. Insurance priced accurately, providing a forcing function on business and land use decisions.
  5. Future cost projections of climate change incorporated into financial and economic estimates for all return-on-investment and strategic decisions.
  6. A generational change in which the leaders in 2035 naturally focus on the question of climate with their work, integrating resilience into their decision making (my favorite).

To these, let me add three of my own:

  • A realization that climate change harms the promise of the growing middle class in lower-income countries, sparking a redoubling of interest in investing in resilience in the global south.
  • A move away from recovery and toward prevention, facilitated in part by mature warning systems, advanced risk prediction and assessment methods that prove the ROI of resilience.
  • A solid pyramid of policies that stack atop each other and form the foundation of good governance. This allows corporations to make resilient business decisions throughout their value chains and to contribute to the good of the commons (worker-protection laws against heat distress, flood plain buffer requirements, landscape water-pricing requirements, etc.)

All of these will be better informed by an agreed-upon measurement of adaptation that rivals the elegant MTCO2E and provides an easy way for everyone to quantify their progress.

What do you think?


Building Global Health Resilience: Pursuits in Haiti and Bangladesh

ND-GAIN focuses on building resilience to climate change as a critical component to better prepare humans and their environment for the next 100 years.  Our mission lies in enhancing the world’s understanding of the importance of adaptation and of facilitating private and public investments in vulnerable communities. For the 2014 Annual Corporate Adaptation Prize, we received 20 applicants, either multinational corporations or local enterprises working on a project in a country ranked below 60 on the ND-GAIN index and collaborating with local partners. Applications are judged on their measurable adaptation impact, scalability and market impact. Here is a brief view of two projects our applicants are employing to improve human health in Haiti and Bangladesh:

Abbott, Partners in Health & the Abbott Fund


Source Abbott

Abbott has teamed with Partners in Health (PIH) and the Abbott Fund to alleviate malnutrition in Haiti’s Central Plateau—the country’s poorest region, which also is prone to severe and deadly natural disasters. Based on ND-GAIN data, Haiti is the 15th most vulnerable country and the 30th least ready country. The country’s score has trended upward over the past 10 years, from 41 in 2005 to its peak at 46 in 2010, but has dropped slightly to 45 after the 2010 earthquake.

Abbott infographic

Source Abbott 

The partnership has built and opened a new facility operated by Haitians to produce Nourimanba, PIH's free and life-giving treatment for severe malnutrition in children. The partnership's agricultural development program also is helping local farmers supply the facility with high-quality peanuts, while raising farmers’ incomes. Today, the facility concentrates on producing Nourimanba and is assessing options to produce fortified peanut butter that can be sold in Haiti. They seek to create a self-sustaining social enterprise that supports facility operations and helps drive local economic activity.

BASF Grameen Limited 

BASF tent

Source BASF

To date, the facility has produced more than 60,000 kgs of Nourimanba and has treated about 6,000 patients. It has more than 40 Haitians on staff, with additional staff hired as the plant expands. In 2014, the project hopes to increase farmers’ income by 300 percent. The partnership is working with non-profit TechnoServe to provide nearly 300 local farmers with tools such as financing for seeds, supplies, and services to increase quality, and yield by 33 percent. The Abbott Fund has provided more than $6.5 million in funding, and the facility is owned by PIH, which works together with its sister organization, Zanmi Lasante. Visit the Abbott Fund website to learn more, and view this 2012 New York Times article on the PIH website.

BASF Grameen Limited is improving human health by preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in Bangladesh.  It has established a joint venture social business with Grameen Healthcare Trust, a nonprofit organization created by the Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, to help manufacture and distribute sturdy mosquito nets to vulnerable communities. The goal is to help the country achieve its UN Millennium Development Goals. Bangladesh has a gain score of 47.3 and has been steadily improving since 2005. The project hopes to further improve Bangladesh’s mortality index and external health dependency index.

With an initial investment from BASF of €200,000, the joint venture social business employs local community members in Bangladesh and sources from local suppliers where available.

The Interceptor mosquito net was the first product of this venture, which aims to reduce mosquito-borne disease, thus contributing to achieve key U.N Millennium Development Goals related to health. In 2011, BASF Grameen provided Interceptor nets to students from Dhaka University, the largest public institute in Bangladesh. Since then, BASF Grameen has constructed a plant within Bangladesh to make and distribute these nets to communities in need. According to the WHO, the protection provided by these nets against the mainly night-active vector mosquitoes is the most effective means of preventing malaria infections. The decrease in cases of malaria in Bangladesh by 70 percent over the past five years can be attributed, in large part, to the long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets, which retain their protective properties for up to 20 washes, depending on local conditions.

Despite Bangladesh’s upward trend on the ND index, it maintains a high vulnerability and low readiness and needs investment and innovations to continue to improve. BASF Grameen Limited’s vision for the future is to scale up its operations within Bangladesh and also address similar issues in other vulnerable countries. Visit the Grameen Creative Lab and Yunus Social Business websites for more details and to learn about their other projects. This information was compiled with the help of Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-Global Adaptation

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.


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.

Cocoa Climate Crisis


The International Cocoa organization has reported a 75,000-ton cocoa shortfall for this growing season and that figure is expected to reach the million-ton mark by 2020 unless swift action is taken. While Eastern Europe and Brazil, the biggest cocoa consumers, have registered a surge in chocolate consumption in recent years, extreme weather events have hurt cocoa yields.

Image from IFC

The world’s top producers of cocoa—Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (59% of the global cocoa supply chain) and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon (23% together) – are also those hardest hit by drought and flooding yet least prepared to respond to them.

According to ND-GAIN, an index indicating countries’ vulnerability to climate change and readiness to adapt to it, Cote d’Ivoire ranks 154 on a relative scale of 1 to 178 (with 1 being the most resilient); Ghana ranks 102; and Indonesia, Nigeria, and Cameroon rank 99, 140, and 130, respectively.

As a result of cocoa’s unfortunate turn, many cocoa companies, traders and chocolate manufacturers have begun joint projects aiming to boost cocoa yields through sustainability in the supply chain.  Projects have engaged multicorporation collaboration, civil society actors and standards bodies and have generated investments from stakeholder governments. Although some projects have proven fruitful, effective coordination and scalability are still lacking, which provides much opportunity for further collaboration between private and public sectors in the next decade.

Besides climate woes and low adaptive ability, cocoa’s poor performance reflects a supply chain plagued by economic and social issues. Compromised bargaining power of smallholders, income instability and dismal working conditions are prompting many young cocoa farmers to quit in search of livelihoods elsewhere. Other issues include poor or lack of infrastructure (roads, health facilities, schools, and electricity) and a paucity of farmer training capacity. Both would provide public and private sector partnerships with opportunities for positive intervention. Several reports emphasize that yield increase alone will neither alleviate smallholders’ sufferings nor secure supply chains. Thus, the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report called for a holistic approach to solving the cocoa crisis, one going “beyond productivity.”

In the last several years, consumer awareness of these issues surrounding cocoa production has expanded. Major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury, based in the United Kingdom, and Mars have committed to certified cocoa production standards that improve cocoa farmers’ security. These standards are specified by internationally recognized standard bodies such as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and the Rainforest Alliance. Worldwide, companies and stakeholder nations are shifting toward more sustainable cocoa and have engaged a variety of sectors in multilateral programs.

With climate change accelerating, other key commodities popping up on the risk radar include vanilla, palm oil and coffee, among others.  Keurig Green Mountain, Coca Cola, Heinz, Chipotle and other major food companies have all warned that climate change threatens businesses. Clearly, much room remains for progress, but this also provides ample opportunity for multilateral cooperation in building a more sustainable future for people, planet and profit.

Cocoa data and facts from the 2012 Cocoa Barometer report.  Blog compiled by Sophia Chau, Intern, ND-GAIN

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.


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 

Urban Adaptation Questions To Explore, with thanks to Joann Carmin

Attending the Carmin Symposium on Urban Climate Adaptation last month, I had the pleasure of being reminded over and over again why experts the world over looked to Dr. Carmin for insights and guidance to galvanize urban adaptation. Carmin

Here are five questions her closest collaborators elucidated for us, some of which ND-GAIN will be exploring via our Kresge Foundation-funded urban adaptation assessment project.  Which of these questions are you finding answers to? :

What internal and external factor shape the ways in which poor and marginalized urban residents can participate meaningfully in planning and action for urban resilience?

What are the characteristics of urban agents, systems, and institutions that make them more resilient in the face of climate change?

In what ways can local governments influence national legislative and policy frameworks to create an enabling environment for urban adaptation?

How can cities engage in a meaningful way in global policy to shape the conditions in which they will need to respond for climate change?

Innovation ->  implementation -> institutionalization

Reflecting Post Sandy

Two years have now passed since Superstorm Sandy crashed into the northeast of the United States, showing Americans the need for climate action. Sandy remains one of the most expensive extreme weather events in history, costing corporations and governments over  $40B. And this year, a drought bit deep across the largest drought-declared area ever in Queensland, Australia. But extreme weather events like bigger, more destructive hurricanes; hotter, longer droughts; record-breaking wildfires and “biblical floods” are not just the domain of two of the richest countries in the world.

Last year at this time, we were, mourning the loss of over 6000 lives from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  That tragedy cost $13 billion in economic fall-out.  In 2011, an unprecedented flood in Southern Thailand caused over $150 billion in damage.

In fact, ND-GAIN scientists have calculated that people living in least developed countries have 10 times more chance of being affected by a climate disaster than those in wealthy countries EACH YEAR; And the IPCC report released last week shows we are heading in the wrong direction.  That is a catalyst for all of us – hundreds or thousands of lives are at risk.  We must adapt.

Over the course of the last several years, the world’s awareness for the need to adapt has grown.

How do we respond, informing investments and policies that save lives and improve livelihoods in the face of global shifts?

Our meeting on November 5th served as an ideal platform for participants to deliberate development and business risks and opportunities as we explored successful adaptation efforts, predictions of future challenges and developments in adaptation measurement while learning first hand of trends evident from the ND-GAIN Country Index 2014.  Thirty speakers from all sectors shared their insights, and we released our Country Index to enhance the world’s understanding of the importance of adaptation and inform public and private investments in vulnerable communities.


Have a look at the recap video, watch footage of the meeting panelists, check out the TV, podcast and written press on the meeting and release, and let us know what you think.


Disproportionate risk vs. human resilience

Slide1I continue to mull over several 2014 New York Times articles with the general view that Americans don’t share an affection for communal giving and living. One sage contended that New Yorkers could never respond as the Dutch do under similar circumstances because we just do not know community. I once again dwell on this issue because of the resurgence of childhood diseases considered to be virtually wiped out in the United States, including measles, mumps and pertussis (whooping cough). Part of the problem is cultural, surmises a Times’ Sunday Review article entitled “Americans tend to think more about individual than communal rights.” This Ethics of Infection piece  described the wearing of masks in Asia not simply to protect the wearer from others’ diseases but to protect the public from an illness the wearer has.

“America has gotten so focused on rugged individualism and the autonomy of the person that we forget we have wider ethical responsibilities to our families and communities and our country,” asserted one of those quoted.

Contrast this with a session at a recent ICLEI Resilient Cities Presentation. Nicole Lurie, Assistant HHS Secretary for Preparedness and Response spoke of the value of spontaneous helping “bystanders who don’t stand-by” as a part of the American spirit.

Recent ND-GAIN analysis about disproportionate risk  shows that many African and Asian countries exhibit the dangerous combination of high vulnerability and low readiness. This made me think of a vector ND-GAIN doesn’t explore: human resilience.

Consider a recent outreach I made to a company that started awkwardly. I realized their resilience for their business model reflected the human resilience to shocks and stresses and post-traumatic stress disorder. It wasn’t the resilience of the built and natural environment to shocks and stresses. Yet isn’t that what all this work is about, anyway?

In Bending Adversity, journalist David Pilling examines Japan’s resilience in the face of calamity. He notes three words for which, as I try to pronounce them, I clench my fist, hold back tears and soldier on with feeling. The words are ganbaru (to endure), ganbatte (keep going) and gaman (plucky resolve). He contends these features helped Japanese rebound after the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.

While it may seem crass to apply a metric to ganbaru, ganbatte and gaman, I certainly would like to know what cultures have figured out how to grit their teeth and persevere. Then I could investigate if elements of those cultures might prove replicable elsewhere. My intuition tells me that, whatever factors trigger it, those living in countries with disproportionate risk could teach much to those of us who are relatively less vulnerable to physical, governance and other shocks and stresses.



The Climate Adaptation Gap: How to Create a Climate Adaptation Plan

This article originally appeared in Triple Pundit: The Climate Adaptation Gap: How to Create a Climate Adaptation Plan

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series on the climate adaptation gap. Stay tuned for future installments here on TriplePundit! In case you missed it, you can read the first post here and the second post here.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 10.35.51 PMBy Joyce Coffee

In a previous post, I explained how to determine climate-related risks in your supply chains, capital assets and community engagements. With that knowledge, how do we determine strategies to prepare your most vulnerable assets? It’s likely that a storm will prod corporate risk managers and business-continuity planning managers to take stock and begin instituting telecommuting policies, diversifying their supplier chain to other geographies and advising the small businesses they rely on how to develop a resiliency or adaptation plan.

Here is what it takes to do so:

  1. Start with adaptive actions already in place. Shift your thinking to resiliency from greenhouse gas mitigation, and revel in a new set of actions you can feature and enhance as part of a growing global corporate strategy.
  2. Review local climate-change impact projections.
  3. Identify vulnerabilities relevant to your supply chain, capital assets and community engagements.(extreme heat, extreme precipitation, ecosystem changes, fire, floods, inundation, sea-level rise)
  4. Prepare an economic risk analysis that adds these risks to your financial modeling for risks avoided.

Finally, they must create a short- and medium-term plan that:

  • Sets priorities for adaptations with collateral benefits; e.g., mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (onsite stormwater management), improving employee morale (work-from-home options) or buoying your reputation (shoring up public health systems in one of your supplier hubs).
  • Establishes as priorities adaptations with a collateral improvement to your bottom line and your employees’ quality of life.
  • Includes financials for avoided risks to explain and promote any additional costs not covered by collateral benefits.

Here is a window into how this sort of evaluation works: Perry Yeatman, Principal of Mission Measurement, the global leader in measuring social outcomes, notes that based on her prior work at Kraft Foods, the key to resiliency in the cocoa supply chain involves examining all the vectors impacting farmers. These include demographic shifts, community engagements, diversity of crops and agrarian livelihoods. She contends that it matters to our ample supply of chocolate bars that cocoa farmers are aging, their children are migrating to cities and farmers need to raise chickens to diversify their nutrition among other personal and community pressures that contribute to crop viability.

Businesses new to climate adaptation need only look to peers with their own plans for invaluable resources. They also may find helpful tools from government-backed organizations that understand what climate adaptation looks like and, importantly, how to create an institutional commitment to climate adaptation.

Two that I especially like are: Private Sector Engagement in Adaptation to Climate Change, a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Making Cities Resilient:  My City is Getting Ready.

Based on the latter, here is a 10-point quick-guide checklist I developed for making companies resilient:

1. Include climate adaptation in a member of the C-suite’s job description. Establish a cross-function climate-adaptation working group as well as connections with local and regional governments in key geographies in your enterprise, especially operations and supply chain.  Consider collaborating with key members of your supply chain, industry peers and neighboring businesses on climate-adaptation planning and execution. Ensure that all departments understand their role regarding disaster-risk reduction and preparedness.

2. Include budget lines for both proactive adaptation measures and recouping from extreme events.  Include climate adaptation in performance reviews for C-suite members, lieutenants and managers.

3. Incorporate climate adaptation in your initial emergency-preparedness and continuity plans with annual updates.  Ensure that this information and the plans for your corporation’s resilience are readily available to your leadership team and fully discussed with them.

4. Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, snow removal, vector-borne disease prevention and heat mitigation for workers and machinery, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change. Consider supply-chain and building decisions with these risks in mind.

5. Assess the safety of all facilities, especially those in locations vulnerable to extreme weather events (coastal, arid) and upgrade or move.

6. Engage with local governments to ensure that climate-adaptation regulations protect residents and economic growth. Identify your most vulnerable employees (age, income, tasks, geography) and plan especially for their safety.

7. Establish education programs and training on disaster-risk reduction throughout your enterprise, not just for disaster preparedness but also for heat exhaustion, vector-borne disease and the like.

8. Protect and enhance ecosystems and natural buffers in and near your holdings to mitigate floods, storm surges, extreme heat and other hazards.

9. Install early-warning systems and emergency-management capacities in your enterprise and hold regular preparedness drills.

10. After any disaster, ensure the needs of survivors are placed at the center of reconstruction.  Click here for communications guidelines.

Image credit: Making Cities Resilient:  My City is Getting Ready

Read more in the Climate Adaptation Gap series:

  1. Bridging the Climate Adaptation Gap: From Recognition to Action
  2. Bridging the Climate Adaptation Gap: Relative Risks of Geographies in Supply Chains
  3. The Climate Adaptation Gap: How to Create a Climate Adaptation Plan

Joyce Coffee is managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN). Coffee, who is based in Chicago, serves as the executive lead for related resiliency research, outreach and execution. Stay tuned for the next post in “The Climate Adaptation Gap” series on Tuesday, June 17. The series is taking a deep-dive into the complicated look at supply chain risk assessment.


Community supply chains: resilience through insurance innovation

Community supply chains:  resilience through insurance innovation At last week’s World Economic Forum in Manila, every presentation I heard mentioned the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda). A special session on decision tools for preparing for climate and natural disaster offered the chance for a panel of insurance brokerage executives, a Philippine Senator, a representative from the world’s most engaged foundation on climate resilience and a senior executive at the International Red Cross to develop an innovation – one salient project – to save the world.

Specifically, we looked at ways to avoid a breakdown in community supply chains when a major disruption occurs. This was of special interest to the Senator since after the typhoon, no goods were available for weeks after the storm at the sari sari store, the grocery store or warehouses.  And when the government and development agencies brought in relief materials, this forced out local sellers with goods to sell at legitimate prices. A black market in relief goods emerged, although in a limited way, it turns out.

With this backdrop, we pondered what sort of mechanism could help solve for these issues in future crisis. Here is what we devised: community-based, parametric-triggered insurance. Talk about jargon. WEF participants roared at that winning title – but we surprised them with functional ideas, which envisioned that starting now, in risk-prone communities:

  1. Create a method for community payment into an insurance fund.
  2. Ensure that all members pay in their portion, and price the payment equitably.
  3. Ensure financial contact information for all participants.
  4. Index levels and types of events that could trigger loss.
  5. Pay out to all insurance holders immediately, regardless of proven loss from a disaster.

This idea isn’t brand new. I am aware of drought-triggered parametric insurance for Ethiopian farmers, for instance. But it is novel enough that most of us needed a guide to its distinction from indemnity insurance, which requires proof of harm before payout (a time-consuming process).

A lot of what ifs and issues aren’t addressed here, such as:

  • How to determine the level of storm event.
  • How to collect the insurance payment in cases where community members aren’t bankable.
  • How to ensure that all or most buy in, particularly in more urban areas where the “street-level bureaucracy” of rural communities is weak or non-existent.

Still, I bet this type of mechanism will grow in popularity and positive impact for natural disasters, and put my vote behind it as a resiliency innovation worth supporting.

And since this idea is going to be around for a while, please help us think of a better title with a catch acronym that translates around the world. Fine, OK and Swift come to mind as acronyms I’d be relieved to see in my community if all of my hopes and dreams were wrapped up in my family and rural sari sari store in Tacloban, Philippines, or in any of millions of communities like it around the world.


Global Climate Finance: Is there money for the private sector?

The architecture of the various global climate funds is complex. I spent two days last week at the Adaptation Fund’s Readiness for Climate Finance Seminar,  and the question top-of-mind now is this: How will all the funds I keep hearing about galvanize private-sector engagement in lower-income country adaptation. First, the list of development agencies involved in climate financing astounds – in a good way, that is, if you think development funds help change the world for the better. Generally, I hold that view. And hats off to the Climate Funds Update for providing accessible information for those of us who think of this financing as a sideline.

Second, of those Funds that focus on climate resiliency (many also focus on low carbon development) – the Adaptation Fund, the Climate Investment Fund, the Global Environmental Facility, et. al. – are not looking at increasing private investment as a primary or secondary objective of their work.  While the private sector certainly has helped execute some of the work funded by the millions already disbursed, no measures of the number of jobs created and other key economic and social barometers are tracked. Plus, the leaders I spoke with at this seminar couldn’t identify any names of local or multinational corporations involved in the work their institutions fund.

Third, an important element of these climate funds is that, in least developed countries, they are building government capacity to carry out resiliency projects through their thorough accreditation processes.  The Adaptation Fund’s process seems particularly robust as they work doggedly with National Implementing Agencies to ensure the governments have the muscle and organization to successfully manage the work.  In the development parlance, this is called the “enabling environment,” though at ND-GAIN we call it readiness.

Forth, for every person who thinks the private sector sees market growth from the $100B involved, another leader of the development community would furrow his or her brow at the notion. Their concept of private-sector engagement with that $100B holds that the private sector should invest its own funds in reducing vulnerability.

Fifth, the Green Climate Fund – the domicile of that expected annual $100B – is likely to be the private sector’s best bet, although it hasn’t enjoyed the best news of late (as even generous Sweden is holding back its funds).  The Fund is selecting private-sector specialists to serve on its Private Sector Advisory Group.

The Fund’s Private Sector Facility expects to “catalyze, mobilize and leverage flows of private climate finance in developing countries and make best use of the knowledge on best available technologies.” So, market experience and innovation in the private sector are recognized assets and, if its dollars are new and not simply reallocated from other development resources, the private sector may see an uptick in available resources.  In any case, when the dust settles on GCF within the next few years (hope springs eternal about the pace of complex international mechanisms), more resources will be available for saving lives and improving livelihoods through low-carbon development and climate adaptation – a good thing.

So, the question remains: Is there money for the private sector in the global climate finance marketplace? From my POV, not yet.  But, it will be important to stay tuned through resources such as the Climate Fund Update to try and detect the answer!


Climate change a growing concern for companies expanding their footprint

This article originally appeared in The Guardian: Traditionally, the most important factors in choosing a location for a new factory or operation have always been workforce supply and economic incentives. But a new consideration, climate change, is quickly moving up the ranks as a major factor for corporate decision-makers. Recently, as climate-related crises have hit cities across the globe, it's become increasingly clear that companies need to consider the financial impact of a paucity – or an excess – of water.

Operational, strategic and quality-of-life issues factor heavily in the decisions that giant enterprises make about where to locate their much sought after capital projects. As the devastating environmental conditions associated with climate change – including water shortages, severe storms, natural disasters, rising seas and hotter climates – become more pressing, it's clear that these, too, will become key considerations for companies hoping to press their competitive advantages.

As a result, these decisions will begin to dramatically affect both traditional and emerging business, transportation, manufacturing and travel hubs. And as with anything else involving corporations, real estate, jobs and money, there will definitely be winners and losers.

Supply chain links

In the wake of natural disasters, which appear to be getting increasingly severe, a "new normal" has emerged among corporate decision-makers. With some analysts citing the impact of the mutable climate, more companies are adding a climate-change dimension to their strategic supply-chain planning and site selection. Adaptive management of climate risks is playing a growing role in boardrooms and C-suites across the globe, particularly at multinationals.

A report from CDP, the global non-profit that measures vital environmental information, found that 72% of companies surveyed see physical risks from climate change disrupting their supply chain.

For New Orleans-based energy company Entergy, 2005's Hurricane Katrina was a lesson in the potential supply disruptions that could be caused by increasingly extreme weather events. Since then, Entergy has begun incorporating climate risks into its business planning and operating activities; consequently, it has strengthened its power-distribution network, including the sites that are most vulnerable.

Water, water nowhere

Companies often underestimate the importance of water to their business, and few have a comprehensive global process to assess water risk. But this is quickly changing, notably in the west and southwest regions of the US, as drought sinks critical water supplies. Companies in the food and beverage, mining and oil and gas companies sectors especially base their site assessments on high-level projections of water scarcity.

In 2013, the Aqueduct Project, a hydrological mapping initiative at the World Resources Institute, ranked 36 countries based on their water risk. Sixteen, including the UAE, Barbados, Cyprus, Jamaica and Singapore, received a 5.0, the worst possible rating.

But if drought is a consideration, so is flooding, and too much water can also affect site selection. After Thailand's extensive flooding in 2011, losses for badly damaged global parts suppliers alone totaled an estimated $15-20bn, and the flood hurt the bottom line of several multinationals, including Ford, Toyota, Dell, Cisco and Honda. HP, another company that was especially hard-hit, estimated that half of its 7% fourth-quarter 2011 revenue slide was due to the flooding. Not surprisingly, global companies are increasingly assessing the issue of monsoons and other water-related weather events when making decisions about where to locate or enlarge their facilities.

As for the US, it won't be long before severe water-supply problems in states like California and Arizona will begin to affect their popularity as site locations for plants. And look for other states as well as cities with plentiful supplies, such as those surrounding the Great Lakes, to woo businesses with water as their big asset. Already, Milwaukee is leveraging the business potential of its plentiful water supply. It's certainly not alone.

Site selection heats up

Water isn't the only climate issue that is increasingly affecting site selection. Too much heat is also becoming a factor as it becomes clear that fiery temperatures and air pollution can have a major, devastating effect on workplaces and workforces. Air-conditioning alone can't make up for such conditions.

A team of climate-change researchers recently studied 170m hospital admissions and eight million deaths in Germany. After tracking them season by season, day by day, for 10 years, they found that the temperature-and-pollution spikes associated with extreme heat events tended to increase hospital admissions and deaths by 2% to 5% the first day. Adverse health effects and mortality mounted with each day of a heat wave.

Interestingly, the analysis found that extreme cold events typically had a negligible to nonexistent impact on hospitalization and deaths. Distributed across the population of a country such as Germany or the US, the analysis estimates that the cost of a hot day is between 10 cents and 68 cents per resident in terms of health care and lost productivity.

Winners and losers

So, when it comes to site selection and climate, which countries top the list? The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), where I work, has ranked the climate adaptation performance of 177 countries over the last 17 years, has found that, while the top-ranked countries are often prone to sea level rise, drought and flooding, they are nonetheless able to maintain the security of their water, food, and health systems. They are able to preserve their fundamental ecosystems, and their coastal, energy and transportation infrastructures remain sound, enabling greater social, economic and governmental stability.

The ND-GAIN's highest-ranked country is Denmark, which has an index score of 83.4. Other European countries and Australia round out the top 10, while the US ranks 13th, with a score of 79.

North Korea is the lowest-ranked country, with an index of 34.3, and Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Eritrea fill out the bottom five on the list of countries that aren't likely to draw many foreign industrial and business operations any time soon.

The most surprising low-ranked countries are India, which is number 120, and China, which is number 98. But as two of the hottest spots for global business in the last decade, both demonstrate the impact that corporate investment can have on resiliency. India has moved up 10 points on the relative ranking since 1999, and China has moved between three and six spots during that period.

In real-estate parlance, the desirability of a property is based on location, location, location. And while climate change may still rank below such factors as workforce and incentives, more and more organizations are weighing climate conditions as they determine where they will locate new operations.

Consequently, cities, states and countries that lag on the climate-change index need to launch initiatives, such as public-private partnerships, to strengthen their attractiveness. The private sector, of course, can play an invaluable role in this effort.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian:

2014 Climate Adaptation, Resiliency, Preparedness Conferences

Dear Readers, I thought I'd share some recent work from ND-GAIN's Sarah Senseman to identify upcoming climate adaptation, climate resiliency and/or climate preparedness conferences (take your pick of the term-du-jour).  There's a bias towards city or urban-related events in this list, based on my current interest. Let me know if I am missing something!  


Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference

3-7 March 2014, North Carolina, USA


World City Forum 2014

12 March 2014, Netherlands


Building Resilience Workshop V

13-14 March 2014, USA


Green Cities 2014

18 March, Australia


Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana State of the Coast 2014

18-20 March 2014, USA


Urban Affairs Association - 44th Annual Conference

19 March, USA


Water and Sanitation Health 2014

24 March, Australia


Trees, People and the Built Environment II

2 April, UK


Livable Cities Forum 2014

2-4 Apr 2014, Vancouver, Canada


Great Plains LID Research and Innovation Symposium

2-4 April 2014, Oklahoma, USA


Planning for Disaster Resilience Symposium

5 April 2014, Texas A&M, USA


World Urban Forum 2014

5-11 April, Medellin, Colombia


Metropolitan Solutions

7 April 2014, Germany


ICLEI Global Town Hall

7-11 April 2014, Germany


Transforming Local Government

23 April 2014, USA


American Planning Association Conference

26 April 2014, USA


Regional Studies Association International Conference 2014

27 April 2014, USA


Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference

28-29 April 2014, Charlotte, NC, USA


CERES Conference

30 April – 1 May 2014, Boston, MA, USA


Resilience 2014

4 May 2014, France


Climate Strategies Forum

12-14 May 2014, Washington, DC, USA


Adaptation Futures

12-16 May 2014, Fortaleza Ceara, Brazil



International Conference on Water Resources and Environmental Management

13-15 May 2014, Antalya, Turkey


Local Solutions: Northeast Climate Preparedness Conference

19-20 May 2014, Manchester, NH, USA


Conference on Climate Change Preparedness: Local Solutions

19-21 May 2014, New Hampshire, USA


Velo-City Global 2014

27 May 2014, Australia


Urbantec China

29 May 2014, China


Resilient Cities 2014: 5th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation

29 - 31 May 2014, Germany


Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference

30 May 2014, Canada


World Cities Summit 2014

1 June 2014, Singapore


Singapore International Water Week

June 1-5 2014, Singapore


European Forum on Urban Forestry

3 June 2014, Switzerland


Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Conference 2014

7-9 June 2014, Beijing, China




Community is the Answer 2014

9 June 2014, UK


4th ATINER Annual International Conference on Urban Studies & Planning 2014

9 June 2014, Greece



New Cities Summit 2014

17 June 2014, USA


City Futures 3

18 June 2014, France


The 8th International Association for China Planning (IACP) Conference

21-22 June 2014, China


Congress for the New Urbanism 22

22 June, USA


39th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

22-25 June 2014, Colorado, USA


Adaptation in the Great Lakes

24-26 June 2014, Ann Arbor, MI, USA


European Network for Housing Research 2014

1 July, UK


Peri-Urban 2014

8 July, Australia


14th National Conference on Transportation Planning for Small and Medium–Sized Communities: Tools of the Trade

21 July, USA


International Symposium on Landscape and Urban Horticulture

17 August, Australia


California Adaptation Forum

19-20 August 2014, Sacramento, CA, USA


5th International Disaster and Risk Conference IDRC Davos 2014

24 August, Switzerland


World Water Week

31 August – 5 September 2014, Stockholm, Sweden


Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium Biannual Meeting

September 2014, Athens, Greece


CEBDS International Conference on Sustainable Development

September 2014 (exact dates TBA), Brazil


Cities of Europe, Cities of the World

3 September, Portugal


World Leisure 2014

6 September, USA


International Conference on Urban Drainage 2014

7 September, Malaysia


Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

9-10 September 2014, Seattle, WA, USA


International Water Association World Water Congress

21 September Portugal



Deltas in Times of Climate Change II

24-26 September 2014, Netherlands


11th World Metropolis Conference

6 October, India


CABERNET 2014: 4th International Conference on Managing Urban Land

14 October, Germany


Sustainability Leaders Forum

November 2014 (exact dates TBA), London, UK


2nd International Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change ‘Urban

Transitions and Transformations: Science, Synthesis and Policy’

6 November, Taiwan


FLASH 2014: Resilience Revolution

19-21 November 2014, Tallahassee, FL, USA


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Convention of the Parties

1-12 December 2014, Lima, Peru


Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making

8-11 December 2014, Washington, DC, USA


International Water Summit

Jan. 20-22, 2015 Abu Dhabi, UAE


10th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability

21-23 January 2015, Denmark


Sustainable Communities Conference

TBD February 2015, Canada


New Partners for Smart Growth

TBD February 2015, USA


Alaska Forum on the Environment

February 2015 Anchorage, USA


Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

5-7 February 2015, New Delhi, India


National Adaptation Forum 2015

12-14 May 2015, St. Louis, MO, USA


Istanbul Intl. Water Forum

May 27-29, 2015 Istanbul, Turkey








Presidential advisors Podesta & Holdren: Consider how we’re unleashing data power on climate change

The Internet buzzes with the ambitious plan* by White House advisors John Podesta and John Holdren to create easy-to-use tools to prepare people to be more resilient to climate change.  But, hey, we’re already doing this for the world – employing half-a-million data points in an interactive assessment of 177 countries that uses this framework: And our data, methodology and framework are free and available for anyone to see and use.


Here’s an ingredient in our not-so-secret sauce: We include readiness. We believe decision makers need to know what’s occurring in the government, economic and social sectors to make the vulnerability information truly actionable.  Because corporate decision makers don’t look at climate change in isolation, we include climate and other variables in our set of vulnerability indicators.  Human health, human habitat, water, food, ecosystems and infrastructure variables round out our description.


We aim to keep it simple and easy to use, drawing the user in initially with a relative rank of geographies.


Then, we provide detailed information about each geography, including the variables most at risk:

Consider these ways this framework can raise awareness and inform decision-making by turning climate risk into opportunity for action.

Supply chain risk: Plot the major assets in your value chain on a matrix of relative vulnerability and readiness, and discover your major risks and opportunities for investment:

Investment decisions: Do you possess a product that helps increase resiliency? How about infrastructure, pharmaceutical or building technologies? Compare several geographies to one another to determine relative areas of risk – energy sensitivity for one, health-care workers per capita for another.

Setting development priorities: Exploring opportunities to expand your operations in a new location?  What variables matter most?  Roadway infrastructure, an educated workforce?  Data here, all in one place, will inform your next steps.

Good luck with this super important effort, Messrs. Podesta and Holdren.

We commend you for your work to unleash the power of data on climate change adaptation and resiliency.

Read about our methodology here, and contact us for more info!



Australia to Zimbabwe: Contrasts in Drought Resiliency

The world has grown more informed about how to handle drought after observing southern Australia weather 12 years of one.  We’ve learned lessons about water conservation and efficiency, about recycling water and finding previously untapped supplies.  Yet, when a relatively shorter drought of less than a year hit Zimbabwe last year, the country suffered a great deal. Curious about what distinguishes the relative resiliency of these two countries and seeking to go beyond my immediate judgement that it’s because Australia is a well-developed economy and Zimbabwe is far less so,  I turned to ND-GAIN for insights.  Here’s what I learned:

  • Australia, at No. 5 on the ND-GAIN index, has continued to move up the ranks – it’s now well ahead of the U.S. at 13.
  • Zimbabwe, at 171 on the ND-GAIN index, sits five places from the bottom of the Index. It has fallen 35 places. Its food important dependency of 28 percent contrasts to Australia’s 3 percent.
  • Though its rural population is also declining, 64 percent of its population lives in rural areas to Australia’s 11 percent.
  • Zimbabwe also gets a growing amount of energy from both hydropower – prone to drought-related variability - and imported sources, while Australia’s dependence on foreign oil is smaller and decreasing.
  • The most striking variance in vulnerability, perhaps, lies in the two countries’ dependence on natural capital: Zimbabwe scores 38 percent and Australia four percent (and decreasing). This may explain why their natural systems responded so differently even though water-related vulnerabilities including precipitation and temperature change don’t differ markedly between the two countries.

But the big reveal that, unfortunately, supports many a hunch is that Australia’s readiness to adapt to climate change – as measured by economic, governance and social indicators – is two-to-three times greater than Zimbabwe’s.  Political stability, an economic environment conducive to business and the quality of the rule of law, to cite some specific readiness measures, all help countries weather the stress of drought.

While we should all take lessons from Australia’s deft handling of its drought – learned over time through trial and error – we also should continue to support efforts to shore up the readiness of a lower-income country as a way to ensure that Zimbabwe and others keep pace with the adaptations needed in a climate-changed world.

Climate Adaptation as a Business Opportunity –ND-GAIN as a tool to help

There are some incredibly positive sustainability trends baring themselves out today:

  • Sustainability is becoming more a part of the ethos of the c-suite
  • Non-profit and public/private partnerships are growing in impact
  • Sustainable growth is being fueled by innovation in business/technology

Yet these hopeful trends are paired with a more sobering theme:   climate risk

This year, 4 out of top 10 global risks derived from World Economic Forum’s global risk perception survey,,  relate to climate disruption

3.Water Crisis

5. Failure of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

6. Greater Incidence of Extreme Weather Events

8.Food Crisis


These risks share space with other risks such as high unemployment, fiscal crisis and political and social instability.

More specifically, one statistic from CDP’s supply chain survey,,  really caught my attention:  more than 70% of corporate respondents saw risks to their supply chain from climate disruption.

And indeed, these risks are baring themselves out. 2011’s unprecedented flooding in Thailand alone resulted in $20B economic losses, Honda’s losses totaled more than $250 million when flood waters inundated an auto assembly plant, and  - to take another climate impact - General Motors calculated that a one-month disruption at one of its production facilities in Mexico hard hit by drought, could result in a loss of $27 million in net income.

But, as with any business risk, known risk can spell opportunity.  Vulnerable sectors crucial to human health and prosperity that also can be greatly improved by innovation – such as food, energy, and water –  are prime for investments that help us adapt to climate risks.

The US Military calls climate change a threat multiplier and instability accelerant, and some suggest that climate change fueled conflicts in Chad, Darfur, Yemen and Syria.

And it is not just civil conflict:  A report from the World Bank,, says that many important development advances of the 20th Century, such as food security, global health and poverty reduction, may be undermined by climate change.

Recently, the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index produced an analysis that showed it will take more than 100 years for lower income countries to reach the resilience of OECD or richer countries.

While I am concerned for all of us that unprecedented climatic variations are making the world more vulnerable, I reflect on the positive business trends and am certain we can apply our innovation, leadership, and partnerships, to building resiliency.

In fact, there are countless examples of corporate-lead climate adaptation around the world that are helping to decrease the impacts of droughts, superstorms, fires and floods caused by climate disruption.

Leading companies are leaning in, showing the importance of adaptation for their value chains by applying themselves to those vulnerable sectors crucial to human health and prosperity.

Increasing resiliency in food:

- Monsanto is developing new drought-tolerant corn varieties through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa, project, in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

- The global reinsurance firm Swiss Re is helping farmers in Ethiopia tackle current and future precipitation uncertainty, providing insurance against climate-related losses.

- PepsiCo is rolling out its i-crop precision-farming technology, enabling farmers to monitor, manage and reduce their water use while maximizing potential yield, in collaboration with the Columbia Water Center of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Increasing resiliency in infrastructure:

- Engineering firms such as AECOM and CH2MHill are integrating adaptation into coastal and energy infrastructure systems to protect future generations living in urban areas.

- Ushahidi, a small nonprofit software company, uses the power of crowdsourcing software to distribute real-time information including about roadways and transportation, during disasters in lower income countries and around the world.

Increasing resiliency in water

- Unilever, in partnership with the UN Global Compact and the World Food Program, is spearheading local water use reduction, freeing-up water previously used for clothes washing for other applications in India.

- Ecolab is creating water efficient technologies for commercial and industrial infrastructure that are more resistant and resilient to climate change.

But how do we join these proactive companies on finding market value in resiliency?

As companies are starting to realize that their bottom line is intimately connected with climate disruption, the private sector wants to know where do we get relevant information to inform our leadership?

There are many valuable tools out there.

The ND-Global Adaptation Index,, ranks the 193 UN countries annually based on how vulnerable they are to droughts, super-storms and other natural disasters and, uniquely, how ready they are to successfully implement adaptation solutions.

We measure the countries’ vulnerability of health, food, water, and infrastructure and the social, governance and economic readiness of the country to take on investment, thus informing many elements of our value chain.

Using 17 years of data, we examine over 50 indicators for each country in the index, and some real winners emerge from these hundreds of thousands of data.

It’s no surprise, European and North American countries are among those most prepared for climate risk.

And many developing countries are making the most and the fastest improvements – as companies invest in these growing markets.

The BRIC countries are doing better than the global resiliency average.  And there are some surprises, like Rwanda, which has moved up  the rankings 40 positions, primarily by improving its economic, governance and social readiness measures, making it a more viable investment opportunity.

Many companies may find the greatest business opportunities in more vulnerable countries with a high demand for adaptation products and services, but also high readiness based on a transparent, safe and fair investment and regulatory environment.

We can use the ND-GAIN matrix to examine countries in our supply chains, consumer markets, capital assets and community engagements to better understand our relative risks and opportunities.

I’ve found that one of the reasons climate adaptation is resonating with the private sector is that it is a very personal issue.  The indicator of climate adaptation success is not an ethereal Metric Ton of CO2e.  Adaptation is about direct impacts to our most important assets - our employees, our customers and our communities and their prosperity yesterday, today and tomorrow.

We have the opportunity to save lives and improve livelihoods for millions around the world while improving our market positions by matching the power of data, with corporate innovation, leadership and partnership.

Adaptation provides collateral benefits to

  • Mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
  • lift more out of poverty,
  • strengthen economies,
  • prevent civil conflict,
  • buttress food security,
  • protect natural resources and
  • ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

I encourage you to ask yourself the climate adaptation question of your work to create business opportunities out of resiliency that offer rewards for humanity.

(This is the One Great Idea presentation I gave at the Greenbiz Forum today).