Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks

January 15, 2019 – 427 REPORT. Building resilient communities and financial systems requires an understanding of climate risk exposure, but also of how prepared communities are to manage that risk. Understanding  the adaptive capacity, or ability to prepare for change and leverage opportunities, of the surrounding area can help businesses and investors determine how exposure to climate risk is likely to impact their assets and what the most strategic responses may be. This report outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for creating location-specific actionable assessments of adaptive capacity to inform business and investment decisions and catalyze resilience-building. 

Every investment, from real assets to corporate initiatives, is inextricably connected to its surrounding community. From flooded or damaged public infrastructure hindering employee and customer commutes to competition for water resources threatening business operations and urban heat reducing public health, the impacts of climate change on a community will impact the businesses and real estate investors based in that community. Thus, evaluating how acute and chronic physical climate hazards will affect local communities and communities’ responses enables investors and corporations to assess the full extent of the risks they face.

This report, Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for capturing a city’s adaptive capacity in a way that’s actionable for corporations seeking to understand the risk and resilience of their own facilities and for investors assessing risk in their portfolios or screening potential investments. The framework focuses on three main pillars: 1) awareness, 2) economic and financial characteristics, and 3) the quality of adaptation planning and implementation. It is informed by social sciences research, recent work by credit rating agencies, and our experience working directly with cities and investors.

Figure 2. After New York City subways were flooded during Hurricane Sandy, the New York MTA issued a catastrophe bond to obtain $200 million in insurance coverage, providing an important financial safety net for the city. Image from Wikimedia, by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

While a city’s adaptive capacity plays a key role in determining whether or not exposure to climate hazards will lead to damage and loss, cities are also likely to find that their resilience to climate impacts is an increasingly important factor in attracting business and financing, as adaptive capacity is more frequently integrated into credit ratings and screening processes. It is valuable for both cities to understand how investors are interpreting adaptive capacity and for investors to understand which factors of local adaptive capacity translate into increased resilience and reduced financial loss for their assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Corporate and real asset investments can be financially impacted by climate-driven weather events and chronic stresses, even with strong internal risk management systems in place, as climate events can affect the broader community and disrupt local infrastructure.
  • Adaptive capacity, the ability to adjust to potential damage and leverage opportunities, will influence how local jurisdictions and infrastructure are affected by climate-driven weather events.
  • Four Twenty Seven has developed a framework to assess the adaptive capacity of local jurisdictions to inform the private sector, examining a city’s awareness of climate impacts, economic characteristics, and adaptation planning efforts.
  • Understanding a local jurisdiction’s adaptive capacity provides opportunities to engage with decision-makers and relevant institutions to support local efforts to build resilience.

Download the report.