In a series of blog posts curated by the World Economic Forum’s Climate Change Initiatives, a number of leading voices will present their perspectives on climate change. Contributions are linked to the Forum’s Green Growth Action Alliance project and the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. In the following post, Juan José Daboub, founding CEO of the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN), former World Bank Managing Director and former El Salvador Finance Minister, looks at global preparedness for climate change.

Flooding in Bangkok shut down global supply chains, torrential storms in Beijing and the Philippines took lives, and, most recently, the rare landfall of a hurricane in the US northeast caused immense and multifarious damage and suffering. Natural disasters have always occurred, but in the 21st century to date, humanity is witnessing unprecedented climatic variations while hundreds of millions of people migrate to increasingly vulnerable coastal urban areas.

It’s clear – global challenges can be tackled, and the private and public sector are beginning to acknowledge the urgency in implementing solutions. The greatest hill to climb now is enabling the environment for investment in building resilient communities that will be ready to adapt to a changing world.

The World Bank reports that US$ 75 billion-US$ 100 billion annually will be needed for the next 40 years or more for developing countries to adapt to these challenges and prevent loss of life and jobs. The difference remaining after current allocation (about US$ 3.5 billion-US$ 9 billion, according to the OECD) is US$ 71.5 billion-US$ 91 billion.

The World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change is addressing these and other climate issues during the next two years and will bring the message of the urgent need to adapt to its wide network of business and government leaders. When the Council met in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 12-14, for the Summit on the Global Agenda 2012, it developed work plans for its three focus areas: adaptation metrics, climate smart investments, and communications and engagement.

The Council will assess and endorse the best approaches in measuring resilience as well as make an inventory of “best-case” climate adaptation projects, policies and mechanisms that facilitate private investment in resilience. The outreach area will work with other Forum Councils to disseminate the findings from the metrics and investment assessments that can be helpful to organizations, governments and the media in promoting urgently needed action.

Leaders have the ability to help people adapt to climate change and to create the right incentives for funding.

Global reinsurance firm Swiss Re is helping farmers in Ethiopia to tackle unpredictable rainfall and drought. Ushahidi, a small non-profit software company, uses the power of open-source “crowdsourcing” software to distribute real-time information during disasters, which helped to save countless lives during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Engineering firms, such as AECOM and CH2M Hill, are integrating adaptation into water systems and have built infrastructure plans to protect future generations living in urban areas.

Metrics are also needed, such as the Global Adaptation Institute’s GAIN Index, which not only measures “vulnerabilities”, related to water, food, energy and coastal protection, but also “readiness”, in terms of economic and social stability, for countries to attract resources to pragmatically resolve these challenges.

The challenge facing world leaders is to raise political ambition, find a balance between the ongoing need for a global agreement to responsibly move to a more environmentally friendly economy and promote solutions that help humans adapt to these inevitable changes. After all, as history has shown, humans in freedom can innovate and create practical solutions. Follow the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change and the climate change solutions promoted by the group, HERE.

Author: Juan José Daboub is the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) Founding CEO, former World Bank Managing Director, former El Salvador Finance Minister, and Chair, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change 

Flood-affected people paddle their boats through a flooded street in Nonthaburi province REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom