Brexit funding gap a threat to growth and productivity

Billions of pounds in EU funding dedicated to supporting small firms must be replaced to avoid the risk of an economic slowdown post-Brexit, according to the latest Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) report.

FSB is calling on the new Government to seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to radically reform England’s business support landscape. Its proposals include creating a streamlined Growth Fund for England before the Brexit process completes. The Fund would bring together a domestic replacement for EU funding and the Single Local Growth Fund (SLGF). The EU has dedicated £3.6bn to developing the competitiveness of UK small firms for the funding round ending in 2020. There is currently no regional development spend budgeted at the national level beyond 2021.

The new ‘Reformed Business Funding: What small firms want from Brexit’ report finds that eight in ten (78%) small firms have sought business support services over the last 12 months. Those in Yorkshire (25%), the North East (22%) and North West (18%) were most likely to submit applications for EU-funded schemes1.

Of those that have applied for such schemes, the majority believe EU funding has had a positive impact on their business (68%) and local area (64%). The research indicates that the benefits of EU funding are even broader, with many other businesses indirectly gaining from wider economic growth.

The research uncovers a clear relationship between the likelihood of applying for business support and growth ambitions among small firms. Those looking to grow by 20 per cent or more (89%) are far more likely to apply for support than those that aspire to remain the same size (65%).

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Small businesses across the country are staring into a business support black hole from 2021. This is a particularly pressing issue for the many small firms with growth ambitions and those in less economically developed regions. If the next Government is serious about developing an Industrial Strategy that delivers prosperity across all areas of England, it must replace EU funding dedicated to small business support and access to finance after we leave the EU.”

Successful applicants for EU-funded schemes express various frustrations with the application process. The most common being the amount of information required to make an application (59%), the length of the application process (47%) and the need to meet excessive reporting requirements after funds are granted (44%). Only one in ten (12%) found the application process very straightforward. As a result, FSB proposes a reduction in bureaucracy as part of a reformed business landscape.

FSB’s new report also highlights a lack of engagement with EU-funded programmes among small firms. Around half (44%) of those that have not made an application say they are unaware of opportunities to do so. Successful EU funding applicants are most likely to find out about opportunities through existing business contacts (34%).

Under FSB’s proposals, a single Growth Fund for England would simplify the funding streams available to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) for the establishment of effectively marketed, properly assessed business support programmes. Funding would also be provided to secure the future of Growth Hubs and establish a ‘What Works Hub” equipped to evaluate the effectiveness of different schemes and facilitate their improvement.

Mike Cherry added: “Small businesses are clear that EU-funded support is a vital lifeline. But they’re equally clear that the process for attaining that support can be a real battle. It’s not unusual to find small firms giving up halfway through an application because forms are too long or complex, or they fear grants will be clawed back at the first sign of an admin slip. Sadly, it’s often the time-poor businesses most in need that struggle in the face of this bureaucracy.

“Brexit marks an unprecedented opportunity for fundamental reform. LEPs and Growth Hubs must be empowered to tailor and simplify support according to local requirements. Ensuring that all small firms are aware of business support schemes should be a top priority. We can’t have an environment where small businesses perceive personal contacts or administrative skills as more important to successful applications than genuine need.

“A shock to the business support landscape will have serious implications for small business aspirations as well as efforts to improve productivity and rebalance the economy. The new Government must prioritise the development of a Growth Fund for England pre-Brexit or risk a slowdown in the economy.”

Notes to editor

1) On behalf of FSB, independent research company Verve surveyed 1,659 FSB members about their views between 5 – 16 December 2016. FSB also carried out a series of interviews and focus groups with members across the UK.

About FSB
As experts in business, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in Government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy.

Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise

Sea level rise will double coastal flood risk worldwide, according to research, published in the Scientific Reports journal.

It is the first to analyse coastal flood factors, particularly waves, on a global scale and found that the most at-risk areas were in the low latitudes, where tidal ranges are smaller meaning sea level rise is proportionally more significant.

Abstract

Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding. In most coastal regions, the amount of sea-level rise occurring over years to decades is significantly smaller than normal ocean-level fluctuations caused by tides, waves, and storm surge. However, even gradual sea-level rise can rapidly increase the frequency and severity of coastal flooding. So far, global-scale estimates of increased coastal flooding due to sea-level rise have not considered elevated water levels due to waves, and thus underestimate the potential impact. Here we use extreme value theory to combine sea-level projections with wave, tide, and storm surge models to estimate increases in coastal flooding on a continuous global scale. We find that regions with limited water-level variability, i.e., short-tailed flood-level distributions, located mainly in the Tropics, will experience the largest increases in flooding frequency. The 10 to 20 cm of sea-level rise expected no later than 2050 will more than double the frequency of extreme water-level events in the Tropics, impairing the developing economies of equatorial coastal cities and the habitability of low-lying Pacific island nations.

Introduction

Global sea level is currently rising at ~3–4 mm/yr1, 2 and is expected to accelerate due to ocean warming and land-based ice melt3, 4. Sea-level rise (SLR) projections range from 0.3 to 2.0 m by 2100, depending on methodology and emission scenarios5, 6, and recent work suggests that accepted methodologies significantly underestimate the contribution of Antarctica7.

Coastal regions experience elevated water levels on an episodic basis due to wave setup and runup8, tides9, storm surge driven by wind stress and atmospheric pressure, contributions from seasonal and climatic cycles, e.g., El Niño/Southern Oscillation10, 11 and Pacific Decadal Oscillation12, and oceanic eddies13 (Fig. 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

The water-level components that contribute to coastal flooding.

Coastal flooding often occurs during extreme water-level events that result from simultaneous, combined contributions, such as large waves, storm surge, high tides, and mean sea-level anomalies11, 14.

SLR leads to (1) passive high-tide inundation of low-lying coastal areas15, (2) increased frequency, severity, and duration of coastal flooding16, (3) increased beach erosion17, (4) groundwater inundation18, 19, (5) changes to wave dynamics20, and (6) displacement of communities21. Predicting regions vulnerable to passive inundation is relatively simple with the aid of high-resolution digital elevation models22. However, predicting the effect of SLR on episodic flooding events is difficult due to the unpredictable nature of coastal storms, nonlinear interactions of physical processes (e.g., tidal currents and waves), and variations in coastal geomorphology (e.g., sediments, bathymetry, topography, and bed friction). Local-scale assessments of coastal hazard vulnerability typically rely on detailed, computationally-onerous numerical modeling efforts23 in order to simulate wave-related nearshore water levels, interactions with local topography, and the resulting flooding. Global-scale coastal hazard vulnerability assessments, on the other hand, rely on extreme value theory applied to water-level observations.

Extreme-value theory

Extreme-value theory24, 25 is a statistical method for quantifying the probability or return period of large events. The generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution, sometimes called the Fisher-Tippet distribution, is a powerful and general statistical model for extremes26 (Coles 2001). The GEV distribution models the probabilities of the maxima of a random variable24, 27, 28 using three parameters μ, σ, and k, the location (mean), scale (width), and shape (family type), respectively26.

Oceanographic and coastal engineering studies often rely on GEV theory to describe the frequency of extreme waves29, water-level events30, flooding impacts31, and to understand the effects of SLR32. As sea level increases, the probability increases that a fixed elevation will experience flooding (Fig. 2). Equivalently, the return period or recurrence interval of flooding at a fixed elevation decreases33, 34. In the example shown in Fig. 2B, 1 m of SLR causes the 5 m flood level (the former 100-year flood) to recur every 25 years.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Example: by elevating the exceedance probability distribution, a 1 m increase in SL increases the frequency (A) and lowers the return period (B) of the 5m-flood level. Note that the steeper the probability distribution in A, the flatter the return time curve in B, i.e., the greater the increase in frequency and the reduction in return time. Thus regions with lower variability in flood level will experience larger increases in flooding frequency under SLR. See Methods and extended data Figs 1 and 2.

SLR can affect flood magnitude and frequency directly (Fig. 2) or indirectly via hydrodynamic feedbacks: SLR alters water depths, changing the generation, propagation, and interaction of waves, tides, and storm surges. Thus, SLR and long-term changes in wave climate, e.g., changes in magnitude, frequency, and tracks of storms35,36,37 and storm surge, can alter the parameters of extreme water-level distributions and the evolution of coastal hazards over time. In the proposed work, we assume parameter stationarity based on projections of minor changes (5–10%35,36,37) in mean annual wave conditions and storm surge over large regions of the ocean. In specific locations, such as the Pacific Northwest, trends in extreme wave climate may be significant38 and lead to a greater flooding hazard than SLR over at least the next several decades39, calling for nonstationary methods40 in future research.

Investigations of increased flooding frequency due to SLR are often site-specific and rely only on water-level data from tide stations. For example, Hunter (2012) [ref. 41] and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2013 report3 estimate the factor of increase in the frequency of flooding events due to 0.5 m of SLR at locations of 198 tide stations around the globe [Hunter41 Fig. 4 and IPCC3 Fig. 13.25]. Hunter41 and IPCC3 found that regions with low variability of extreme water levels will experience large increases in flooding frequency. This finding, introduced qualitatively by Hoozemans et al. [ref. 33], is critical to predict the global regions most vulnerable to SLR. However, global-scale coastal hazard assessments using this methodology encounter three challenges: (1) Water-level observation stations are sparsely located around the globe, especially in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic; (2) wave-driven water-level contributions, i.e., setup and swash, are not included; and (3) the global variability of the GEV shape parameter has not been considered, although it can be as influential as the scale parameter in determining vulnerability. Here we meet the three challenges by using extreme-value theory to combine sea level, wave, tide, and storm-surge models to predict increases in extreme water-level frequency on a global scale.

Application

Flooding results from the complex interaction of extreme water levels, topography, and the built environment. Here we use the frequency of extreme water levels as a proxy for regional-scale increases in flooding frequency, while recognizing that the relationship between water level and flooding is location dependent because of coastal topography, coastal defense structures, and drainage systems.

We apply sea-level projections and global wave, tide, and storm surge models to predict the future return periods (associated with the former 50-yr extreme water level) due to SLR. As in Hunter41 and IPCC3, we begin by investigating increases in flooding frequency due to a globally-uniform amount of SLR, acknowledging that spatial variability in the regional rate of SLR (e.g., driven by ocean circulation patterns, glacial fingerprinting) and the local relative rate of SLR (e.g., due to tectonic activity, glacial isostasy, land subsidence) will affect flooding predictions for specific locations42. Later we take the inverse approach, estimating the amount of SLR that doubles the frequency of extreme water-level events.

Using maximum likelihood estimates, we fit GEV probability distributions to the top three annual maximum water-level events from 1993–2013 obtained via synthesis of the Global Ocean Wave (GOW) reanalysis43, Mog2D storm-surge model44, and TPXO tide model45 as discussed in Methods. Figure 3 shows the global variability of the mean (μ), scale (σ), and shape (k) parameters for extreme total water level in panels A, B, and C, respectively. The GEV parameters provide necessary inputs to the factors of increase, f inc , and the future return period of the former 50-yr water level based on Eq. (3) (see Methods). Figure 4 shows the factor of increase for the SLR projections μ SL  = +0.1, +0.25, +0.5 m on a global scale. Finally, the GEV parameters allow for global estimation of the amount of SLR that doubles the exceedance probability of the 50-yr water-level elevation [see Fig. 5 and Methods Eq. (4)]. Analyzing the amount of SLR leading to a doubling in flooding (Fig. 5) is equivalent to the factor-of-increase results shown in Fig. 4, but it provides a more intuitive picture of the effects of small amounts of SLR. Table 1 summarizes the global, tropical, and extra-tropical mean values of the quantities presented in Figs 3 and 5. Although the plotted distributions apply only to coasts, they are calculated ocean-wide in order to reveal the continuous global pattern of vulnerability of both continental coastal settings and non-contiguous island nations throughout the world’s oceans.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Global estimates of the location (μ), scale (σ), and shape (k) parameters of the GEV distribution of extreme water-level (the sum of wave setup, tide, and storm surge) shown in panels A, B, and C, respectively. The dashed and solid lines in panel C represent contours of k that are significantly different from zero at the 75% and 95% confidence levels, respectively. The maps in this figure were made using Matlab 2016a (https://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Global estimates of the expected factor of increase in exceedance probability, f inc , and the future return period, T R , of the 50-yr water level, for SLR projections: μ SL  = +0.1, +0.25, +0.5 m. We note that the estimated increase in flooding potential is purely due to SLR and not due to changes in climate or storminess. White lines indicate the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. The maps in this figure were made using Matlab 2016a (https://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/).

Figure 5
Figure 5

The upper bound of SLR that doubles the exceedance probability of the former 50-year water level. This SLR is the upper limit of a 95% confidence interval based on a Monte Carlo simulation of the GEV parameter estimates and their associated confidence bands (see Methods). Red areas represent regions particularly vulnerable to small amounts of SLR. The maps in this figure were made using Matlab 2016a (https://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/).

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-01362-7

UK Institute and Faculty of Actuaries warns on climate change financial risks

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) has today (12 May) issued a Risk Alert to raise awareness around the financial risks posed by climate change. We are asking all actuaries, whichever field they are working in, to consider how the implications of climate change affect their work, actions and decision making.

The IFoA alert is intended to draw attention to specific areas of actuarial activity, asking members to think carefully about the consequences of actions they are taking. There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating that climate change represents a material risk to future economic stability.

Nico Aspinall, Chair of the IFoA Resource and Environment Board, said:

Actuaries understand well the importance of keeping up with changes in their profession and helping to develop actuarial science so it remains relevant to the world today. Many clients of actuaries are exposed to climate change risks and our industry has much to offer when helping all stakeholders consider the potential impact. That’s why we’ve issued this alert which will help draw attention to the issue and provide useful information on three types of climate risk: physical, transition and liability.”

The global Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has drafted guidance for companies and financial institutions on how to report climate related financial information. Our climate change alert has been published with this in mind and is one of a series of alerts forming part of our professionalism commitment drive to support members in their work.

Also, in another effort to help our members, the IFoA has published a more detailed guide for actuaries working in the pensions sector. This guide helps shine a light on environmental  issues which may be less visible and less well understood than the usual ones considered by pensions actuaries when advising clients.

Resource and Environment Issues: A Practical Guide for Pensions Actuariesexplores the financial implications and impact of a range of issues including climate change, energy, pollution and resource shortages on pension scheme funding. It’s the first such guide which specifically helps pensions actuaries navigate these challenging areas.

Colin Wilson, IFoA President, said:

There is increasing consensus that environmental issues, especially climate change, are an area of financial risk that actuaries should consider in their work. This is already happening in the sectors of general insurance and investment – we believe pensions funding is the logical next step.

We encourage pensions actuaries to take advantage of this valuable resource. It provides practical suggestions for taking account of environmental issues in pensions advice – helping actuaries support trustees and employers in managing risks to pension scheme funding. Our hope is that as well as raising awareness, this guide will encourage discussion and prompt further research.”

Contact Details

For all media queries please contact Michael Williams, Public Affairs Executive

michael.williams@actuaries.org.uk

+44 (0) 207 632 1466

For out of hours the Press Office can be contacted at: press.office@actuaries.org.uk. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible.

 

WMO Executive Council addresses challenges from weather, climate and water

The World Meteorological Organization’s Executive Council holds its annual session from 10 to 17 May, with a focus on strengthening weather and climate services to protect lives, property and the economy from increasingly extreme and unusual weather.

The outcomes of the Council will help shape the WMO contribution to global agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change. There will be discussions on how to promote more coordinated investments in National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, as well as partnerships between public weather services and the private sector. There is a special dialogue on 11 May on meteorological services for the rapidly evolving aviation sector.

“Our collective efforts and the contributions of the whole WMO community will continue to enhance our ability to warn and inform our citizens of weather, climate and water risks to keep them safe from harm, minimize negative impacts on their property and allow our economies to prosper,” said WMO President David Grimes.

More coordination, higher profile

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas highlighted efforts to strengthen partnerships within the UN system on issues such as disaster risk reduction, food security, aviation and marine services. WMO is also seeking to meet the needs of development and humanitarian agencies for more information on El Niño and La Niña events and seasonal predictions, as well as warnings of extreme weather through a potential global MeteoAlarm system.

WMO is working with the World Bank and European Union and successfully mobilizing greater resources for initiatives like the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems and the Global Framework for Climate Services.

Mr Taalas said WMO will seek to increase the profile of its expertise on water and ocean affairs, bolster research and will continue to provide scientific advice on the state of the climate.

“We have seen a number of records broken in terms of temperatures and low Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. Sea level rise is accelerating,” he said. Atmospheric concentrations of gases continue to rise and recently reached more than 410 parts per million at the benchmark Global Atmosphere Watch observing station at Mauna Loa, he said.

“Besides temperatures, we also need to focus on rainfall issues,” Mr Taalas said, noting the severe drought in parts of Africa and Mongolia, as well as flooding in Colombia and Peru and, most recently, in Canada.

Extreme weather events are on the increase, he said. One the eve of the Executive Council session, Tropical Cyclone Donna reached the equivalent of category five status in the South Pacific – the strongest late forming cyclone on record in the region.

Year of Polar Prediction

One of the highlights of the EC meeting will be the launch of the Year of Polar Prediction – a coordinated international drive to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. The aim of the campaign is to minimize the environmental risks associated with rapid climate change in polar regions and to close the current gaps in polar forecasting capacity.

WMO has applied for observer status in the Arctic Council, which holds a ministerial session on 11 May. Finland is due to take over the presidency of this body from the USA and has indicated that one of the its priorities will be to enhance meteorological cooperation in the Arctic.

One of the priorities of WMO is to improve observations and understanding of Polar regions and high mountains, which are being particularly impacted by climate change and which have a sparse observation network.

The need to further strengthen global observing and information systems by leveraging satellite and computing advances is also on the agenda, as is capacity development of national meteorological and hydrological services in developing countries.

The Executive Council coordinates programmes, manages the budget, considers and acts on resolutions and recommendations from the regional associations and technical commissions, and studies and makes recommendations on matters affecting international meteorology and related activities. It consists of a president, three vice-presidents, the six regional association presidents and 27 directors of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

Researchers Develop Membranes That Remove Viruses from Drinking Water

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have developed novel ultrafiltration membranes that improve the virus-removal process from treated municipal wastewater used for drinking in water-scarce cities.

Current membrane filtration methods require intensive energy to adequately remove pathogenic viruses without using chemicals like chlorine, which can contaminate the water with disinfection byproducts. Researchers at UIUC and BGU collaborated on the new approach for virus pathogen removal, which was published in the current issue of Water Research.

“This is an urgent matter of public safety,” the researchers say. “Insufficient removal of human Adenovirus in municipal wastewater, for example, has been detected as a contaminant in U.S. drinking water sources, including the Great Lakes and worldwide.”

The norovirus — which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea — is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and is estimated to be the second leading cause of gastroenteritis-associated mortality. Human adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses that include the common cold, sore throat (pharyngitis), bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye (conjunctivitis), fever, bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis), inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis) and neurological disease.

In the study, Professor Moshe Herzberg of the Department of Desalination and Water Treatment in the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU and his group grafted a special hydrogel coating onto a commercial ultrafiltration membrane. The “zwitterionic polymer hydrogel” repels the viruses from approaching and passing through the membrane. It contains both positive and negative charges and improves efficiency by weakening virus accumulation on the modified filter surface. The result was a higher rate of removal of waterborne viruses, including human norovirus and adenovirus.

Source: Engineering360 News Desk,19 April 2017

Dutch Scientists Say 50% More People at Risk of Coastal Flooding by 2080

Increased sea-level rise and land subsidence in the future mean that 50% more people will be exposed to coastal flooding by 2080, according to a study by scientists in the Netherlands.

Researchers from Deltares and the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM-VU) have studied the risk of flooding on all coasts throughout the world until the end of this century. The results are presented on April 25 at the EGU in Vienna. The conclusion is that the threat associated with severe storms throughout the world is increasing due to land subsidence and sea-level rise: 50% more people will be exposed to these risks in 2080 than at present.

Land Subsidence and Elevation Included

River flooding has already been charted worldwide with the World Resources Institute using the public tool ‘Aqueduct‘ . Dirk Eilander (Deltares) and Philip Ward (IVM-VU) teamed up with other researchers to extend the use of this tool to include coastal flooding and integrate data about changes in seawater levels, as well as global land subsidence in combination with the probabilities of spring tides. For the first time, the researchers have used physically – based models with global coverage to simulate tides and storms at sea. Moreover, a new method has been used to chart coastal flooding worldwide more accurately. The geographical data and elevation data for the coastal areas have been entered accurately in the models used, taking into account steep or gentle slopes and local vegetation. Buildings and population densities on the coasts were used to map out flood impacts. Data of this kind have never been examined before using physical models at the global scale.

Comparison With Observed Floods

The model has been compared with observed floods after the storm Xynthia in France in February 2010 and the comparison produced a good match. By conducting similar analyses in other location s, we expect to be able to map out coastal floods worldwide in a more realistic way. Seawater levels in the future were based on two different scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions since higher or lower concentrations of carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane will affect the climate in various ways, resulting in things like more extreme weather patterns.

50% More Victims

Ten per cent of the world’s population live in low – lying areas less than ten metres above sea level. Many of these areas are at risk of flooding. The expectation is that, as a result of sea – level rise and land subsidence, 50% more people could be affected in 2080 by severe floods that typically occur once every hundred years. Population growth and migration have not been included in this estimate. Most potential victims (half of the total number worldwide) are located in four countries: China, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. Dirk Eilander (a researcher at Deltares): ‘These new figures about coastal flooding provide a good picture of where risk levels are highest around the world. Although some large countries stand out in absolute numbers, the generally smaller island states will be affected most in relative terms.’

Next Step: Socio-economic Impact

The extension of the Aqueduct platfo rm has not quite been completed yet. The platform will be made available to the general public this year. The next steps will include the incorporation of projected increases in population density and economic activity, the effects (in terms of damage and casualties) of the various prognoses and the inclusion of different levels of protection for each country. This will complete the picture: potential flood risks will be linked to the consequences for the safety of local people and damage to their property. As a result, the tool will be suitable for use as a policy instrument for decision – makers working on flood risk management (such as government authorities).

Source: Floodlist, http://floodlist.com/