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PCAST Recommends Actions to Catalyze and Support Private-Sector Adaptation Efforts to Climate Change

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology letter report reviewed efforts to help the private sector adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) was asked by the President to identify ways in which the Administration can assist the private sector in preparing for and adapting to near- and long-term impacts of climate change.

Federal efforts on climate change have largely focused on enabling mitigation-related activities in the public and private sectors as well as facilitating adaptation-related activities in the public sector.  Less attention has been paid to helping the private sector prepare for climate change, presenting a real opportunity for action where the need is great.

The few companies that attend to adaptation typically focus on near-term challenges, such as changes in extreme-weather events (e.g., increased flooding, drought), and not on the need for adaptation to long-term challenges associated with climate change (e.g., sea level rise, changing availability of feedstocks). Companies rarely report metrics for measuring the success of climate-adaptation initiatives in large part because they are not widely available or shared.

In extensive conversations with the private sector, PCAST learned that many company executives are largely unaware of existing Federal data, tools, and information resources that can be used to assist in preparing for climate change.  Some executives noted that climate-related data could be more precisely tailored to specific users’ needs. There was an overwhelming call for an easy-to-use, single entry point for obtaining useable data along with tools and methods to convert such data into actionable information.

One consistent message that PCAST found throughout its work that there is  a strong desire by the private sector to better understand the long-term risks of climate change and to actively engage with the Federal Government in identifying ways to be more resilient and better prepared.

Today, PCAST delivered a letter report to the President outlining six recommendations that could harness public data and information, unlock investment capital, and leverage public-private partnerships to bring focus and commitment from a suite of stakeholders.  Taken together, these recommendations will help the Federal Government catalyze and support private sector efforts in adaptation:

  1. develop and implement a robust strategy for private-sector education and communication;
  2. enhance adaptation-science research as well as technology development and demonstration, including the identification of research themes related to the application of scientific modeling and “metrics for success” that would enable measuring of progress to goals;
  3. improve the availability of, access to, and usability of climate data, models, best practices, case studies, and information coming out of Federal Government programs and resources;
  4. unlock new public and private investment capacity for adaptation actions and consider mechanisms to develop new investment vehicles and amplify existing programs;
  5. increase the use of public-private partnerships to pool knowledge and provide leverage for limited resources; and
  6. deploy a city-based adaptation pilot project that leverages the Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative that engages the private sector in testing efforts that align with the above recommendations.

The beginnings of the kinds of public-private partnerships that are needed can be seen in the Department of Energy Partnership for Energy-Sector Climate Resilience, White House engagement with insurance and re-insurance leaders, and ongoing efforts related to the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. New or expanded partnerships could include sustained dialogues on climate services and engagement with lenders, rating agencies, and the financial/bank sector.

Rosina Bierbaum, Michael McQuade, and Maxine Savitz are members of PCAST and co-chairs of the Private Sector Adaptation to Climate Change Working Group.

PCAST is an advisory group of the Nation’s leading scientists and engineers, appointed by the President to augment the science and tech­nology advice available to him from inside the White House and from cabinet departments and other Federal agencies. For more information about PCAST, please visit the PCAST website.