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Planning for climate change

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Extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts are becoming more common across Africa. Image credit: YODA Adaman from Unsplash

Planning for climate change

A new toolkit will empower local communities to plan better for the impact of extreme weather events.

Scientists from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI) are developing a toolkit which will empower local communities to better plan for disasters and ensure a fair and more just level of support for responding to climate change impacts.

The Just Adaptation (J-ADAPT) toolkit identifies and appraises climate adaptation options.

Much of the estimated USD360-billion per year needed to adapt to climate change is related to infrastructure like schools, hospitals, water, energy, and transport.

Investing in resilient infrastructure, including nature-based solutions, is vital to protect lives and livelihoods and to secure the poverty alleviation and jobs needed to achieve the sustainable development goals.

J-ADAPT is the first of its kind; combining sophisticated infrastructure systems analytics with dedicated social vulnerability and nature analytics to help ensure that investments made in infrastructure are both resilient, impactful and socially just.

J-ADAPT builds upon the University of Oxford’s open data and toolkits, which are dedicated to ensuring that everyone can access the same basis level of information about climate change risks and solutions.

The ECI will work with national governments, the UN, civil society organisations and multilateral development banks to develop the toolkit. The project is funded by the Howden Foundation, the corporate foundation of global insurance group, Howden.

The funding will enable researchers to develop the climate adaptation toolkit which will be available to all and include dedicated social vulnerability and nature analytics to allow decision makers to explicitly assess and respond to those communities most in need.

Planning for climate change

The world is already experiencing changes in average temperature, shifts in the seasons, an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and slow onset events. Climate adaptation is the process of adjusting to these effects of climate change with the aim of moderating or avoiding harm for people and is particularly important in developing countries where communities are less equipped to deal with the impacts of climate change.

According to Dr Nicola Ranger, who leads the Resilience and Development Group at the ECI Just Adaptation is a new concept which acknowledges the uneven distribution of climate change impacts on people and places, the links to natural capital and the uneven needs and capabilities, with the aim to implement strategies that both reduce the unequal burden of climate risks, and ensure equity in the distribution of benefits (and burdens) of adaptation.

“The objective is to enable users to identify priority adaptation projects, and to conduct the economic and financial appraisals needed to inform planning, approvals and securing of financing, including blended finance. A tool like this is essential to ensure that everyone can access the same basis level of information about risks and solutions on a level playing field, overcoming the information asymmetries that can create a barrier,” says Dr Ranger.

A need for more information  

New source data and advances in modelling techniques can now allow more explicit consideration of the needs of the most vulnerable communities that was not possible before. This can be embedded within tools to allow planners to identify ‘just adaptation’ strategies that explicitly account for the needs of these communities within decision making alongside more traditional economic approaches.

According to Prof Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risk and lead at the Oxford Programme for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (OPSIS) at the ECI the challenges that countries and at-risk communities face to adapt to the impacts of climatic extremes are becoming increasingly clear.

“National governments, communities and infrastructure investors urgently need better information to understand physical climate risk to inform just and inclusive adaptation planning and investment,” says Prof Hall.

“Much of the estimated USD360-billion per year needed to adapt to climate change is related to infrastructure like schools, hospitals, water, energy, transport, and nature-based solutions, with economic benefits of at least USD4 for each dollar invested and the social benefits far higher still. But these investments have been stalled by lack of access to reliable, high quality and relevant climate and risk information.

“The fact that the tool is fully open and accessible levels the playing field in access to high quality information between stakeholders and ensures the most vulnerable communities have access.”

Supporting climate adaptation

The J-ADAPT tool follows the ECI’s development of the GSRAT analytics underpinning the Resilient Planet Data Hub – a data and analytics portal covering hazards, exposure, vulnerability and risk to infrastructure, people, planet and prosperity around the world – launched in partnership with the UN High Level Climate Champions, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Insurance Development Forum at COP28.

The GSRAT aims to support climate adaptation decision-making by identifying spatial vulnerabilities and risks under current and future climate scenarios and is the only open, globally consistent, and holistic physical climate risk platform that exists.

The GSRAT tool was developed in collaboration with multiple partners including the World Bank, contributing to the Resilient Planet initiative, and builds upon the University of Oxford’s deep experience in working with governments, multilateral organisations, and investors around the world, including in Jamaica, Vietnam, Ghana and across East Africa.

Head of Howden Foundation, Clare Ballantine says: “As climate hazards become more frequent and more intense, communities at heightened risk of disaster require urgent access to information that supports them to plan and prioritise solutions for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

“Much of the current USD2.7-trillion per year invested in infrastructure globally is not properly factoring in physical climate risk and this risks locking-in higher risks to people for decades to come. These costs fall most heavily on the poorest, leading to loss of income and access to basic services that can set back poverty alleviation.

“This J-ADAPT toolkit will provide tailored, open and high-quality analytics to assess sustainable infrastructure options. We are proud to support the ECI in this important initiative in pursuit of our mission to protect people against the social and economic shocks of climate change.”

Why is investment in infrastructure so important?

Investment in sustainable infrastructure presents a tremendous opportunity for inclusive pro-poor development, contributing to more than ninety-two percent of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including through unlocking new jobs, trade, growth and access to water, energy, education, and healthcare.

This includes ‘hard’ infrastructure like local roads, energy, and water systems, but also schools and hospitals and so-called ‘green’ infrastructure (or nature-based solutions), such as mangroves, forests, and coral reefs. At least an additional USD1-trillion per year is needed through to 2040 globally in infrastructure to achieve the SDGs, with more than 70% in emerging and developing economies (EMDEs).

Investment in green infrastructure – the vital nature capital that underpins resilience – also provide many unrealised opportunities, with co-benefits for local livelihoods. So-called nature-based solutions can significantly reduce the costs of climate change; these costs fall most heavily on the poorest, leading to loss of income and access to basic services that can set back poverty alleviation.

Further, the World Bank estimates that disruption to infrastructure costs people and firms at least USD390-billion per year in EMDEs and without adaptation, this will continue to rise as disasters become more intense in a future climate.

Planning for climate change

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Planning for climate change

 

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