Adaptation is Essential: Global Decision Makers Prioritize Urgent Need to Build Resilience

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From left, Claudia McMurray, Senior Counselor at The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit; Frank Nutter, President at the Reinsurance Association of America; and Dr. Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader at Ecolab, participate in the Managing Risk and Responding to Change panel May 10.

The Annual Meeting & Scientific Convening of the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) centered on one theme – the urgent need to adapt to the changing global climate requires pragmatic solutions with the private sector leading the effort.

GAIN Founding CEO Dr. Juan Jose Daboub, former Managing Director at the World Bank, noted that even five years ago, the topic of adaptation wasn’t being discussed. Now, with the backing of credible data from scientists around the world and the increase in quantity and cadence of natural events, we need to invest in order to prepare for these global challenges.

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Dr. Juan José Daboub, GAIN Founding CEO, gives opening remarks the Scientific Convening May 10 at the Carnegie Endowment.

"Adaptation leadership requires us to look toward the future and understand how business will be impacted by population growth, changing ecosystems, shifting demographics, economic development and climate impacts," Dr. Daboub said.

GAIN Chief Scientist Dr. Ian Noble, former Lead Climate Change Specialist at the World Bank, in his opening presentation about the state of adaptation and the GAIN Index said, ”Adaptation is essential.” Dr. Noble has guided the creation of the GAIN Index, which looks at a countries readiness and vulnerability to adapt.

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Dr. Caroline Sullivan, right, GAIN Council of Scientific Advisors Member and Associate Professor at the School of Environmental Science and Management-Southern Cross University, Australia, asks a question while, from left, Walter Jokisch, former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador; Dr. María De Lourdes Dieck Assad, Director General, Graduate Schools of Business and Government of ITESM at the Tecnólogico de Monterrey; and Dr. Claudio Szlafsztein, Professor at the Center of Environmental Sciences Federal University of Pará, Brazil, look on.

As decision makers consider solutions in adaptation, the GAIN Index helps prioritize investments by assessing a countries’ vulnerabilities and readiness to adapt to climate change, population growth, urbanization and other global challenges. The private sector’s role in adaptation continues to grow through involvement, cooperation and partnerships in adaptation. Discussions at GAIN’s 2012 Annual Meeting & Scientific Convening sparked ideas for new opportunities, services and products to build resilience to climate change.

Dan Bena, Senior Director for Sustainability for PepsiCo, serves as the water subject matter expert at PepsiCo and following his panel at the GAIN meeting, he now equates both water and agriculture at the nexus of the arising global challenges, which also include global health, food security and more. Open dialogue will be important to improve the lives of those most vulnerable.

"The common thread through many of the panels was the idea of interconnectivity," Bena said. "If we are going to be collaborative, and GAIN is the gold standard of a collaborative NGO, we need to break down these [barriers] so that people who are talking about agriculture can talk to the people who are talking about, water resources management, policy – all of those people need to be at the same table."

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From left, GAIN Founding Chief Scientist Dr. Ian Noble, and Dr. William Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, participate in the Summary/Working Groups Session at the Scientific Convening of the Global Adaptation Institute May 10 at the Carnegie Endowment.

Participants in the panels and presentations included AECOM, Baker & McKenzie, Bentley Systems, Inc., Black & Veatch, Calvert Investments, CDM Smith, CH2M Hill, Ecolab, ERM, Ernst & Young, NGP Energy Capital Management, PepsiCo, PSEG, Sheppard Mullin, Swiss Re, The Kresge Foundation, Walter P Moore, Zurich and more. 

Gary Lawrence, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for AECOM, emphasized the need to prioritize investments in adaptation to make the greatest difference and minimize risk. AECOM considers adaptation on two levels to ensure that the investments are stretched to do the greatest good over the longest period of time. 

“Part of this has to do whether we are a good employer and able to anticipate the consequences of the locational challenges,” Lawrence said. “It is also a business issue for our clients who are starting to recognize (government, private sector, NGOs), that they need to maximize the benefits of their investments over the long-term … through design, development and locational decisions.”

Rick Saines, Partner at Baker & McKenzie and Head of North American Environmental Markets and Climate Change Practice, noted that Baker & McKenzie has been a part of the climate change conversation for more than a decade and over the last few years adaptation has become an essential part of the global dialogue and action.

“Adaptation for [Baker & McKenzie] is the logical next step in terms of the evolution of where the discussion of climate issues, policies and negotiations are going,” Saines said. “So, we are very excited about our involvement with GAIN. There are a lot of opportunities to explore strategies that incorporate both a mitigation and an adaptation element. That is the sweet spot where positive mitigation efforts reinforce urgent adaptation needs, so we need to focus more attention on ways to address both challenges effectively. GAIN is an important tool to do just that.”

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Claire Lyons, Founder, Chief Catalyst at theThe Partnerships Advisory Former PepsiCo Foundation Partnerships & Portfolios Officer, presents on the Finance & Funding panel at the Scientific Convening while Carol Rieg, Corporate Foundation Officer Bentley Systems, Inc., listens. 

Honored guests included the former President of Spain José María Aznar; the former President of Bolivia Jorge Quiroga; the Annual Meeting lunch speaker, the Secretary of State for Trade of Spain Jaime García-Legaz; and GAIN Board of Directors Chairman and NGP Energy Capital Management CEO Kennneth A. Hersh.

"In the end, it is about the lives and livelihoods of people in developing countries," said GAIN CEO Dr. Daboub. "The private sector, civil society and leaders from the public sector will make the difference in the lives of these people.”

Categories: annual meeting