Investing in equitable climate adaptation with the J-ADAPT toolkit


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Climate change and a drought of data

Climate change is accelerating. Already in 2024, there have been several fatal storms and floods across Pakistan; the deadliest forest fires Chile has even seen have claimed more than 100 lives; and January’s record-breaking temperatures set this up to be the hottest year since records began.

Consistently higher global temperatures, fluctuating seasons, and the proliferation of extreme weather events are costing more people their homes, lives and families every year. The mounting climate crisis is the central challenge of the 21st century, and communities must adapt to the changing world if they are to survive it. This is especially true in Emerging and Developing Economies (EMDE), where communities often lack the resources and support to prepare for or recover from these events.

  • In developing economies alone, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has projected annual climate adaptation costs of $155 - $330 billion between 2020-30
  • Despite these needs, UNEP’s 2023 Adaptation Gap report estimated that multilateral and bilateral financial support to developing nations declined by 15% in 2021

The need for adaptation is undeniable, but there is a real challenge with collecting the right type of data for climate adaptation projects. And without actionable data, it can be impossible to project what a community’s adaptation needs might be, much less secure the funding to meet them.

What is the J-ADAPT toolkit?

The Environmental Change Institute (ECI), based out of Oxford University, was founded to explore solutions to climate change, trying to motivate and implement change around the globe and mitigate the risks and effects of climate disaster. With funding from the Howden Foundation, the ECI is building a new product in climate risk modelling: the Just Adaption (J-ADAPT) toolkit. Open-source by design, it is built on a framework of freely accessible open-data and toolkits.

J-ADAPT is unprecedented among climate risk modelling tools in that it collates a set of data about a community’s unique social and locational vulnerabilities, and combines this with nature analytics such as drought or flood risks. As a result investors, insurers and financial backers can easily see the risks that different communities are facing in real-time, and support those that need it most.

J-ADAPT derives its title from an emerging framework in discussions on climate adaptation which Dr. Nicola Ranger, Head of the Resilience and Development Group at the ECI, explained when discussing the project:

“Just Adaptation is a new concept which explicitly acknowledges the uneven distribution of climate change impacts on people and places, the links to natural capital and the uneven needs and capabilities, with the aim to implement strategies that both reduce the unequal burden of climate risks, and ensure equity in the distribution of benefits (and burdens) of adaptation…

A tool like this is essential to ensure that everyone can access the same basic level of information about risks and solutions on a level playing field, overcoming the information asymmetries that can create a barrier.”

How will J-ADAPT help climate resilience?

The ECI’s new toolkit will empower communities to have their unique risk profiles recognised and strengthen the efforts to raise funding to address those risks. Professor Hall is the head of the Oxford Programme for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (OPSIS) at the ECI and Professor of Climate and Environmental Risk. He highlighted the importance of such visualisations in securing vital investment and support for adaptation projects:

“National governments, communities, and infrastructure investors urgently need better information to understand physical climate risk to inform just and inclusive adaptation planning and investment.

Much of the estimated $360+ billion per year needed to adapt to climate change is related to infrastructure – schools, hospitals, water, energy, transport and nature-based solutions – with economic benefits of at least $4 for each dollar invested and the social benefits far higher still. But these investments have been stalled by lack of access to reliable, high quality and relevant climate and risk information.

The fact that the tool is fully open and accessible levels the playing field in access to high quality information between stakeholders and ensures the most vulnerable communities have access.”

About the Howden Foundation

The J-ADAPT toolkit is positioned to benefit communities that  are most vulnerable to the dangers of climate change and this goal embodies the Howden Foundation’s core values, as Clare Ballantine, Head of the Foundation, explains:

“As climate hazards become more frequent and more intense, communities at heightened risk of disaster require urgent access to information that supports them to plan and prioritise solutions for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction

We are proud to support the ECI in this important initiative in pursuit of our work to empower high risk communities to build long term resilience against climate-related disasters.”

The Howden Foundation is a key investor in the development of the ECI’s new J-ADAPT toolkit, which represents an unprecedented advance toward greater equity and accessibility to data for climate vulnerable communities.