The power of an interdisciplinary approach to climate challenges

Observations From COP28 by President and CEO Ian Kline.

Ian Kline

I had the privilege of attending the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates, where I shared the phenomenal work Cadmus is doing to help our clients around the world achieve significant progress in their climate resilience and mitigation efforts. It was inspiring and invigorating to connect with other climate leaders among the more than 97,000 registered participants to learn from each other and explore opportunities to magnify our impact together.

Adaptation and Resilience Take Center Stage

At the conference, I attended, participated in, and contributed to countless panels, roundtables, and informal discussions. While there were many excellent panels and events focused on climate mitigation, I was struck by the volume of exceptional and insightful panels focused on climate adaptation and resilience. Commitments to accelerate action and the deployment of capital aimed at climate adaptation and resilience were consistent themes throughout and are reflected in the Conference Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace.

The distinction between the two aspects of response to the climate challenge is telling, and the shift is important. Mitigation is largely about the future. Adaptation and resilience efforts address the here and now. To paraphrase an observation that was repeated throughout the conference, even if we achieve our aggressive mitigation goals, we are merely reducing the impacts of climate change for the foreseeable future, not eliminating them. As such, it’s critical that we invest both in aggressive mitigation measures and in the resilience efforts that are necessary to protect our communities and the natural systems that support them. I’m proud that we at Cadmus are making important contributions to both.

Interconnected Issues Require Interconnected Problem Solving

Another notable theme at COP28 was the explicit recognition of the interconnected and dynamic nature of climate change’s impacts. Entire days, such as the first-ever Health Day at a COP and Food, Agriculture, and Water Day, were dedicated to calling out and examining the connection between climate and these vital systems. Leaders have long acknowledged these connections; now they’re expanding their efforts to address them in a way that recognizes how interconnected and interdependent they are.

In short, the vision we’ve been building Cadmus around for a long time ensures that we are ready to meet this moment.

The One Cadmus Approach is Built for This Moment

For decades, Cadmus has been committed to developing itself as one of the very few firms capable of deploying domain expertise across vectors to help our clients achieve their adaptation, resilience, and mitigation goals – whether that’s through economics, policy, regulatory analysis, physical and life sciences, engineering, behavior change, or any combination of expertise in those disciplines or the many others in which we specialize.

Every discussion I joined at COP28 inspired new ideas about how Cadmus can contribute to these critical efforts. As a panelist, I had opportunities to talk about our impact, capabilities, and expertise. I’m incredibly proud of the important and impactful work that we’ve done for our public sector and private sector clients, executing engagements that have furthered our clients’ mitigation efforts and improved climate resilience. If I had needed a reminder about how powerful and necessary it is to have the diverse portfolio of capabilities and domain expertise that we have, along with the multidisciplinary collaborative ethos that defines much of our work, this was it. Our substantial growth throughout 2023 has given us proof of concept that we can translate our approach at scale—which is what the global, national, and local communities need more than anything right now. It’s tremendously exciting to work with exceptional colleagues across capabilities and domains, knowing we can help our clients effect real impact and real change.

Carrying Commitments Into Action

Critics who hoped for an explicit call for fossil fuels to be phased out expressed disappointment immediately after the conclusion of COP28 that it did not go far enough. At the risk of sounding too optimistic, however, I see the resolution as a very positive sign.

Setting ambitious goals is important – and also relatively easy. The real work comes when we follow through and implement measures to realize our commitments. As we stand at the beginning of another new year and consider the world we want to live in a year, 10 years, or 30 years from now, we need to look at what it will take to get there. As a participant in the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), Cadmus has set emissions-reduction targets that have been validated by SBTi as well below the 2°C trajectory set by the Paris Agreement, and we are following through on our commitment to reach those targets. Through responsible sourcing and consumption, and by offering our employees popular benefit programs that make sustainable choices easy, we are ensuring that we reduce our own emissions while we help our clients mitigate, adapt, and build resilience to climate change.

The challenges posed by climate change create endless opportunities to make the world better than we found it. At Cadmus, we’ll be working with our clients to improve health outcomes as the impacts of climate change complicate existing challenges and create new ones. We’ll be working with governments to help prepare for and mitigate the impact of disasters, the intensity and frequency of which are being significantly exacerbated by climate change. We’ll be developing finance solutions to support communities in the regions which have contributed the least to climate change but are being hardest hit by its impacts. None of these challenges or the countless others our clients confront around the world are created in isolation, nor are their impacts isolated. All depend on the willingness and capability of determined leaders at all levels of society to come together, learn from one another, and collaborate.

Based on the dialogue I was able to participate in and witness at COP28, it seems the world’s leaders are in agreement: if we are truly committed to finding real answers to the challenges posed by climate change, the time for interdisciplinary collaboration is now. The world doesn’t have the luxury of continuing to hope anyone can solve problems by struggling in isolation. Cadmus is hard at work proving what people can accomplish when we all do our part to confront big challenges together.