Who should fund Australia's adaptation to climate change?
The current state of adaptation policy, like the rest of climate policy, is highly uncertain. The refusal to refund NCCARF by the current government, presumably to help reduce the budget deficit, was seen by many as robbing Peter to pay Paul. Much like taking from tertiary education funds to increase secondary school funding.
There is also a view that the federal government should fund mitigation and the states fund adaptation. Some state governments have taken this to heart by dismantling renewable energy programs but have not necessarily invested in adaptation to the same extent.
Victoria is the most organised state, funding the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research supported by the state adaptation plan, with South Australia closely behind.
However, in Queensland, one of Campbell Newman’s first actions as premier was to close the Office of Climate Change. Programs continue in data preparation and delivery, and the Queensland Government says it is committed to responsibly and cost-effectively managing the impacts of climate change on our economy, communities, infrastructure and environmental assets, but gives little detail on how this is being done.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars of state and federal funds are being used to rebuild infrastructure after recent disasters, but much of it is being rebuilt to the same standards and in the same locations.
Advanced commentary weaves Aussie politics and climate risk together. And it gets better, via The Conversation
USGS moves to create climate change vulnerability database
Insurance companies shunning Florida over climate risk, report says - South Florida Business Journal
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is moving to create a registry of climate change vulnerability to better protect wildlife, ecosystems and dams.
The registry will collect and display information on climate change adaptation projects underway across the country, Laura Thompson, a biologist with the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, told The Hill. It will pool from federal, state, local and tribal governments, she said.
It comes amid a second-term climate change push by President Obama. The president is leaning on federal agencies to address the issue, and part of his plan calls for greater collaboration with state and local governments.
The notice to gather information for the registry will be filed in Wednesday’s Federal Register.
The intent of the registry, Thompson said, is to improve planning as governments embark on climate change mitigation efforts to protect species, habitats and water infrastructure.
Insurance industry is leaving home and business owners (and cities) in the dust by pulling out of high-storm areas.
A new report by nonprofit environmental coalition Ceres says the insurance industry is shunning Florida markets because of increased storm activity, while insurers have done little to prepare for climate change.
1st Arab Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction
The Ceres report is littered with references to insurers applying special conditions to Florida. Excerpts from the report:
• Several insurers describe screening out securities or real assets from coastal regions (particularly Florida) and arid regions with perceived water scarcity such as the Southwest. Particularly following the spate of destructive storm and drought activity in 2012, these investment screening practices should be noted by real asset owners and bond issuers.
• Already, divestiture from coastal counties and municipalities is a reality. This ranges from simple embargos like that adopted by Hudson Insurance Company (“We have determined not to buy State of Florida bonds,”) to more general policies.
• Torchmark Group said in its survey response, “In response to the potential for major catastrophe losses, the companies have not purchased investments such as Florida Windstorm bonds, Oil Casualty bonds, etc. We continuously monitor conditions in all sectors that are, or could be, affected by future climate developments.”
Great built environment news from the Middle East. They’re getting into disaster management (and a bit of climate adaptation). The conference was held last month in Aqaba, Jordan. And you can view and download a boatload of power point presentations by the speakers, here.
Not sure how long the resources will be online, so get them while they last!
Obama Will Use Nixon-Era Law to Fight Climate Change
The conference will provide a forum for Arab politicians, policy makers, planners, academia and development experts to discuss issues and challenges facing the region with regard to disaster risk reduction. This session is being co-organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and the League of Arab States (LAS).
Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.
In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.
Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.
Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.
The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).
In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.
So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.
Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.
Queue a big political fight on this one.
Investors Seek Ways to Profit From Global Warming
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.
The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.
“It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.
In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Via the excellent Bloomberg.com
Pretty good pulse-taking by Bizweek.
Now some investors are taking another approach. Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, they’re investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter. (The World Bank says the earth could warm by 4C by the end of the century.) Their strategies include buying water treatment companies, brokering deals for Australian farmland, and backing a startup that has engineered a mosquito to fight dengue, a disease that’s spreading as the mercury climbs.
Derivatives that help companies hedge against abnormal weather and natural catastrophes are drawing increased interest from some big players. In January, KKR (KKR) bought a 25 percent stake in Nephila Capital, an $8 billion Bermuda hedge fund that trades in weather derivatives. (The firm is named after a spider that, according to local folklore, can predict hurricanes.)
“Climate risk is something people are paying more and more attention to,” says Barney Schauble, managing partner at Nephila Advisors, the firm’s U.S. arm. “More volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk.”
Drought is helping spur business at Water Asset Management. The New York hedge fund, which has about $400 million under management, buys water rights and makes private equity and stock market investments in water treatment companies. “Not enough people are thinking long term of [water] as an asset that is worthy of ownership,” says Chief Operating Officer Marc Robert. “Climate change for us is a driver.”
Via Business Week