resilience

Accounting for scientific uncertainty in a dangerously warming world

Most people at some point develop a “Plan B” – in case their first choice of college doesn’t accept them, or it rains on the day of their planned outdoor party, or the deal for the house they wanted falls apart. The same principle applies for more dire situations, such as a city having plans in hand for an orderly evacuation in case of a large-scale disaster. We hope such an event will never happen, but the mayor had better be prepared in case it does.

In a commentary today in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, three colleagues and I discuss the need for a “Plan B” for climate change: How will we cope with increasingly severe climate impacts if we are unsuccessful in limiting global warming to a chosen target?

In the 2009 Copenhagen climate accord, countries set a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above the average global temperature of pre-industrial times. However, given that the planet has already warmed by 0.8 °C, additional warming is already locked into the system, and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, this “Plan A” has become increasingly difficult and may become impossible to achieve if widespread emissions reductions do not begin within this decade. A maximum warming target is a necessary goal of climate policy, but what if our efforts fall short?

Some voices in the environmental community will feel that asking this question is ceding failure, but I disagree. Instead, it means admitting that we can’t perfectly foresee the future and that we need to be prepared for surprises. This is called risk management and everyone from parents, to mayors, to companies, to the U.S. military uses risk management every day to cope with uncertainty.

Climate Leadership Award Winners Announced

Media Advisory

February 25, 2014

Climate Leadership Award Winners Announced

SAN DIEGO – Fifteen organizations and two individuals are being honored today with Climate Leadership Awards for their accomplishments in driving climate action and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The awards are given by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, in collaboration with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the Association of Climate Change Officers and The Climate Registry. Awardees will be honored this evening at the Climate Leadership Conference in San Diego.

Awardees came from a wide array of sectors, including finance, manufacturing, retail, technology, higher education and local government. Recipients have demonstrated leadership in managing and reducing emissions in internal operations and the supply chain, as well as integrating climate resilience into their operating strategies. 

Information highlighting the award winners is here:

http://www.epa.gov/climateleadership/awards/2014winners.html

Following is EPA's press release:

EPA Honors Corporate Leadership in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Release Date: 02/25/2014
Contact Information: Carissa Cyran, cyran.carissa@epa.gov, 202-564-4363, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Center for Corporate Climate Leadership announced the third annual Climate Leadership Award winners in partnership with the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The Climate Registry (TCR). Nineteen awards were given to 15 organizations and two individuals in the public and private sectors for their leadership in addressing climate change by reducing carbon pollution.

The 2014 Climate Leadership Award recipients are:

Organizational Leadership Award: City of Chula Vista, Sprint, and University of California, Irvine

Individual Leadership Award: Sam Brooks, Associate Director, D.C. Department of General Services, and Robert Taylor, Energy Manager, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Supply Chain Leadership Award: Sprint

Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award): The Boeing Company; Caesars Entertainment; Cisco Systems, Inc.; Ecolab; The Hartford; IBM; Johnson Controls; Kohl's Department Stores; Mack Trucks; and Novelis

Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate): Fruit of the Loom, Inc.; Hasbro, Inc.; and Kohl's Department Stores

“Our Climate Leadership Award winners have made great strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and are providing leadership nationwide in many sectors of our economy,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "Their innovative approaches and commitment to reducing carbon pollution demonstrate that efforts to address climate change are repaid by saving money and energy, while supporting more livable and resilient communities, and a healthier, better protected environment now and for future generations."

The national awards program recognizes and incentivizes exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Award recipients represent a wide array of industries, including finance, manufacturing, retail, technology, higher education and local government.

“The Association of Climate Change Officers is pleased to recognize another exceptional class of organizations and individuals who are demonstrating leadership in driving climate action into their organizational cultures,” said Daniel Kreeger, ACCO’s co-founder and executive director. “These award recipients are demonstrating critical devotion and leadership to managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the risks and challenges posed by climate change. These recipients are role models for corporate, organizational, and individual leaders who can and should be responding proactively to climate change risks and opportunities.”

“Communities and businesses are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and we need to act now to protect both our environment and our economy,” said C2ES President Eileen Claussen. “We join EPA in applauding the winners of the Climate Leadership Awards. These companies, organizations, and individuals demonstrate that we can save energy, reduce emissions, and take decisive steps toward a low-carbon future. We hope their accomplishments will serve as an example for others to follow.”

“The Climate Registry applauds this year’s Climate Leadership Award winners for demonstrating a meaningful, results-oriented response to climate change,” said David Rosenheim, executive director of TCR. “Exhibiting transparency, consistent metrics, and innovative mitigation measures, our deserving award recipients are building a stronger platform for policy, innovation, and business solutions to reducing carbon pollution.”

The President’s Climate Action Plan calls on the federal government to work with all stakeholders to take action to cut the harmful carbon pollution that fuels climate change. These organizations and individuals are working to do just that.

The awards are held in conjunction with the 2014 Climate Leadership Conference at the Hyatt Mission Bay Hotel in San Diego, Calif.

More information about the 2014 Climate Leadership Award winners is available at www.epa.gov/climateleadership/awards/2014winners.html

The EPA's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership was launched in 2012 to establish norms of climate leadership by encouraging organizations with emerging climate objectives to identify and achieve cost-effective GHG emission reductions, while helping more advanced organizations drive innovations in reducing their greenhouse gas impacts in their supply chains and beyond. The Center serves as a comprehensive resource to help organizations of all sizes measure and manage GHG emissions, providing technical tools, ground-tested guidance, educational resources, and opportunities for information sharing and peer exchange among organizations interested in reducing the environmental impacts associated with climate change.

More information about EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership: www.epa.gov/climateleadership

How Business Can Weather the Storm

By: Sara Kendall, Weyerhaeuser
Publsihed in The Environmental Forum, January 2014

Companies have long engaged in risk assessment and mitigation as a core business practice.

The Intergov­ernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2012 report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” observes that heavy precipitation, heat waves, and droughts have increased over the last half century. Businesses may not have a position on climate change, but they understand how a flood can shut down transportation, a hurricane can topple buildings and powerlines, or extreme temperatures can disrupt markets and threaten op­erations and supply chains.

As noted in a recent report by The Center for Climate and Energy Solu­tions, “Weathering the Storm: Build­ing Business Resilience to Climate Change,” there are significant costs as­sociated with these weather events. In 2012, over 800 major weather-related disasters worldwide led to $130 billion in losses. The most expensive events cost more than $1 billion each. Further, 90 percent of the S&P Global 100 In­dex identified extreme weather and cli­mate change as a current or future risk. Of those, more than one third stated they’ve already experienced adverse ef­fects. It isn’t about whether a company believes in climate change. This is about staying in business.

The C2ES report highlights compa­nies’ efforts to build business resilience. Not surprisingly, the insurance industry is among the first sectors to pay atten­tion. Utility companies are building redundancy and looking at innovative approaches to handling storm surges. Natural resource companies have the added risk that their “factories” are di­rectly exposed to weather conditions.

To get more insight on these issues, I asked Eileen Claussen, president of C2ES, to respond to a few questions raised by the report.

What does business resilience really mean?

"Companies have always navigat­ed a changing business environment. But now they face a changing physical environment, as climate change leads to more frequent and intense heat waves, higher sea levels, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and downpours. Business resilience means assessing and managing these impacts on a com­pany’s facilities, operations, supply and distribution chains, and costs."

Is building business resilience risk management or new business development?

"Both. Extreme weath­er is certainly a risk. It can close facilities, delay production, dis­rupt supply and dis­tribution chains, raise operation and capital costs, and reduce demand. Extreme weather can also keep employees from getting to work, disrupt communication systems, and threaten the availability of power and water supplies. But there also are busi­ness opportunities in becoming more resilient. Some companies are already working on drought-resistant crops, storm-resistant building materials, and weather-related insurance products. Forms of distributed generation, which provided resilient electricity in the after­math of Hurricane Sandy, are promis­ing growth areas as well."

Are you encouraged by what you see be­ing undertaken by businesses to prepare for and respond to extreme-weather events?

"What’s encouraging is that in our dis­cussions with CEOs and members of corporate boards, we’re not being asked, “Is this a problem?” We’re being asked “What should my company do?” Most of the largest global companies are us­ing existing business continuity and emergency management plans to as­sess and manage their climate risks. But only a few companies say they’ve used climate-specific forecasting tools to as­sess how these risks are evolving and the potential business impacts. These com­panies are generally dependent on a key commodity or operate in high-risk locations. So while the vast majority of firms acknowledge risks from extreme weather and climate change, their ac­tions so far to address the risks aren’t going much beyond business as usual."

Where do you think more should be done, and what do you see as the big­gest barriers for companies?

"Companies tell us they need user-friendly, local­ized projections of climate change, and models that can link these projections to specific business impacts. Those in regulated sectors such as water, electric­ity, and insurance need regulators to be open to the case for increased spending on resilience and policies that encourage cus­tomer decisions about sufficient levels of risk mitigation."

Is building business resilience private or public sector work?

"Both. Companies need to manage risks to their facilities and supply and distribution chains, but they also need governments to invest in strengthen­ing resilience of public infrastructure. That’s one reason why we recommend voluntary public-private partnerships to bring together government and busi­ness expertise to develop and improve resilience planning.

My view: The bottom line is that extreme weather events are likely to continue and companies should think about building business resilience in a changing climate. We all will be better off if we’re better prepared."

Sara Kendall is vice president, corporate affairs and sustainability, Weyerhaeuser Com­pany. She can be reached at sara.kendall@ weyerhaeuser.com.

Copyright© 2014 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELI®.

 

Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change

Businesses face growing threats from extreme weather and climate change: damage to facilities, loss of water or power supplies, higher costs, and disruption of supply and distribution chains.

In a major report, Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change, C2ES provides a detailed snapshot of the state of resilience planning among a cross-section of global companies and outlines steps companies can take to better assess and manage their growing climate risks.

Click above to see our infographic, with key takeaways

Click here to view the infographic as a PDF

The report includes a comprehensive review of resilience practices among S&P Global 100 Index companies and detailed case studies of six companies in diverse sectors: American Water, Bayer, The Hartford Group, National Grid, Rio Tinto and Weyerhaeuser.  It also draws on input from a technical workshop with representatives of a wide range of industries.

Key Findings:

  • Ninety percent of S&P Global 100 Index companies identify extreme weather and climate change as current or future business risks.
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) say they are experiencing climate change impacts now, or expect to in the coming decade.
  • Companies are most concerned about the direct impacts of extreme weather on property, production and supplies, and indirect impacts on operational costs, such as higher prices for commodities or insurance.
  • Most companies are managing these risks through existing business continuity and emergency management plans. Only a few have used climate-specific tools to comprehensively assess risks.
  • Most companies (75 percent) also see new opportunities from a changing climate, including drought-resistant crops, storm-resistant building materials, and weather-related insurance products.

Recommendations:

  • Create a clearinghouse for reliable, up-to-date data and analytical tools. Companies need user-friendly, localized projections of climate changes and models that link projections to impacts that matter most.
  • Invest in public infrastructure resilience. Roads, bridges, ports, and other public resources used to transport goods and services to market must withstand extreme weather and climate impacts.
  • Consider resilience needs in regulation. Companies in regulated sectors, such as water, electricity, and insurance need regulators to be forward-looking and open to companies making the case for more spending on resilience.
  • Set up voluntary, public-private partnerships.  Bring together government and business expertise to improve resilience planning.

Additional Resources:

C2ES would like to acknowledge Bank of America for its collaboration and generous financial support.

 

Video of our July 17, 2013, launch event

Introduction and high-level discussion

Discussion on emerging business resilience practices

 

Video of our Sept. 23, 2013, event at Climate Week NYC

Opening Remarks

Discussion
Company Prespectives: Managing Climate Risk

 

Video of our Nov. 18, 2013, side event at the UN climate talks in Warsaw

 

Coping with coastal flood risk

Political leaders in the Northeast have very different ideas about how to treat coastal properties ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Some aim to reduce development along exposed coasts while others say let’s rebuild. How they proceed could set important precedents for managing rising flood risk along the nation’s coasts. 

Motivated by concerns about more frequent and intense extreme weather, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to buy back damaged coastal properties from homeowners willing to sell and preserve the land as undeveloped public spaces. Cuomo’s plan would use funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which requires that purchased properties not be developed.  

On our own?

Spring not only brings us daffodils and cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., but also occasionally powerful thunderstorms that can knock out power to thousands of homes and businesses.

I live in one of those northern and western suburbs of DC that tend to lose power fairly frequently.

It used to be that one of the few nice things about losing power was the sound of silence. But those days are gone. Now losing power has a new sound: the whirring of the startup of my neighbors’ backup generators.

We need power not only to keep our food from spoiling and protect us from uncomfortable and even dangerous heat, but also to stay connected. As a nation, we are becoming ever more dependent on electronic devices. We cannot survive without our cell phones and computers, let alone our refrigerators and air conditioners. At the same time, climate change threatens the reliability of the grid through more intense heat waves and potentially more powerful storms.

While it’s easy to say we should work to prevent disruption in electricity, how much should we invest to bolster the resilience of the grid? And who should pay?

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