No turning back for urgent change

Talking Resilience with Seth Schultz

Another Earth Day has come and gone. This year there seemed to be more intensity and activity than usual, but also a lot of noise. One fact rises out of the din. Our planet is still warming – the latest figures show that climate change indicators and impacts worsened in 2020 – this despite the fact that 2020 had a La Nina cooling effect and the global pandemic put the brakes on the global economy. Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 was a double blow for millions of people around the world. The urgency is real to build resilience to this and to other complex uncertainties facing us.

In last week’s Leaders’ Summit it was heartening to see the commitments of many countries including my own, the United States. But is it enough? In this year of action, we need to see tangible results, and transformative changes starting to happen across every sector of our economies worldwide. As UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, warns, “This year is crucial for the future of humanity”.

In our goal to build resilience, The Resilience Shift is aligned with the goal to drive decarbonisation. The two must go hand in hand to reap the benefits of the investment needed in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

This message is embedded throughout the Coalition on Urban Transitions’ report Seizing the Urban Opportunity that we supported in its launch earlier this year and subsequent roll out in six countries as part of its roadmap to COP26 (this week in Mexico). The report explores the opportunity to create long lasting change through investment by national governments in city infrastructure and demonstrates the economic and societal benefits of doing this with sustainability and resilience at the core of their decisions.

It is clear that investing in one without the other is a risk. Resilience provides more security and ‘insurance’ for our investments in decarbonisation. And decarbonisation is essential to the resilience of humankind and our future on this planet.

In a further step to bring the two critical pieces together in our work and the work of others, we are collaborating with the UNFCCC’s Climate Champions in supporting the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience through the secondment of two of our team members who will contribute to the delivery of these ambitious initiatives.

At the time of our strategic partnership with Resilience First, announced earlier this year, Nigel Topping, the UK’s Climate Champion, said, “We have put out a call for organisations everywhere to join us in the #racetozero #racetoresilience and I am personally delighted that so many have heeded our call. Now it’s time for action – all firms, public or private, must decarbonise and, in parallel, they must build their resilience and that of their industry. The merger of The Resilience Shift with Resilience First provides us with a strengthened platform providing the knowledge base and community of interest needed to support this transformation, and accelerate resilience globally.”

We must also inspire change, showing leadership through role modelling and providing examples of what good looks like. Believing that actions speak louder than words, we have just launched a new collaboration with Wood plc that is based around the creation of a global annual showcase that can stimulate and profile the best and most pioneering work in resilience. This can inspire and empower those working within and for critical infrastructure systems to embed resilience thinking and practice in their day-to-day work.

The Resilience Shift has worked with the team at Wood on a number of previous collaborations, with both organisations learning from each other along the way. Peter Hall, Vice President and Global Director for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, explains in this interview how the firm has shaped its work around sustainability and resilience, transforming itself in the process.

It’s a great example of strategic and intentional change by a firm’s leadership and a strong theme for the year to come as we catalyze organisational change to drive resilience.

Throughout the global pandemic we have seen companies around the world surge to the forefront in terms of rapid problem solving, leadership and business innovation. We are now seeing this corporate leadership focus on the climate crisis. We are working closely with our strategic partner Resilience First and their membership toward our combined goals for business resilience. Simon Collins, Chair Resilience First, says “Resilience has been brought into sharp focus by Covid, but needs to be a permanent priority. The strategic partnership between the two organisations creates a platform with substantial convening power, reach and voice to help build resilience in businesses and the communities in which they operate.”

With the critical global actions on climate starting to accelerate, it is time too for all firms to urgently consider how they also transform what they do, build more resilience, and contribute positively to a safe, sustainable and resilient future.

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