Questions Surrounding Adaptation @ Environmental Industry Summit

Author: Meghan Doherty

After spending three days in sunny San Diego at CCBJ’s Environmental Industry Summit, I suspect most attendees left with a strong commitment to their work and a sense of inspiration for the evolving environmental field. However, many also carried apprehension and uncertainty with them as the summit begged more questions than provided answers.

There is simply no way we will achieve the goal to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This sentiment resonated throughout the various presentations and panels, from engineers to scientists to industry leads. Though the Paris Agreement coming out of COP21 is revered and continually cited as a milestone in global climate discussions, the scientific community is united in its assessment that 2 degrees is simply an unreachable goal.

What does it mean for our planet that we will not meet this target?

With climate change impacts already culminating in death and destruction, our global inability to meet this goal makes our world more susceptible to greater risk. We have entered a new era of climate change, one where we see the effects here and now, one where we are united as a global community under the Paris Agreement, and one where despite our best mitigation efforts, there is a demanding and present need to adapt to a changed world.

But where do we start? Who should adapt and how? Who should pay for it?

These are just a few questions we tussled with during the Summit. Though the questions far outweighed the answers, a few things were clear:

  1. Adaptation is inherently local, and therefore strategies and actions should be a primarily bottom-up effort. However, there is a place for a top-down approach to adaptation, particularly in measurement standards, policy instruments, and finance.
  2. The insurance and re-insurance sector has a unique role to play in adaptation. Though in a nascent stage currently, this is a field expected to rapidly evolve.
  3. The private sector is increasingly becoming aware of the risks to their supply chains from climate change and is incentivized to promote/facilitate adaptive actions. However, they are lacking relevant information and tools to best direct their efforts.

We are at an inflection point regarding adaptation awareness and action, and the community will be looking to organizations like ND-GAIN to lead the way.