Climate Change(d): how we build resilience

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While the Philippines and the Americas recover from recent typhoons and hurricanes, Australians are preparing for a summer of extreme weather. The evidence shows that extreme events likes these are being made worse by climate change. Edge Environment (Edge) has been presenting workshops on climate change risk for clients and industry for over 10 years. To provide some context in these workshops, we use recent extreme weather to illustrate the potential impacts of future climate change. Whether these are the bushfires from last summer (and the rains that proceeded them) or the 2019 drought, there is no shortage of current examples. Our clients are becoming more receptive to the conversation as these impacts affect their lived experience.

This is reflected in the science. The most recent State of the Climate 2020 report from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, highlights that:

  • The Australian climate has warmed by an average of approximately 1.44°C since 1910.
  • Heatwave frequency is increasing.
  • Rainfall in the winter months has dropped by 12% on average since the 1990s.
  • There has been an increase in extreme fire weather across the country.
  • Sea levels are rising.

It is well known that carbon emissions are exacerbating these changes. Also that extreme weather and climate events are increasing in intensity, frequency and duration. Extreme climate is quickly becoming the new normal.

What does it mean for me?

As climate extremes become more severe, the natural and built environment becomes more vulnerable. The coping range of our infrastructure, such as parks, transport systems, schools, hospitals, homes and workplaces, is being tested. Many new assets are being built for a climate of the past, not of the future. The potential consequences of climate vulnerabilities are the focus of climate risk assessment. Evaluation of climate risk is essential to develop adaptation strategies that build asset resilience.

Climate change is driving more frequent and severe exceedances of the built environment’s coping range, making it more vulnerable to climate-related risk. Adaptation aims to broaden this coping range, addressing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience to uncertain climate futures.

Who is taking action?

Recognising the significance of climate change on the built environment, industry rating tools such as those from the Infrastructure Sustainability of Australia (ISCA), Global Real Estate Benchmark (GRESB) and Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), all demand increasingly thorough risk assessment and adaptation option assessment for both new and existing assets.

Much of the shift has been driven by the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) guidelines. The TCFD views climate risk as material and foreseeable, requiring shareholder disclosure of its financial impact. Since the launch of its first recommendations report in 2017, there has been significant momentum in uptake, with over 1,340 global companies expressing support for the initiative in the 2020 Status Report. This represents a market capitalisation of over USD 12 trillion.

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In Australia, legal opinion, insurers, regulatory bodies, and local communities are pushing the needle towards developing a more meaningful understanding of the impacts of climate change. More recently, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) outlined its plans to develop a TCFD-aligned climate-related financial risk prudential practice guide to better support Australian companies in financial climate risk disclosure.

Building on this momentum is the Climate Change Bill 2020, recently introduced to the Federal Parliament by Zali Steggall, OAM MP. She happens to be the local member where Edge’s Sydney office is located. The Bill calls for a National Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan.

How is climate risk assessed?

Climate change risks are both physical and transitional. Physical risks concern the physical implications of climate change (like the impact of hotter and drier conditions on people, buildings or farming), while transition risks refer to economic, technological or political shifts associated with a low carbon economy leading to important implications for businesses. In-depth climate risk assessment should address both, and disclosures should outline their financial implications.

Our work at Edge

Following current trends and expectations of society around climate risk, our services are growing and adapting. Edge offers a selection of services to identify risk and develop adaptation plans for diverse assets. Here are a few examples of the work that we do with clients to address physical risk:

Manage climate risk visually through our interactive climate risk mapping platform. It includes climate projection layers, historic climate and climate hazard data.

What is the historic and projected future climate of each site in your portfolio? How exposed is it to storms and bushfires? This analysis offers detailed summaries of climate related data across Australia, employing interactive, tailored dashboards to communicate results and hotspots.

Gain deeper, stakeholder driven insights through vulnerability assessments. Through this type of assessment, Edge remotely identifies the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of an asset portfolio and links this with climate exposure to develop an informed picture of asset vulnerability.

Site-specific assessments are our most common request. We offer collaborative (in-person and remote) risk workshops and develop action-oriented adaptation plans for building resilience to a changing climate and supporting the implementation process.

What does the future hold?

Global inaction on emissions reduction seals the deal for continued climate change. With this will come an acceptance of its challenges and opportunities. Edge plays a meaningful role in addressing emissions and supporting early adopters to build resilience with a plan for climate change.

We see incredible opportunities to support organisations through live climate risk tracking tools, remote site risk assessments and deeper analysis into interdependencies and complex systems. We need partners to build on these ideas, with the goal of preparing for an uncertain future.

If you’d like to work with us or find out more, please reach out to Maisie Auld, our Head of Carbon and Climate Resilience: maisie@edgeenvironment.com.au


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