GAIN brings private sector perspective to global adaptation conference

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Dr. Ian Noble, GAIN Chief Scientist, speaks during the first day of the Adaptation Futures Conference

More than 750 researchers and policy makers from around the world attended the 2012 International Conference on Climate Adaptation “Adaptation Futures” May 29 to 31 in Tucson, Arizona, with several participants from the private sector. Others included 380 public agencies, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions from 59 countries. GAIN Chief Scientist Dr. Ian Noble and Director of Science & Technology Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño brought the private sector perspective to the table in conference discussions.

“The private sector is often the silent actor in adaptation, rarely speaking, and even less frequently, solicited for the solutions and innovations that they can only provide,” Noble said.

Noble’s role at the conference included presiding over, “Perspectives from the Private & NGO Sector”. He shared his experiences from the adaptation field and work at GAIN during the panel “Resilient Systems and Uncertain Futures”. He also attended Adaptation Futures in support of his role with the The Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) Scientific Steering Committee. Noble emphasized that “adaptation won’t occur to the level necessary without involvement and investment from the private sector.”

Sánchez-Andrade Nuño presented the GAIN Index ( during the “Decision Tools for Adaptation” panel. The GAIN Index is a navigation tool that can help the private sector prioritize adaptation investments, as well as assist governments in determining the best public policies to facilitate such investments. 

To give perspective to the urgent need to adapt, a minimum of $70 billion per year by 2020 and up to $100 billion per year by 2050 will be needed to pay for adaptation, according to the World Bank report “The Economics of Adaptation”. There needs to be an enabled environment for private sector investments as resources are likely to originate from private sector funding. Allocation from the public sector is less than 1 percent.

“The private sector includes large international corporations down to the small-size companies – all generate jobs, which are the best tool for adaptation,” Sánchez-Andrade Nuño said. “Currently, the private sector is mostly missing, but they are coming to the table. We need to continue to engage them about the urgent need to adapt.”

Private sector engagement in sustainability traditionally occurs because of three reasons, 1) investment protection, 2) new markets, products and services, and 3) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Sánchez-Andrade Nuño said in his presentation.

“While the private sector recognizes the value of supporting adaptation for CSR purposes, the main driver is protection of their assets and supply lines and taking up new opportunities in a changing climate,” Noble said. “These investments will drive adaptation at scale.”

Panelists included:

John Firth, CEO and Founder, Acclimatise
Alex Noriega Guerra, Instituto Privado de Investigación sobre Cambio Climático de Guatemala
Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow, International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh
Steve Jennings, Head of the Programme Policy Team, Oxfam International
Peter Schultz, Principal, ICF International 

GAIN Council of Scientific Advisors Member Dr. Anand Patwardhan was featured during the session, “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) as Tools for Climate Change Adaptation Analysis and Assessment.” Patwardhan noted that there appears to be a divide between the public and private sectors in terms of the frequency and intensity of natural events and disasters. Public investments often consider the one-in-a-hundred year, highly catastrophic event, whereas, the private sector is more interested in lower-impact, more frequent events that directly affect their operations in the immediate or short term.

Co-hosted and convened by the University of Arizona in the southwestern United States, and by UNEP’s Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA), the conference focuses on adaptation to climate variability and change. The conference brings together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners from developed and developing countries to share insights into the challenges and opportunities that adaptation presents.

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