‘Adaptation Without Borders’ Initiative Supports Joint Action on Indirect Climate Risks
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The project builds on a multi-country adaptation study, which identifies four international climate risk “pathways” that can help countries in considering the range of indirect climate impacts they could potentially face.

Over time, the study concludes, climate change may also be a factor in changing the general conditions of economic stability and structure and scope for regional and global governance.

Ahead of the 2019 UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, ODI and Wilton Park convened a high-level event to present the study findings and launch the ‘Adaptation without Borders’ initiative.

19 September 2019: Ahead of the 2019 UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, a high-level event launched ‘Adaptation without Borders,’ a joint initiative of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and partners, which aims to harness international cooperation to effectively govern and manage transboundary climate risks.

The project builds on a multi-country adaptation study, implemented between 2013 and 2015, which was also presented during the launch event, convened by ODI and Wilton Park.

The study identifies four international climate risk “pathways” that can help countries in considering the range of indirect climate impacts they could potentially face, enabling them to develop more robust and effective climate-compatible development strategies. Linked to this, the project aims to better understand the level of interdependence between rich and poorer countries in terms of climate risks.

The study finds that climate change directly impacts “receptor systems” such as sectors, markets or societies abroad, which, in turn, alter critical flows of goods, capital, people and resources via climate risk pathways, creating an “indirect climate change impact” on decision makers in other countries. The research led to the development of the Adaptation without Borders Index of Exposure, which explores the characteristics of national economies that expose them to indirect climate risks via four international climate risk pathways:

  • The bio-physical pathway that encompasses transboundary ecosystems, such as international river basins, oceans and the atmosphere;
  • The trade pathway that transmits climate risks within regional and global markets and across international supply chains;
  • The finance pathway, which represents the effect of climate impacts on the flow of capital, including the exposure of both publicly and privately held assets overseas that suffer lower yields or devaluation as the result of major disasters, or over time as climate change erodes the profitability and returns from various enterprises; and
  • The people pathway, which encapsulates the effects of climate change in, for example, the emergence of new migration patterns or the rise of climate-sensitive human health risks.

Rich countries and emerging economies ranking high on the index requiring urgent action reveal a “criminally under-appreciated” gap in research.

By applying diverse scenarios, researchers found that climate change may alter or worsen the security situation in many regions, influencing the range of options or the costs, benefits and rewards of specific adaptation measures. Over time, the study concludes, climate change may also be a factor in changing the general conditions of economic stability and structure and scope for regional and global governance, “forcing individual countries to re-think their approach to adaptation at the national level.”

The study also finds evidence that indirect risks linked to internal and regional migration and cross-border trade affect many least developed countries (LDCs) and developing countries that are already highly vulnerable to direct impacts. Given that direct climate impacts also pose threats to these countries, the study recommends adaptation strategies to reduce food systems’ vulnerability by balancing imports with domestic production and growing a diverse array of crops. Citing the case of Senegal, which depends heavily on rice imports and was hit hard by the 2008 food crisis, the study notes that focusing on increasing domestic rice production alone would not fully avert the risks posed by direct climate impacts.

At the same time, according to Magnus Benzie, SEI, one of the researchers involved in the study, rich countries and emerging economies rank high on the index requiring urgent action, revealing a gap that is “criminally under-appreciated” in research and debates about climate policy in rich countries.

The project produced an analytical framework that can be used to identify indirect impacts of climate change, with an accompanying package of resources for decision makers that explains the concept of indirect impacts and the four key risk pathways, as well as how countries can address indirect risks in their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

Among new studies linked to the Adaptation without Borders framework, SEI’s ‘Producer-to-Consumer Sustainability’ initiative is applying trade-related modeling tools to examine in more spatial detail the distribution of risks and responsibilities in complex global supply chains, including from a climate change perspective. [weAdapt Blog Post] [SEI Press Release] [ODI Press Release] [Video of Launch Event] [Conceptual Framework]


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