Earth Day 2021: A Discussion on Climate Adaptation

With insights from Bara Greplova, Future Energy Foundation, Joerg Walden, iPoint-systems gmbh, Khalid Belghiti, Scrypt Media, Jo Bronckers, FIBREE, Ira Feldman and Karl Schultz, Climate Chain Coalition

What is climate adaptation and how does it differ from climate mitigation?

A common conception about climate change is to (only) think about, in tandem, coal-fired power emissions and solar electricity, mixed in with deforestation and climate denialism, and maybe carbon credits. What’s missing in this conception is that climate change is happening regardless of how the world addresses the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate change and its effects.  The World Economic Forum ranked climate change as the biggest global economic and social risk, with effects including severe extreme weather events (heat, floods, drought, storms), destabilising ice sheets resulting in sea-level rise, biodiversity loss, collapsing ecosystems and food systems, mass migrations and spread of vector-borne diseases. Adaptation, while not a panacea, can prevent much of the damage: the Global Adaptation Committee estimates that a $1.8 trillion investment in climate adaptation (flood defenses, climate-adapted agriculture, etc.) by 2030 would yield $7.1 trillion in benefits.

Adaptation is much more complex than mitigation because it cuts across all different sectors at all levels of scale. It is important to appreciate that mitigation and adaptation are inextricably linked — the better job we do with mitigation by reducing greenhouse gases, the less adaptation we will need to do down the road. 

Why don’t we focus only on mitigation now? Science has told us that even if we ended all greenhouse gas emissions today, the climate will continue to change over the next two centuries. Adaptation is not just about building physical infrastructure like dams. We need to change behaviour. We need to change methods, approaches, policies, regulations. Indeed it is our very mindset that needs to adjust to the reality of climate change impacts.

To give INATBA Membership a better understanding of climate adaptation, INATBA’s Resilience and Adaptation Subgroup held an awareness-raising roundtable to showcase the tremendous opportunities related to harnessing blockchain for climate adaptation. This article consists of contributions from the event speakers. A full summary of the discussion is available exclusively for INATBA Members. 

Where is climate adaptation evident in the work of INATBA Members?

Future Energy Foundation, directed by Bara Greplova, Co-Chair of the INATBA Energy Working Group, focuses on vulnerable places that don’t always benefit from the latest innovation. “This is not only a question of developing countries, it also pertains to developed regions that face problems such as energy poverty. The focus goes beyond DLT and blockchain to include technology like digital twinning, AI, and other innovation. In terms of adaptation, our company focuses more on the softer measures to problems, i.e. we focus on the capacity building or behavior change and the potential in those areas, because they seem to be more feasible for the very near future.”

Joerg Walden, CEO of iPoint-systems gmbh, Co-Chair of INATBA Social Impact Working Group notes the importance of UN SDG 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) in his work. His company works with the automotive and electronics industry, combining both mitigation and adaptation strategies that call for enhanced transparency. This is a critical component of good corporate governance that is increasingly demanded by consumers. Companies should disclose what materials are used in their products, how the products are made and what impacts their products have on the environment, the community, and other areas. 

Jo Bronckers, Member of the INATBA Real Estate Working Group and VP of the FIBREE Board of Directors, works in the field of digital infrastructure. In this field, he focuses on Unique Object Identification (UOI), a technology that allows for rapid recognition and connection that is not possible with current data silos. More decentralised systems can be connected and allow for the exchange of information to solve real estate sector challenges like reduced land areas due to rising water levels.

Scrypt Media, founded by Khalid Belghiti, Co-Chair of the INATBA Social Impact Working Group, focuses on human-centered design research, product innovation and impact for social and environmental strategies. Humanity is facing numerous challenges and climate change is the root cause of many of them, meaning that many of his company’s social impact projects can also  be labelled as “climate adaptation” projects. However, when trying to find solutions, focusing on a root cause as huge as the climate crisis can be paralysing. Radical innovations such as new renewable energies or new transportation systems could reduce carbon emissions to zero, but for problems such as the refugee crisis, for which the climate is the first root cause, it is necessary to focus on the direct impacts like reduced financial and work opportunities. This is especially true for countries where 30 to 40 percent of the GDP is linked to agriculture, where crops are severely impacted by the climate crisis.

He notes: “Climate adaptation is here, almost everywhere. But we don’t always call it by its name.”

How can climate adaptation initiatives be implemented across industries and where does blockchain fit in?

Cooperation is key. Currently, a majority of industries are heavily siloed. Data comes from different streams and players, an issue that will not be combated with the introduction of multiple blockchains that continue to separate industries. It is necessary to consider how blockchain technology can be effectively used to combine industrial and regional impacts.

It is also important to consider UN SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development) in climate adaptation discussions, particularly in relation to blockchain. In a fully connected global world, the SDGs are a framework that requires team effort and Blockchain can similarly be considered a team sport. Blockchain can transform companies’ individual efforts into a concerted network effect while showing the individual contributions of every actor in the supply chain toward the collective goal of reducing the carbon footprint. In order to achieve the climate goals, we need the support of all supply chain actors. 

That being said, stakeholders are still battling the fact that blockchain as a technology is not very environmentally friendly. It is necessary to identify situations where implementing DLT is actually feasible and sustainable. A lot of research is still needed in addition to real-life use cases and regulatory sandboxes to test the technology in these particular circumstances. There is considerable work to be done and Earth Day 2021 reminds us of why this work is critical for the future. 

The INATBA Adaptation and Resilience Sub-Group welcomes insights from across the blockchain ecosystem. For more information on how to get involved, contact Karl Schultz. Not an INATBA Member and want to be part of the Sub-Group? Join Today.