We need better ways of making money work harder to keep things safe,
instead of paying for things once they have broken.

A printable PDF version of this summary and the long-form report are available here.

The world is in crisis (IPCC, 2018) caused by human-induced climate change and time is running out to avert catastrophe. Economic losses from disasters caused by natural or man-made hazards are growing and are disproportionately impacting the poor and vulnerable, linked to massive urbanisation and the expansion of informal buildings. 

Meanwhile, as a direct consequence of the expansion in global trade to support the doubling of the world’s population in the last 30 years, around one million species will become extinct (WHC-UNESCO, 2019) in the coming decades. This biodiversity calamity further threatens humanity’s future existence.

Faced with these intertwined calamities we have three potential responses: to stop the damage (mitigation), to repair the damage (remediation) and to adapt to the damage that is irreversibly occurring now (adaptation). Better data availability, quality and interoperability will increase the effectiveness of all three responses.

There is a natural market in adaptation, disaster preparedness and response and the majority of this paper focuses on these aspects. 

Stakeholders from local communities, local, regional and national governments, and international public and private organisations are using available data to assess vulnerability to multiple hazards—to better understand where and when disaster could strike next. 

The framework for this is not yet structured to allow for easy and open access to what data does exist. Despite best efforts, the availability of tools to assess disaster risk and assist in building capacity to enhance resilience is incomplete (both in areas where the poor and vulnerable are most exposed, and those in more developed nations).

Capital might be ready, and even abundant:
our ability to deploy it intelligently is not.

 While capital might be ready, and even abundant, to support initiatives that could help build resilience, the lack of transparency of risk because of inadequate access to data that would enable robust risk modelling, prevents transformational finance solutions. 

Much of our existing infrastructure around the world is at risk from short and long-term environmental-related risks and disasters. Many new infrastructure projects are limited in addressing issues such as resilience and adaptation or emissions reduction. The resilience dividend has total benefits outweighing costs by a ratio potential of up to 4:1 and is rarely captured in disaster risk reduction planning. The cost for infrastructure investments ranges from 2 percent to 8 percent of GDP per year.

Our demand for, and needs from, data are growing and this is recognised and supported across the international 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and development finance . At the same time, data is becoming more complex: there is more of it and more challenges as a result. Open standards and interoperability are increasingly needed and being used to solve these challenges. However, data, where it does exist, is not easy to find, use or share. 

There is a critical lack of interoperability between systems and knowledge gaps as to how to use the data that does exist, or how to channel demand for data into something that can be leveraged by a wider audience. There are gaps in data and also in its accuracy. This ranges from a lack of mapping resources to unreliable validation data, and difficulty in obtaining high resolution census statistics to understand social vulnerability. The data we need is held by the public and private sectors. We must address our ability to share data robustly and securely to serve both public and private good. Creating structured demand for data will help ensure its effective supply.

We declare a Data Emergency
We need usable data to help us address our global crises
Icebreaker One is part of our Emergency Response

We believe there exists a global convergence of desires whereby the collective intelligence of our people and machines can be brought to bear to address these converging crises of our time. 

We all need to be able to make better decisions. To do so we need to understand what is possible, what information can support our thinking, how to access it, how to use it and how to share what we learn.  When we look at the world today, these questions can feel both overwhelming and solvable at the same time. We must face these global, collective action challenges with all the tools at our disposal. 

We can make environmental intelligence available for everyone using the most successful information tool that has ever existed: the web. In this, the 30th anniversary of the web, we are in an unprecedented era. We have connected billions of people, millions of companies and hundreds of countries. We are instrumenting the world, developing tools and services that can be used – by everyone – to help them make better decisions. We are at a moment where we can help distribute the information, skills and tools more evenly and at scale. Blockers to progress have included vested interests, intellectual property, security and rights. 

We now have clear common cause to work these issues through. 

We highlight the danger of not having the data we need to limit the impacts of climate change and species loss; and the danger of allowing the abuse of data to distort the economy, politics, and our lived experience, so that we end up not having the capacity to do anything about them. 

Building on transdisciplinary partnerships, and decades of experience with open standards, data governance, mass collaboration, and public-private-community partnerships, Icebreaker One aims to reduce the friction of decision-critical data exchanges and to enable a multi-$trillion shift in climate-resilient infrastructure investment. We consider a wide range of candidates that form our local and global infrastructures, from Transport and Energy Telecommunications and Water to Food and Health. 

We support the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2015); our preliminary report suggests will deliver on 8 out of the 17 Goals and support 20+ targets by mobilising finance for resilient infrastructure.

We believe that the critical issues are (1) leadership and (2) a focus on outcomes.

Icebreaker One is a silo-busting initiative
that will unlock public- and private-sector value
for environmental risk data by making it usable

This report, from Icebreaker One contributors, seeks to build a roadmap for action with three phases:

Step 1 (Global Programme Launch): public alpha

Draft principles, governance tools and technical standards that could support planners, local and national governments, disaster agencies, investors, financial institutions and infrastructure developers / owners to describe the data they hold, and discover the data they might need from others.

Step 2 (November 2019): public beta

Document and share standards and governance tools that are ‘good enough’, offering support to kick-start the emergence of new data markets and new data-sharing arrangements across at least four countries and at least ten institutions.

To explore new data markets we will consider a range of examples from developed and emerging countries countries. The institutions will be gathered across asset owners, public sector, private sector and academic sectors. 

Having a range of countries will allow us to gather requirements from a national strategic point of view, infrastructure and data infrastructure maturity perspective.

Step 3 (2020 – 2030): launch – put words into action

Build on the open learning model to make sure stakeholders have the tools they need to discover, access and use data to address environmental risks, create and adapt financial instruments and invest in demonstrably more resilient infrastructure.

This report sets out the challenges that we face and how we will mobilise countries, businesses, communities and individuals to address them.

Throughout the report we draw on user stories that demonstrate the demand for different types of data, and help to illustrate the challenges faced by those looking to plan, build, insure and operate with climate resilient infrastructure. We are looking to embed Sustainable Development Goal and Sendai Framework priorities into asset and infrastructure modelling in ways that ultimately lead to a transformed marketplace for environmental data. 

To get closer to understanding what the data demands are, the report focuses on the following five core questions:

  • What data and information do I need? (to help me make better decisions)
  • Does it exist and can I find it? (is it easily searchable or discoverable?)
  • Can I use it? (do I have the right tools and the right skills?)
  • Am I allowed to use it for this purpose? (do I have permission?)
  • Can I share my results and data with others? (and if so, how?)

We believe that responding to these questions is not about creating new data standards, or creating new ‘portals’ or ‘aggregators’: this is not a technology-first project. Instead, our goal is to identify the barriers stopping stakeholders from using standards that exist, or from building the platforms and products that are needed—and then to systematically remove those barriers through targeted and collaborative action. We seek to enable better financial investment decisions, while addressing critical security issues and commercial needs: to deliver public and private goods that can benefit us all. 

We look to how we can better leverage existing resources through a cultural approach to a new equilibrium, based on six Nodes around which we will gather people, resources and action. Together, they make up a powerful, active constellation:

  • Culture
  • Governance
  • Learning
  • Making
  • Standards
  • Data Infrastructure

We now have an opportunity to see the converging crises as a creative challenge to work together, to grow our shared understanding and explore new solutions.

What is Icebreaker One and who is involved?

Icebreaker One is an open, collaborative initiative that aims to convene public and private sector experts to address the data gaps that will help us mitigate and adapt to climate related and environmental risks, and repair our environment. It is seed funded by Climate KIC. This report drawn from a broad range of contributors from policy, investment, insurance, risk modelling, data, and related backgrounds.


Gavin Starks, Srini Sundaram, Stuart Fraser, Tim Davies, Gea Mikic, Jeremy Hindle, Julie Calkins, Skylar Bee, Emma Thwaites, Adrian Philpott, Fiddian Warman, Ben Cotton, Scott Williams, Dickie Whitaker, Jaya Brekke, Volker Buscher, Clinton Dow, Bryony Worthington, Fadi Hamdan, Stephen Passmore, and in consultation with dozens of organisations across finance, insurance, risk modelling, government and non-government sectors.

Call to action: 

Help socialise and initiate the Icebreaker One conversation.

1. Read, and contribute to, the full version of this report

2. Sign-up to follow progress or join our working groups

3. Share this website with those who you think this will be of interest

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