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®.
A Primer on Federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization and the Highway Trust Fund
by Nick Nigro and Cindy Burbank
A recent "60 Minutes" story highlighted the demise of a few high-profile clean-tech companies that received federal funding. The story neglected to report why clean technology is vital to the future of our economy and environment in the first place, and therefore why it makes sense for the government to promote the development of wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, and other clean tech. Simply put, the goal is to transform our economy from one based on fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases to one based on clean energy that won't contribute to global climate change.
The mining industry is especially susceptible to heavy rainfall, changing weather conditions and rising sea levels. Such events can stall transportation, halt electricity generation and threaten the safety of employees and facilities. Sue Lacey, Rio Tinto's Principle of Climate and Energy, will discuss strategies and opportunities for building a more resilient business.
Title: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change: Rio Tinto
Date: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST
Extreme weather poses some unique challenges and opportunities for the water industry. The variation and intensity of rainfall, flooding and drought can affect the ability to draw, treat, and provide water to customers. Extreme weather also plays a role in the location of plants and water treatment technologies. Dr. Mark LeChevallier of American Water will describe efforts by of the world's leading companies to confront these factors.
Title: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change: American Water
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST
Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change
Date: Monday, November 18, 18:00-19:00
Location: US Center, National Stadium
Building off the C2ES report, “Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change,” corporate leaders will discuss the risks of extreme weather and some ways to begin assessing and managing those risks. Among the steps that could help are: creating a clearinghouse for up-to-date data and analytical tools; investing in public infrastructure; considering resilience needs in regulation; and developing voluntary, public-private partnerships.
- Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Giles Dickson, Vice President, Environmental Policies & Global Advocacy, Alstom
- Jennifer Layke, Executive Director, Institute for Building Efficiency, Johnson Controls
- Timothy Juliani, Director of Corporate Engagement, C2ES
Reception: “Increasing Stakeholder Engagement”
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) invite you to a reception recognizing the importance of increasing the involvement of stakeholder groups in the UNFCCC process – one of the key themes of COP-19.
Date: Monday, November 18, 19:30
Location: US Center, National Stadium
U.S. Climate Policy: An Update on Federal and State Action
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 18:00-20:00
Location: EU Side-events (1st floor), Room Brussels, National Stadium
Senior U.S. and California officials and business and environmental stakeholders will examine progress and challenges in advancing domestic policies to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Matt Rodriquez, Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency
- Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Technology and Policy, U.S. Department of Energy
- Marnie Funk, Senior Advisor, CO2 Advocacy, Oil Sands & Renewables, Shell Oil
- Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
- Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
The United Nations’ body that oversees civil aviation has reached an important milestone in international efforts to craft effective and equitable solutions to climate change from this fast-growing sector. And this success last week in Montreal should send a hopeful signal to other UN organizations as they grapple with the challenges of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
At the 38th General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), governments endorsed a comprehensive set of actions aimed at achieving an aspirational mid-term goal of zero carbon emissions growth for the aviation industry beginning in 2020. The October 4 accord brings together a number of measures being developed by ICAO, including: a certification requirement for a global CO2 efficiency standard for aircraft; support for an updated, more efficient air traffic control regime; continued development of sustainable biofuels; and updating national action plans laying out country strategies to reduce emissions.
When I founded a new nonprofit organization 15 years ago, the United States and the world urgently needed practical solutions to our energy and climate challenges. That need has only grown more urgent.
Earlier today, I announced my plans to step aside as the President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) once my successor is on board. As I look back, I find we have come a long way. That said, any honest assessment of our progress to date in addressing one of this century’s paramount challenges must conclude that we have much, much further to go.
When our organization, then named the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, first launched in 1998, 63 percent of the world’s electricity generation came from fossil fuels. Incredibly, that number is even higher today – 67 percent. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, is also higher than it was then – in fact, at its highest level in more than 2 million years.
Scientists around the globe have just reaffirmed with greater certainty than ever that human activity is warming the planet and threatening to irreversibly alter our climate. Climate change is no longer a future possibility. It is a here-and-now reality. It’s leading to more frequent and intense heat waves, higher sea levels, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and downpours.
We at C2ES have believed from the start that the most effective, efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur the innovation needed to achieve a low-carbon economy is to put a price on carbon. It’s a path that a growing number of countries, states, and even cities are taking.
Environmental Law Institute: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan in the Near Term: Expectations, Risks, and Opportunities
Elliot Diringer joins Dan Utech of the Obama Administration and Jennifer Smokelin of Reed Smith LLP to discuss the president’s Climate Action Plan. They will identify possible shortcomings and areas of emphasis. The panelists will also share their concerns about how the plan will be implemented and their views on risks and opportunities for businesses.
David W. Wagner, Associate, Reed Smith LLP (moderator)
Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Jennifer A. Smokelin, Counsel, Reed Smith LLP
Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy and Climate Change, White House Domestic Policy Council
September 30, 2013
12:00 PM to 1:15 PM ET
Environmental Law Institute
2000 L Street NW, Suite 620
Washington, DC 20036
See a video of the ELI panel on Obama's Climate Action Plan.
Now in its third year, Carbon Forum North America has firmly established itself as the place to go to keep abreast of the latest thinking and developments in the North American carbon space—for policy wonks and market-players alike. Join policymakers, leading analysts, and practitioners for an in-depth look at some of the most critical topics in climate and energy – from forthcoming California-Quebec linking, the interaction between state programs and EPA action, progress on public private partnerships and climate finance, voluntary efforts among corporations, and the development of emissions trading systems around the world.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is pleased to once again join CFNA’s Sponsor, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), as the Program Sponsor, adding additional depth and breadth to the conference you cannot afford to miss.