Public-private collaboration essential to tackle climate challenge

Stronger links between business, academia and the public sector essential to thrive in a warming world

(Pic: Don Becker, USGS/Flickr)

As flooding becomes more common, urban areas will need to develop innovative ways of adapting (Pic: Don Becker, USGS/Flickr)

By Mary Ritter

While the recent report from the IPCC highlighted the inconvenient truth that global warming is very much a reality, it is vital that businesses, as well as local and national governments look beyond the sensational headlines to understand the real risks and opportunities presented by climate change.

As the chairman of the study warned, no one on the planet will be untouched by the damaging effects of global warming in coming decades.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that an impressive number of scientific, social and entrepreneurial efforts to avert these dangers are already well under way.

These projects are creating new opportunities for businesses as well as improving the lives of individuals and communities.

For example, earlier this year Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest climate innovation initiative, launched the The Open Access Catastrophe Model (OASIS), a new open-source model that addresses the uncertainty of natural disasters and combats the setbacks of existing models.

With the frequency and severity of natural disasters increasing, the cost of catastrophe loss is soaring and governments, corporations, aid organisations and tax payers are left to bear the costs.

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OASIS, which is available to anyone looking to understand and respond to the level of risk, has already been embraced enthusiastically by the insurance industry, where the potential benefits include: better informed risk selection, pricing and capital allocation, more focussed reinsurance negotiation, support for regulatory compliance, wider choice, greater transparency and reduced cost in modelling.

The project, which has received €2.8 million in funding from Climate-KIC is now co-managed by a group of 21 insurers, reinsurers, brokers and Lloyds’ of London through a not-for-profit community.

It has been welcomed by Trevor Maynard, Head of Lloyd’s Exposure Management and Reinsurance Team, who has referred to it as “a global standard to allow model developers to interact worldwide and for insurers to gain rapid access to their insights.

However, the package will be useful to a much broader audience, including risk managers in large corporations, governments and entrepreneurs, who need to develop new models that enable them to respond to the impact of natural catastrophes.

This collaborative approach to knowledge-sharing will be a key factor in our ability to respond to the risks and opportunities of irreversible climate change.

For this reason, Climate-KIC is working closely with the public, private and education sectors to foster innovative partnerships and projects that will help to reduce the human, ecological and financial cost of climate change.

Flooding risks

Another Climate-KIC innovation project that is set to make a real difference to thousands of lives is Smart Urban Water.

By providing urban areas with an extensive data network Smart Urban Water enables them to face the impact of extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall and long periods of drought, by making better use of their sewer system.

After successful pilots in Delft in the Netherlands, as well as London and Paris, the Smart Urban Water data network will now be implemented on a large scale in the city of Rotterdarm.

Climate-KIC is also sponsoring projects that address man-made environmental impacts such as congestion.

One such example is a project called ‘behavioural changes for sustainable urban mobile’ (BestMOB) which brings together partners from city and provincial authorities, knowledge institutions and the private sector to develop new business models for sustainable urban mobility.

I strongly believe that smart and creative partnerships like this will ensure Europe plays an active role in shaping the world’s next economy.  We are stepping up our activities further in 2014 to ensure Europe is driving the innovation that will deliver the new business and economic models we are going to need.

Market benefits

By bringing together the most innovative, influential and commercially-minded players in the climate science space, Climate-KIC is creating a unique community of academics, entrepreneurs and business leaders capable of driving new solutions that address concrete market demands.

Much of our work is focused on providing the education the business and political leaders of the future are going to need to help bridge the gap between science and business and meet the changing needs of a world where climate change is a daily reality.

Around 400 participants are expected to take part in Climate-KIC’s new business school programmes, with eleven professional courses and three executive courses planned across Europe in 2014.

In my role at Climate-KIC I have been privileged to see just how many individuals and organisations have already taken the first step, with many new approaches coming to market and delivering real benefits to communities and businesses all over the world.

These projects demonstrate that climate change does not have to be a calamity, if we act together and we act now.

Mary Ritter is CEO of Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on mitigating and adapting to climate change. Follow her on Twitter @Ritter_Mary

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