USDA invests more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that USDA Rural Development will invest more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural Missouri.

Among the funded projects is Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company's installation of a 46.98 kilowatt solar array system. The company will use a $20,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant to replace 71,831 killowatt hours (100% of the company's energy use) per year, saving the company more than $6,000.

The investments reflect the goals of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses immediate economic needs and includes the largest ever federal investment in clean energy for the future, the USDA said.

For example, the Act includes $14 billion in funding for USDA programs that support the expansion of biofuels and help rural businesses and electric cooperatives transition to renewable energy and zero-emission systems.

USDA is making these investments through Community Facilities Disaster Grants, Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants, and Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audits and Renewable Energy Development Grants.

Police Committee Initiates Process to Consider the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act Regulations

The Portfolio Committee on Police in South Africa has resolved to allow the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSPS) to table part of the regulations of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA) 2019, which deals directly with the functions of the Critical Infrastructure Council to enable the council to start performing its functions immediately. The committee today met the Ministry of Police and representatives of the CSPS.

The committee has urged the CSPS to move with speed to table the regulations to ensure that Parliament completes the process of considering them. “We have raised a concern that the committee undertook an extensive process of interviews for the council in 2021 and to date, the Council has not been able to move and implement their mandate. This is the reason we will move with speed to consider the regulations and ensure the effectiveness of the Council,” said Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the Chairperson of the committee.

Meanwhile, the committee deliberated on various issues affecting policing, including crime statistics, morale within the South African Police Service (SAPS), the increase in illegal mining, and challenges with gender-based violence. As a result, the committee agreed on the need for a two-day session, where the Minister of Police together with the National Commissioner and senior leadership of the SAPS outline strategies to remedy these concerns. The session’s intentions are to work together to find solutions to the crime challenge facing the country in order to create a safe environment that fosters socio-economic development.

CREWS commits additional funding to strengthen Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean

Different and multiple hazards, such as severe weather conditions in land and at sea, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, pose a serious threat to the Caribbean, which is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Combined, geological and hydro-meteorological hazards have affected more than 100 million people in the region, causing significant economic losses and casualties.

The development of Early Warning Systems has been identified by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement as a key pathway to prevent disasters and reduce the negative impacts of multiple hazards.

As defined by the UNDRR, Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems are "an integrated system of hazard monitoring, forecasting and prediction, disaster risk assessment, communication and preparedness activities systems and processes that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazardous events".

The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS) is a mechanism that provides financial support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to establish risk-informed early warning services, implemented by three partners, based on clear operational procedures. CREWS has recently donated an additional $1 million to support the project Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean , which will be implemented by UNDRR in 2022.

The project aims to strengthen Early Warning Services (EWS) in the Caribbean and to articulate the response capacity of individuals, institutions, and communities through the development of a regional strategy to strengthen and streamline early warning and hydro-meteorological services. This includes developing appropriate approaches to risk-informed decision-making for EWS, identifying gaps in risk assessment at regional and national levels, and evaluating the resilience of already existing infrastructure such as forecasting centres, shelters, and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. The project will also examine opportunities for building partnerships with the private sector and assess socio-economic benefits to ensure the sustainability of investments and activities.

This project aligns with the Sendai Framework and focuses on the implementation of target G, which aims to “substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030”. The Sendai 7 campaign of the 2022 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction will be focusing on this same target. Ensuring access to Multi -hazard Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean is regarded as a tool that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to take timely action to reduce disaster risk in advance of hazardous events.

This is also a matter of urgency, as disclosed in the Regional Assessment Report on Disaster Risk in Latin America and the Caribbean (RAR21), published last year: “In the short and medium term the occurrence of new mega-disasters in the region is almost inevitable given the extreme risk embedded there. It is therefore urgent to strengthen corrective and reactive management capabilities, especially early warning systems, preparedness and response.”

Landmark IPCC report must be wake-up call for greater investment in disaster risk reduction

Following the release of the IPCC Working Group II Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, issued the following statement:

The findings of the latest IPCC report are dire. Communities around the world are being affected by climate change at a magnitude worse than expected. The devastating impacts of climate disasters are affecting every part of the world.

As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said today “The IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Many of the changes are at risk of becoming irreversible. On our current trajectory, the world is set to breach the 1.5 °C safe global temperature limit by the early 2030s, spiralling to dangerous levels of disaster risk. Almost half the human population is already in the danger zone

It is incomprehensible that we knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.

Based on current trends, a record increase in medium and large-scale disasters is expected with droughts doubling, and extreme temperature events almost tripling to 2030. Overall, disaster events have doubled in the last 20 years compared to the previous 20 years. If countries and governments do not manage it properly and respond to the climate emergency with urgency, there’s a very real chance that we’ll see them double again.

Yet the world also has an opportunity to meet these challenges. At the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Bali, Indonesia this May, organised by the UN and hosted by Indonesia, leaders will gather to discuss how to accelerate action for reducing these risks.

The IPCC report points to many solutions on improving regional and local information, providing sound data and knowledge for decision makers. This does work. Countries have succeeded in saving many lives through improved early warning systems and preparedness.

But climate disasters will undoubtedly worsen. There are very low levels of investments in disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction for the world’s most vulnerable countries on the front lines of impacts. We need to ramp up investment in disaster prevention if we are to cope with the exponential rise of disaster events in recent decades.

A crucial recommendation in the report today is the need for climate-resilient development – inclusive governance that embeds finance and actions across governance levels, sectors and timeframes.

Furthermore, all countries are impacted by climate change, but not in the same way. The most vulnerable communities and nations are the hardest hit, and need greater support on climate finance to adaptation and to avert, minimize and address losses and damages. This means increasing financing for climate change adaptation from tens to hundreds of million dollars.

We need to ensure that regulations and funding take into account disaster risk and that climate risk in financial markets is disclosed. Governments need to make disaster resilience a priority through dedicated funding to prevention.

Germany Broadens Definition of ‘Critical Infrastructures’

The second amendment of the Ordinance on the Designation of Critical Infrastructures under the BSI Act entered into effect on January 1, 2022. Such amendment broadens the definition of “critical infrastructures,” which are of particular relevance for Germany’s foreign direct investment screening regime.

This amendment follows the latest update (the 17th amendment) to the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, AWV) which entered into effect on May 1, 2021. Such amendment materially expanded the catalogue of sectors of particular relevance to Germany’s order and security[1] and introduced more differentiated thresholds.

In addition, since May 28, 2021, a mandatory foreign direct investment (FDI) filing is triggered if the German target business develops or manufactures certain IT components which are used in critical infrastructures (so-called critical components).

The second amendment of the Ordinance on the Designation of Critical Infrastructures under the BSI Act (BSI-KritisV or Law) comprehensively revises the definitions and thresholds required to designate critical infrastructures (energy, water, nutrition, IT and telecommunication, health, finance and insurance, and transport and traffic). The following amendments of the Law will likely have the most significant impact on German FDI screening, further increasing the number of notifications to the German Ministry of Economics and Climate Action:

Definition of a “Facility”: The concept of a “facility” is generally an essential prerequisite for the assumption of a critical infrastructure under the BSI-KritisV. In addition to premises and other fixed installations, machinery, equipment, and other mobile installations, the updated “facility” definition now also explicitly includes software and IT services necessary for the provision of a critical service for the operation of a critical infrastructure. Relevant software and IT services do not need to be specially developed for the operation of critical infrastructures to fall in the scope of the updated “facility” definition. This may result in third-party IT and software service providers being designated as operators of a critical infrastructure.
Energy Sector: The thresholds for power plants to be considered a critical infrastructure were lowered from 420 megawatts to 104 megawatts. Further, the updated BSI-KritisV introduces new categories of facilities (trading systems and facilities relevant for the trade of gas or petroleum) and also lowers the existing threshold for trading systems and facilities relevant for the trade of electricity from 200 terawatt-hours to 3.7 terawatt-hours per year.
IT and Telecommunication Sector: The Law reduces the existing thresholds for internet exchange points (IXPs)—number of connected autonomous systems (annual average)—from 300 to 100, as well as the thresholds for computer centers/housing—contractually agreed installed power in megawatts—from 5 megawatts to 3.5 megawatts.
Health Sector: The Law introduces a new facility category, the so-called “laboratory information network”. A laboratory information network is a network of facilities or systems that provide IT services for diagnosis and therapy control in human medicine for at least one laboratory.
Finance and Insurance Sector: The Law introduces new facility categories related to the trading in securities and derivatives. These concern systems for generating orders for trading securities and derivatives and forwarding them to a trading venue exceeding 6,750,000 transactions per year; trading systems (as defined in Article 4 number 24 of Directive 2014/65/EU) exceeding 850,000 transactions per year; and other depository management systems exceeding 6,750,000 transactions per year.
Transport Sector: The Law introduces new facility categories—for instance, air and port traffic control centers, port information systems, and others.

The amendment of the Law will increase the number of businesses designated to be operators of a critical infrastructure. The Federal Ministry of Interior and Community estimated in this respect that the number of operators of critical infrastructures will increase from a total of approximately 1,600 to a total of approximately 1,870.

Operators of critical infrastructures are primarily subject to the obligations of the BSI-KritisV, in particular, notification of IT security breaches. In addition, the broadened definition of critical infrastructures may increase the number of mandatory notifiable transactions under the German FDI provisions. Foreign investors should therefore factor this into their diligence efforts when considering the acquisition of voting rights in German domiciled companies.

[Source: Morgan Lewis]

Building a Resilient Railway Infrastructure

2021 has been chosen as the European Year of Rail by the European Commission. The European initiative aims to highlight the benefits of rail as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport to support the delivery of its European Green Deal objectives in the transport field.
Cybersecurity is a key requirement to enable railways to deploy and take advantage of the full extent of a connected, digital environment.
However, European infrastructure managers and railway undertakings face a complex regulatory system that requires a deep understanding of operational cybersecurity actions. In addition, European rail is undergoing a major transformation of its operations, systems and infrastructure due to digitalisation, mass transit and, increasing interconnections. Therefore, the implementation of cybersecurity requirements is fundamental for the digital enhancement and security of the sector.
ENISA, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, and ERA, the EU Agency for Railways, have joined forces to organise a virtual Conference on Rail Cybersecurity.
Policy
The European Commission has proposed the revision of the Network Information Security Directive (NIS2) to strengthen the cybersecurity measures to be adopted by the Member States and applied, among others, by European railway undertakings (RU) and infrastructure managers (IM).
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) also encourages awareness-raising of railway stakeholders by promoting the use of its Land Transport Security platform. A cybersecurity toolkit was also developed and shared with the participants. Cybersecurity is now a major concern for National Safety Authorities. The French rail safety authority, l’établissement public de sécurité ferroviaire (the EPSF) compiled the related challenges in a white paper, jointly with the French IM and main RU, the French Cybersecurity Agency, ANSSI and ERA.
Standardisation & Certification
The Working Group 26 of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) delivered the promising Technical Specification 50701 on cybersecurity for railways, now under review by the National Committees. A published version of the technical specification is expected before the summer. A voluntary reference to this standard will be made through the application guides developed by ERA. Railway stakeholders expect the technical specification to lay the foundations of a common risk analysis methodology. As demonstrated by the case study proposed by the Italian railway stakeholders, such methodology will link the security analysis to the safety case.
Research & Innovation
Shift2Rail the Joint Undertaking has gained maturity, and the Technical Demonstrator 2.11 on cybersecurity will soon demonstrate the applicability of their findings on specific projects such as Automatic Train Operation or Adaptable Communication Systems.
Technical interoperability standards for EU railway automation are being proposed for consideration in the railway regulatory framework, proposing "secure by design" shared railway services. In addition, The International Union of Railways (UIC), recently launched a Cyber Security Solution Platform, taking a pragmatic approach in building a solutions catalogue to risks and vulnerabilities identified by railway users.
Information Sharing & Cooperation
The European Railway-ISAC is attracting an increasing number of participants willing to share concerns or even vulnerabilities to trusted members and ensuring a collective response to the cybersecurity challenge. An open call by Shift2Rail, namely the 4SECURERAIL project, is developing a proposal for a European Computer Security Incident Response Team, allowing for identified threats to be instantly shared with targeted railway stakeholders.
With such developments, the railway industry, represented by the European Rail Industry Association (UNIFE), discussed how ready the sector is to increase the level of cybersecurity. UNIFE highlighted several priorities, such as: the approval and usage of the TS 50701, the need for adequate certification schemes on product level,the need for specific protection profiles on interface-specific devices and subsystems. This would allow for a more harmonized approach for manufacturers and system integrators.
Conclusions
The participants voted topics for future conferences and these include, among others:
- new technologies;
- cyber risk management for railways;
- cyber threat landscape;
- the update of Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI);
- cyber skills and training and cyber incident response.
Both agencies are paying very close attention to all the developments in the field of railway cybersecurity.
The success of the online conference of the last two days shows how railway stakeholders can benefit from close cooperation to ensure that both the cybersecurity and the railway regulatory framework are cross-fertilised.

One ICT regulator’s journey to 5th-generation regulation

The global regulatory and technology landscape is complex and fast-moving.
Regulators find themselves grappling with an ever-growing array of challenges, chief among them achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline, now just a decade away.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ICT regulator is no exception, as the country continues to prioritize the rapid growth of its ICT sector and pursue sustainable economic diversification as part of its Vision 2030.
But what is 5th-generation in the first place? And how is Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) planning to get there?
The evolving role of the ICT regulator
If we think in terms of regulatory “generations”, the first employed a “command and control approach”, which often took the form of public or national telecom monopolies. The second-generation regulatory landscape saw the opening of markets, facilitating partial liberalization and privatization of telecommunications. By generation three, we saw accelerated investment, innovation, and access opportunities emerge, with regulators placing a dual focus on stimulating competition while ensuring consumer protection.
Fourth generation features integrated regulation, led by economic and social policy goals. A 4th-generation regulator is one that ensures or is working towards universal access, consults stakeholders regularly, and promotes international and regional cooperation, equitable spectrum management, and stronger consumer protection.
Where do regulators stand globally?
According to ITU’s Global ICT Regulatory Outlook 2020, 8 per cent of countries now has holistic, forward-looking regulatory frameworks enabling digital transformation across the economy.
40 per cent of countries remain in regulatory generations 1 and 2, missing development opportunities and remaining disconnected from the digital transformation of their economies. While one third of countries have achieved G4, characterized by thriving markets for ICT services and the lowest proportion of unconnected populations, some have already set 5th-generation regulation in their sights. In a 5th-generation regulatory environment, collaboration among even more stakeholders is key to shaping decisions in a harmonized way not only within the telecommunications realm, but across a broad range of sectors now dependent on ICTs.
CITC’s regulatory transformation
With a guiding vision of a “connected nation for a thriving digital economy”, CITC is stepping up to meet the 5th-generation regulation challenge with an ambitious new digital transformation strategy. Their vision also emphasizes safeguarding the public, providing reliable service, ensuring fair competition, and balancing the diverse needs of multiple stakeholders.
Historically, the Commission’s mandate focused on regulating the telecommunication and information technology sectors. But the last two years have seen that mandate evolve to reflect a changing global regulatory and technology landscape.
The Saudi Arabian regulator has met the challenges of an increasingly complex regulatory environment with a series of initiatives, including, among others:
• Promoting investment and infrastructure development while ensuring access to high-quality services. CITC reported investing 15 billion USD in infrastructure, including meeting major deployment milestones on network infrastructure and quality. Mobile broadband download speed reached 77.55 Mbps in August 2020, and mobile coverage increased to 99 per cent of the population for 3G and 94 per cent for 4G, according to CITC estimates.
• Establishing a National Regulatory Committee that will bring together 8 core regulators to collaborate on ICT and digital cross-sectoral topics like blockchain, smart cities and digital platforms, and proactively anticipate emerging topics. Additional public and private entities will be involved as needed. This collaboration was set up to accelerate regulation-to-adoption and seeks to drive innovation, job creation, and investor confidence by promoting coherence and efficiency across Saudi Arabia’s ICT ecosystem.
• Acting collaboratively to deploy ICTs during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic reached Saudi Arabia, CITC collaborated quickly and effectively with telecom operators to meet the surge in demand for online access and data with increased speeds and data capacity, free services, expanded spectrum use, and enhanced network configurations and connectivity. This rapid response played a critical role in enabling remote work, business continuity, delivery apps, e-government services, and remote learning across Saudi Arabia.
[courtesy of ITU]

Croatia hit by multiple earthquakes affecting infrastructure and homes

At least seven people were killed and scores injured after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck central Croatia on December 29. The quake—the strongest recorded in 140 years—struck just after noon local time about 30 miles southeast of the capital Zagreb, and could be felt across the Balkans. The earthquake led to widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure, including the region’s largest hospital and a variety of other healthcare-related facilities. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power, and travel has been widely disrupted as officials continue to assess damage to roads, bridges and local airports.
In recent days, the area has suffered from strong aftershocks. On January 6, a 4.9 magnitude earthquake occurred in the same area, with the epicenter near Petrinja, just 4 miles (7 kilometers) west-northwest of the December 29 quake.
Reports indicate significant damages to buildings and homes and possible utility disruptions in Petrinja, Zagreb, and Sisak in Croatia. Slovenia has also shut down power to its nuclear power plant, as a precaution due to the possibility of aftershocks. Some damage to infrastructure has also been reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Within hours of the earthquake, International Medical Corps deployed more than $50,000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) to support Croatian health authorities involved in relief efforts. It also deployed an Emergency Response Team from the Croatia office to conduct an assessment of the damage and critical needs in Petrinja, Sisak, Glina and the surrounding villages.
The IMC team is working closely with the Croatian Ministry of Health’s Crisis Management Center to evaluate needs and coordinate opportunities to connect resources with those affected by the earthquake. Based on discussions with the Ministry of Health (MoH), a clear priority is to restore primary healthcare services in the affected region.
IACIPP Regional Director, Robert Mikac, who is actively involved in disaster management and relief in Croatia, is supporting the government response to the disaster.

Resilient buildings offer protection and boost recovery

Resilient infrastructure protects people during disasters and enables communities to recover quickly in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.
Two examples from Vanuatu during and after Tropical Cyclone Harold – a Category 5 storm – illustrate the point powerfully.
During the devastating storm, the two classrooms of Balon School on the island of Santo served as official cyclone shelters protecting around 10 families (approximately 50 people) over two days during the worst weather. One week after Harold passed over the island of Santo, Balon School played an important role in local recovery efforts through the hosting of a psycho-social workshop to help locals deal with the compounded stress from TC Harold.
School teachers shared important information to help families recover quickly in a workshop that was coordinated by School Improvement Officers from the Sanma Education Office.
“The classrooms were very strong, very resilient. Once we closed the wooden shutters, only a small amount of water came in, mostly through the crack under the door, even though we could hear the wind whistling outside, moving trees and branches around and the rain crashing on the roof,” said School Principal John Harry. “There was no damage to either of the classrooms after the storm which meant we could start teaching again soon after.”
The example of Balon School highlights the value of disaster resilient infrastructure in disaster-exposed countries such as Vanuatu, where many of rural schools act as social and educational hubs for local communities.
Balon School caters for 150 students ranging from kindergarten through to Year 6. It was selected as a pilot under the Australian Government-funded Pacific Humanitarian Social Infrastructure as part of the Recovery Acceleration through Prefabricated Infrastructure Deployment (RAPID) programme.
Another good example of resilient infrastructure is Market House in Luganville, Vanuatu’s second major city.
Built in 1977, Market House was renovated in 2019 to strengthen its disaster and climate resilience so that its many vendors – predominantly women and including persons with disabilities – could continue to trade. The renovation included a Category 5 cyclone-resistant roof, more durable flooring and a new water drainage system to reduce the risk of flooding and damage during extreme weather events.
Cyclone Harold hit the town only six months after the renovations. Despite wind speeds of up to 270 kilometers per hour, the Luganville Market House sustained only minor roof damage. As a result, many of the more than 3,000 registered market vendors were able to start selling goods and produce within a week of the storm.
It is a good example of how climate-informed design, construction and renovation of social infrastructure strengthens local and gender-sensitive resilience in the face of increasing climate change threats and disasters. The renovations were under UN Women’s Markets for Change programme, which is mainly funded by the Australian Government.

New community benchmark on water infrastructure resilience released

The Alliance for National and Community Resilience (ANCR) released the third of its Community Resilience Benchmarks—the water benchmark, which addresses resilience of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems.
ANCR’s Community Resilience Benchmarks (CRBs) support communities in assessing their resilience and developing strategies for improvement. These benchmarks take a coordinated, holistic look at the people, services and processes that make communities work.
The water benchmark was developed by a committee of subject matter experts co-chaired by Andy Kricun, Managing Director at Moonshot Missions and Senior Fellow at the U.S. Water Alliance, and Jennifer Adams, an emergency management consultant. Committee members included representatives from the American Chemistry Council, American Water Works Association, Codes and Standards International, Denver Water, Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association, Dupont Water Solutions, McWane, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Water is such an essential aspect of communities. We’re grateful for the contributions made by committee members to help capture the policies and practices that support resilience in this sector,” said Evan Reis, Executive Director of the U.S. Resiliency Council and Chair of the ANCR Board of Directors.
“We look forward to working with communities to integrate the Community Resilience Benchmarks into their current resilience initiatives,” commented ANCR Executive Director Ryan Colker. “Not only does the Water Benchmark provide an excellent enhancement to the provisions contained the Buildings and Housing Benchmarks, but it also helps communities determine how their water systems and utilities contribute to their resilience goals to inform future investments that help protect residents and businesses from disaster.”
Communities are encouraged to pilot the benchmark and provide feedback to ANCR to support updates. For communities interested in piloting the water benchmark.
ANCR is a joint initiative of the International Code Council and the U.S. Resiliency Council that brings together representatives from the public and private sectors to advance a holistic approach to community resilience.
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