Before the Copenhagen Summit

PRIMO-seminar on climate change and risk leadership October 23rd 2009

The Copenhagen Summit on climate change is just around the corner. On December 7th 2009, Denmark will be the centre of attention in the global challenge of trying to offer response to the numerous questions that arise due to our changing climate. Complex questions that calls for clever response now and in the future.

The question

PRIMO Denmark’s yearly seminar on climate change and risk leadership was held on October 23rd 2009 in Copenhagen. With the purpose of coming up with intelligent and innovative responses to climate change challenges , the seminar focused on the overall question of how the Danish municipalities can manage the many uncertainties that arise from climate change, such as severe floods, global temperature increases, and heavy and serious storms. Risk leadership was seen as the common denominator that can assist in managing risks, also the climate-related ones.

At the seminar a number of interesting actors from both the public and private sectors gathered to give their view on the challenges that the Danish municipalities will face as a result of climate change and how to manage them. Public authority representatives, corporate directors and academics attended the seminar to share knowledge and perspectives on the subject. The seminar sought to inspire the Danish municipalities to approach climate change with a strategic and holistic approach as well as providing them with specific and practical tools.

There is hope – no need to panic

Climate change is a serious challenge to all, and it will demand good management and risk leadership in the Danish municipalities. However, there was a general understanding at the seminar of not creating a state of unnecessary panic. Many of the challenges are known, and have been dealt with before – just not with the intensity and frequency that we now experience. As a society, we have already come a long way in creating innovative and intelligent response and solutions.

Applying an overall risk leadership approach to managing climate-related uncertainties and risks, the seminar also highlighted some of the positive implications of climate change. The seminar demonstrated a growing need for the municipalities to see the possibilities that are related to climate changes. On a number of fields – from insurance and auditing to political and judicial practice – the participants agreed that risk leadership can assist municipalities in managing climate-related risks so that we, as a society, can benefit from these risks as well. That is, if we take a proactive management approach to climate change, the climate-related risks will in some respects provide possibilities in addition to being threats. So don’t panic. There is hope ahead.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

Also, the many seminar-speakers agreed on trying to facilitate a more integrated cooperation between municipalities, so the public sector as a whole can benefit from the so-called synergy-effects. In this regard, arguments were presented as well for applying interdisciplinary and cross-sector cooperation between the public sector with their responsibilities and the private sector with their risk leadership expertise. Such interdisciplinary and cross-sector cooperation should be seen in light of climate change being a global and transcending phenomenon, meaning that climate-related risks have to be managed in a joint and global effort. For that reason, we have to begin thinking across public and private sectors, facilitating an interdisciplinary cooperation if we are going to manage the many risks related to climate change, intelligently.

Climate communication

In addition, the seminar pointed out the demand for a strategic approach to climate communication. Little attention has been given to address the problem of how municipalities communicate about risks such as climate change. Particularly the question of what a changing climate will mean for the individual citizen needs to be addressed. As a consequence hereof, there is a strong need for a dynamic climate communication. That is, authorities being able to provide information to the public, but in a carefully selected manner. Too much information can be harmful, but no information at all can be damaging as well. Thus, a central challenge for the municipalities is to be able to inform their citizens about the risks and implications of climate change in a well-dosed way, thereby, creating a constructive dialogue between the public authorities and the public in general. Basically, it is a communicative challenge of involving and including the public in these climate-related questions.

A practical approach to managing climate change

Throughout the seminar the participants were presented with practical tools to managing climate-related risks. Strategic climate planning involving both climate adaptation and climate prevention, ‘partnering’ as a way to handle large and complex building projects with consideration to the environment and climate handbooks developed for the municipalities, were just a few examples of how public authorities could handle climate change in a practical and structured manner.

The response

Conclusively, the seminar offered possible response to the question of how climate change, and especially climate-related risks, should be managed in an intelligent and innovative way. That is, practical response given in the form of interdisciplinary cooperation between municipalities and cross-sector cooperation between municipalities and private companies, an integrated and dialogue-based approach to climate communication, as well as keeping an eye out for not only the negative implications of climate change, but also see the more positive aspects hereof. Positive aspects of climate change that can be made visible through a strategic and holistic risk leadership practice.  

PRIMO Denmark