Water security: huge climate risk, huge business opportunity

The Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) plans to help millions of vulnerable people better adapt to shocks and chronic stresses and thrive in a more resilient future

In 2011 in Pakistan, over 5.4 million people – including 2.7 million children – were affected by monsoon rains and flooding, and this number was expected to rise (Pic: UNICEF)

Next week I, along with a range of innovators and experts, will take to the stage at COP 22 to discuss how we address one of the world’s most pressing and complex climate issues – water security. As those of you heading to Marrakech will know, this is a highly complex issue driven by three core factors: water scarcity, governance and transboundary access. Outside of these sit a further range of variables which impact water security, spanning biophysical, infrastructural, political, social, institutional and financial issues. The result, a clean and consistent water supply, something we take for granted, becomes a highly volatile and heavily politicised commodity.

As policymakers mix with business leaders in the ancient city to tackle these and other issues, it’s clear that the private sector has an opportunity to take a seat at the table. Investing to bring about both financial benefit for the investor and to support positive development or social outcomes encourages growth in communities facing uncertainty, converting supposed risk into market opportunity in a way that benefits all. Turning Risk into Reward: Opportunities for Business at the Development Table will see a panel of international experts discuss the issue – how it can be quantified, addressed and resolved in a way which is both sustainable and scalable. The Global Resilience Partnership (GRP), convened with US$ 150million by The Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and Sida, plans to help millions of vulnerable people in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and South East Asia better adapt to shocks and chronic stresses and thrive in a more resilient future. Turning Risk into Reward: Opportunities for Business at the Development Table will take place at 10-11.30am, 10 November, Africa Pavilion, COP22, Marrakech. All welcome Working in tandem with business, we identify and scale solutions which help vulnerable communities thrive as climate (and other) shocks threaten lives and livelihoods. Earlier this year we launched a US$10 million Water Window Challenge with Zurich Insurance to find innovative solutions for flood prone areas. David Nash, Head of the Z Zurich Foundation, will tell the story behind this partnership and explain where this investment with GRP sits in the Group’s business strategy. The discussion will focus on the growing challenges facing people living, and businesses operating in Africa. Outlining in detail the scale of the continent’s water security issues, the panel will explain why there has never been a more pertinent time to take on an issue which has remained a challenge for decades. We will hear about the role data can play in assisting those most in need. Dr Sandy Andelman, Chief Scientist at Conservation International, will introduce her work with Resilience Atlas, a project which utilises large data sets to understand the impact of shocks and stresses and assess resilience, and the interventions which influence it, in a new light. Insight will also be shared from those ambitious organisations on the ground who are implementing innovative ways to tackle the problem of water security, using a resilience approach. Meta Meta’s Frank van Steenbergen will introduce a project taking shape in the Horn of Africa and how, after being backed by the GRP, they are transforming the way roads – the conduits for life and commerce – are not only planned and built but their role, moving beyond transport to supporting agriculture and development.

A live Twitter Q&A session will allow guests (both present and virtual) to raise queries in real time, with an opportunity to meet the panel and discuss key topics further at the end of the session. After listening to these diverse viewpoints I believe our guests will see, as we do at GRP, that through insight, innovation and a willingness to correctly assess risk, there is no reason why businesses can’t facilitate long-lasting development progress, ensuring hundreds of thousands more people can expect a clean and consistent water supply, whilst realising tangible business benefits. This isn’t a discussion motivated by pity or pointing the finger, it’s about being brave, backing innovation and making real change. It’s about working together with businesses to identify viable solutions and scale them rapidly. It’s about turning risk into reward. Luca Alinovi is executive director at the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP)