Adapting To Climate Change

By Chaoni Huang, Jonathan Ho 26 May, 2021

Like it or not, climate impacts are getting increasingly 'up close & personal' yet, adaptation finance is lagging, warn BNP's Huang & Ho

Latest data shows we are heading towards a 3°C world & some climate impacts are already locked-in e.g. water shortages are threatening the beverage industry to the value of US$247bn
Yet adaptation finance is lagging; it needs to increase 5 to 10-fold for developing countries & ADB estimates Asia must invest US$40bn/yr through 2030 for adaptation
Adaptation also makes business sense, that's why banks & investors need to finance both private/public led adaptation projects & adapt their portfolios to a warming world

This article appeared originally on the BNP Paribas Corporate and Investment Bank website.

While the fight for decarbonization garners the headlines, there is an important, and often-overlooked, flip side of the climate change coin. Inevitably, some effects of climate changed have been locked into the system, and cannot be reversed even if the world achieves carbon neutrality by 2060. Climate change adaptation needs urgent global attention – and funding.

Heading towards a 3°C temperature rise, some changes are already locked-in

According to the latest United Nations Environment Programme Emissions (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report, we are still headed towards a 3°C temperature rise. Even with the most ambitious decarbonisation efforts, some changes are already locked into planetary systems and bringing unavoidable consequences.

While decarbonisation is critical and gaining momentum, we must not forget the other side of the climate action agenda – climate change adaptation.

What is climate change adaptation?

The European Commission defines climate change adaptation as follows:

Adapting to climate change means taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current effects of climate change the predicted impacts in the future.

From a climate risk management perspective, adaptation will be a vital element in the efforts to minimise climate risk.

Like it or not, climate change impacts are getting increasingly “up close and personal”

Climate change impacts are getting increasingly “up close and personal” whether we like it or not. Last year, 2020, was one of the warmest years on record and over 50 million people globally have been directly affected by floods, droughts, storms or wildfires. Without adaptation, many highly populated and low lying Asian megacities are at risk of flooding and typhoons.

The cost of climate related disasters have more than quadrupled since the 1980s. Conservative predictions suggest that such events will become increasingly frequent which could lead to asset value losses and economic disruption. For example, extreme weather has cost China US$30 billion a year since the 1990s.

Water shortages are threatening the beverage industry to the value of $247bn

Industries most at risk include insurance, agriculture, forestry, beverage, tourism, commercial fishing and energy, to name a few. Water shortages are threatening the beverage industry to the value of US$247 billion and will limit the availability of cooling water for thermal power generation. Energy assets, buildings and infrastructure in low lying coastal areas are particularly vulnerable.

Unpredictable weather patterns have a direct negative impact in the long term production of renewable energy. Ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures are impacting salmon, trout and shellfish habitat loss as high as 17% by 2030, diminishing populations. The trend of more frequent extreme weather events is driving up premiums and payouts, putting a financial strain on the insurance industry.

Adaptation and resilience is imperative. To combat these losses, we must accelerate the deployment of finance to mitigate climate-related risks.

The climate adaptation finance gap

According to the latest data from Climate Policy Initiative, total climate finance flows – including domestic and international, public and private flows – were estimated at US$579 billion per year for 2017–2018. The overwhelming majority went to mitigation, with only US$30 billion to adaptation.

Adaptation finance needs to increase 5 to 10-fold for developing countries

At the same time, annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated to be in the range of US$140–300 billion by 2030. This means adaptation finance needs to increase five to 10-fold to meet the needs in developing countries alone.

Climate Bonds Initiative’s green bond database records that, amongst the global green bonds cumulatively issued to date, only a meagre 1.7% of the volume were channelled to finance climate adaptation and resilience activities.

ADB estimates Asia must invest US$40bn/yr through 2030 to adequately adapt to climate risk

Many public and private assets will need to adapt to withstand the effects of climate change. The financing of adaptation measures is particularly important for Asia due to the region’s significant infrastructure needs. The Asian Development Bank estimates that Asia must invest US$40 billion per year through 2030 to adequately adapt to climate risk. 

Investing in adaptation makes business sense

Despite the glaring finance gap, climate adaptation holds a solid business case for investment. The Global Center on Adaptation estimates the benefit-cost ratios of investing in climate adaptation to range from 2:1 to 10:1.

US$1.8trn adaptation investment = US$7.1trn in avoided costs & other socio/environ benefits

Separately, the Global Commission on Adaptation estimated that a US$1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, climate resilient infrastructure, improved agriculture, global mangrove protection and resilient water resources could generate US$7.1 trillion in avoided costs and other social and environmental benefits.

Some key economies in Asia have already started taking action:

  • Singapore has devised a US$72 billion plan, to be implemented over the course of the century, to safeguard against rising temperatures and floodwaters, as well as a US$300 million plan to climate-proof its drainage system
  • In China, rural projects have helped farmers develop new maize varieties that are better adapted to drought and pests
  • The Korean Green New Deal includes a plan of establishing AI-based water management systems in response to flooding and drought
  • Tokyo Metro is investing in water ingress prevention and minimising flood-related damage in the subways through precipitation data analysis, as well as enhancing station facilities and emergency response for passenger safety

An emerging discussion is the role of nature-based methods as climate solutions. The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020 finds that the protection, restoration and management of rivers, floodplains, peatlands, forests, and urban green and blue spaces can effectively address climate-related hazards of sea level rise, storm surge, intense precipitation, drought, and more. These solutions have the simultaneous effect of carbon absorption and decarbonisation – a true win-win solution for both mitigation and adaptation.

Financial Solutions for Climate Adaptation

It is crucial for the financial sector to step up to the climate adaptation need. Banks and investors should finance both private and public led climate adaptation projects and adapt their portfolios to a warming world.

New dedicated financial products such as climate resilience bonds could help issuers fill the adaptation finance gap via the capital market. Blended finance could also help de-risk private-sector investment in new technologies and climate-adaptive solutions.

Banks & investors should finance both private & public led climate adaptation projects

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development launched the world’s first dedicated climate resilience bond in September 2019, raising US$700 million to invest in climate resilient urban infrastructure, climate adaptation transitions in business and commercial operations, and climate resilient agricultural and ecological systems.

The five-year bond attracted demand from 40 investors in 15 countries. BNP Paribas was Joint Lead Manager for the innovative milestone transaction. Considering the broader climate emergency context, such transactions could and should be replicated.

A Conducive Market for Climate Adaptation Finance

As institutions and corporations start to adopt the risk management and disclosure practices recommended by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the exposure and vulnerability of assets to climate risk will be increasingly clear. With greater transparency, investors will start to take measures to favour the financing of climate resilient activities, while investments with high climate impact vulnerability will become less attractive.

Simultaneously, as taxonomies develop, we will have further clarity on what defines an impactful climate adaptation activity. The EU taxonomy is signalling to investors that adaptation is consistent and in fact needed to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement targets, and financing into these activities is in line with responsible investment strategies.

Many investors are also proactively seeking to address adaptation and resilience. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, an alliance of approximately 275 investors with €35 trillion assets under management, has a mission of not just mobilising capital for the low carbon transition but also to ensure resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. The Principles for Responsible Investment is also increasingly providing more guidance and resources to its signatories on climate adaptation and resilience.

“In the midst of our “race to net zero”, we must not forget climate adaptation”

In the midst of our “race to net zero”, we must not forget climate adaptation. The time for climate adaptation finance is now: the urgent need, the economic case, and the conducive market and policy environment. What are we waiting for?

Further Reading

  • Climate Fight: Finance As Asia’s Most Effective Weapon – Green finance is set to take off as regulations promote carbon pricing and better disclosure but Dr Ma and Huang also see gaps that need closing like integrating ESG factors in risk management
  • Sovereigns At Risk: Lots Of Capital In Vulnerable Spots – Clustered nature of rising coastal threats plus lax govt action put APAC sovereigns at risk. CWR’s analysis of GDP, trade, markets & bank loans reveal intense concentration of risks. As no-sense strategies pervade, see who’s in CWR’s watchlist
  • A Transformational Framework For Water Risk – DWS’s Francesco Curto, Michael Lewis & Murray Birt share their latest report’s findings on how investors should address water risks with a new transformational framework
  • Bankable Nature Solutions: A Case Study – Is there a way to stop land subsidence, create climate resilience & raise farmers’ incomes? WWF’s Thomas Gomersall & Jean-Marc Champagne say the integrated rice & shrimp model does exactly that
  • Climate Change On Flood Risk Assessment & Adaptation Approach – Climate change is adding great uncertainty to traditional flood risk assessment. Should the models trusted? How should govts adapt to it? Oxford scholar Natalie Chung shares her insights

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Chaoni Huang
Author: Chaoni Huang
As Head of Sustainable Capital Markets for Global Markets Asia Pacific, Chaoni leads BNP Paribas’ sustainable finance solutions for corporate, financial institutions and investors with a focus on primary asset finance and securitisation. Working with Global Markets in Asia Pacific and the Bank’s global sustainable finance community, Chaoni drives BNP Paribas’ continued expansion and leadership in Asian sustainable debt capital markets. Chaoni is an industry veteran with over 13 years of experience in sustainable finance having held various ESGrelated roles at Natixis, S&P Trucost, MSCI and the United Nations. In addition to her role at BNP Paribas, Chaoni is also deeply embedded in the sustainable finance industry where she is Vice President and Secretary General of the Hong Kong Green Finance Association and a guest researcher for the China Economy and Sustainable Development Centre at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. Chaoni received her Bachelor of Economics from the University of Warwick.
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Jonathan Ho
Author: Jonathan Ho
As Associate of Sustainable Capital Markets, Jonathan supports BNP Paribas’ development and delivery of sustainable finance solutions for corporate, financial institution, sovereign and supranational clients across the Asia Pacific markets. Jonathan is an experienced sustainability professional, having held key roles at Business Environment Council and Earthwatch Institute prior to joining BNP Paribas, where he led corporate sustainability research and engagement, as well as ESG policy advocacy and thought leadership work. He is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community. Jonathan received his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, his Master of Arts in Environmental Education from New York University, and is a certificate holder from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
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