Posts By: Beth Gibbons - ASAP Executive Director

The 2019 CLC Dispatch

Reflections on Climate Leadership in 2019

By Beth Gibbons

Next month, the North American adaptation community will meet in the Midwest US. Comprised of vanguards and newcomers, we will converge in Madison to share strategies, lessons learned, successes, failures, friendships, beer and cheese – it is Wisconsin, after all!

This past week, a different climate community convened on the seawall of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore at the Climate Leadership Conference. Convened by C2ES and The Climate Registry, it is the descendent of an event once hosted by the EPA by the same name.  However, unlike past years, resilience and climate adaptation were on the agenda–both literally and figuratively–for the conference attendees.

At ASAP, we have seen a marked increase in the private sector engagement in the climate resilience and adaptation conversation. We are observing shifts in the climate resilience marketplace (both demand for and support of services) and in the shifting demographics of the ASAP Membership.

Attending events like the Climate Leadership Conference and our stalwart National Adaptation Forum, we can translate lessons between events and achieve more robust discussions with our members. In that spirit, here are the top 5 observations from the ASAP Booth at the Climate Leadership Conference 2019:

  1. Companies want climate resilience (and sustainability) integrated throughout their entire operations. Kevin Rabinovitch, VP for  Global Sustainability at Mars Inc., noted that it’s not enough for climate resilience to the job of his 20 person team. Rather he wants to see principles of resilience (and sustainability) integrated throughout Mars Incorporated’s 113,000 employees.
  2. Mitigation vs. Adaptation is still being talked about. While there was robust discussion on the role of corporations advocating for climate action, there was also an expressed concern that ‘if we can only advance one policy goal – it has to be mitigation’.
  3. The lack of US federal leadership is felt across the world. When asked about whether the US is losing its reputation as a leader,  Cathy Woollums of Berkshire Hathaway Energy quipped,“Sometimes, when you want to be leader, you have to lead.”
  4. New legal challenges are coming fast and furious.
  5. TCFD – the Bloomberg driven, international framework for corporate risk disclosure is creating a pathway into this work.  However, the path through climate financial disclosure remains fertile ground for innovation and exploration.

I also noticed a few things were missing from this conference:

  1. The financial markets were missing. I don’t think there were any speakers from S&P,  Moody’s or Fitch – the three domestic rating agencies. Despite support from Bloomberg, their team kept a low profile throughout the event.
  2. The conversations were sorely missing the federal perspective. At a conference once hosted by Environmental Protection Agency and hosted less than 40 miles from the D.C. border, the lack of federal agency staff was striking.
  3. The crowd was – well – not young. While Greta Thunberg and the youth movement is dominating the global climate conversation, this conference was still about top down leadership from well-seasoned professionals.
  4. The attendees, and especially the speakers, were conspicuously white. This was definitely a crowd where the word equity was more likely to be in a sentence with ‘balance sheet’ and ‘profit’ than ‘justice’ and ‘race’.

I do not point out these missing groups to criticize or diminish the value of the conversations and interactions that were taking place. However, throughout the adaptation and resilience field, we have learned that when we change who is the room, we change the conversation. When we change the conversation, we change the actions. We also know that diversity equals profitability, and that is an equity outcome we all like to achieve.

The public sector was never going to solve this challenge on its own. There was an appetite for action and a different kind of know-how on display in Baltimore last week. Now, more than ever, I am grateful for ASAP being an inclusive community that can bridge these events, connect conversations, and drive the innovation and excellence that we need across this critical and diverse field of practice.

Interest Topics:

Transforming the Adaptation Field

Top 5 Ways to Use the National Climate Assessment in your job. Right Now.

Last week the White House released the 4th installment of the National Climate Assessment.  With each installment of this congressionally required, quadrennial report adaptation and resilience has played an increasingly significant role. This Quadrennial report makes adaptation the star of the show.

Start Here: Chapter 17 & 28 – These two chapters should make your adaptation professional heart sing! Chapter 17 Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, and Complex Systems is a primer on the art of adaptation itself. This chapter boils down the complexity of climate and non-climate interactions, plus, this chapter–like all the NCA Chapters–comes with a ready made slide deck that you can download and use today!

Money Talks – This report puts the cost of climate change front and center, with dire warnings about the cost to public health, urban infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, forests, and tourism.  This report comes on the heels of the IPCC report which painted a similarly stark picture for our global economy. The drumbeat of climate risk is permeating mainstream media and the NCA Authors understand that the economic case is as important as the science itself.  Here are a few ways climate change is impacting our economy right now:

  • Coastal erosion accounts for $500 million in damages per year.
  • The cost of wildfire management exceeded the annual average of $1 billion by 300% in 2017

Delve into your Regional Area – Hurray! This year’s report added a 9th geographic region of focus by splitting the Great Plains into the Northern Great Plains and Southern Great Plains. For adaptation professionals working in “middle America” this is great news. The report’s key findings demonstrate just how different these two areas are and why they bear having two different sections. The Northern Chapter’s key takeaways are about agricultural changes, water sensitivity, and the energy sector. The Southern Chapter’s key takeaways are about infrastructure, population growth management, and coastal preparedness. Both chapters explicitly address indigenous people, a thread that is highlighted across the report. Each regional chapter tells a story in a refreshingly unique voice:

Northeast
Southeast
U.S. Caribbean
Midwest
Northern Great Plains
Southern Great Plains
Northwest
Southwest
Alaska
Hawai‘i & U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands

Adopt a Case Study – This NCA sparkles with case study gems! From explicit chapters like, “Chapter 28:  Reducing Risk Through Adaptation Actions” to adaptation examples tucked into the regional chapters. A few examples that jump out are the implementation of green infrastructure in Utica, NY; changes by vintners in the Pacific Northwest, and changes in cattle ranching in Washington to increase productivity and reduce environmental risk.  A full summary of all the case studies is not currently available, but will be coming out soon.

For the Data Lovers – The report released last week is Volume II of NCA 4. Volume 1 was a trove of climate data, methodologies, attribution science, and definitions. If you are a local decision maker wishing for geographically significant climate data to inform your decisions – look no further. NCA 4 Volume 1 is just what your heart desires. You can find the downloads here: https://science2017.globalchange.gov/downloads/

With all this excitement, we can’t wait to talk about this at our upcoming ASAP events! We invite you to join ASAP at the AGU Fall Meeting in Washington DC on Wednesday morning, December 12 for a workshop on Growing into Principled Climate Change Adaptation Professionals and Transforming the Adaptation Field.  On December 14th, tune in to hear from ASAP Board Members Joyce Coffee and Jennifer Jurado for a membership information session online. Topics will include an overview of our membership and event engagement, our new interest group formation process, and more! Register today and learn about how you can participate in the new 2019 Member Interest Groups process!

ASAP Assumes Leadership of Resilience Dialogues

ASAP is excited to announce that we will be integrating the Resilience Dialogues program into the suite of ASAP services later this year.  Leadership of the Resilience Dialogues will transfer from the American Geophysical Union to ASAP to better reflect the multidisciplinary nature the program.  Through Resilience Dialogues, ASAP will be able to expand professional development and professional service opportunities for members, apply the content we’re creating for standards and training development, and assess emerging needs in the adaptation and resilience fields.

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