Adapt to survive the inevitable impacts of climate change
The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) 2021 Progress Report to Parliament – clearly illustrates that there is more to be done when it comes to UK policy on reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
While the UK has reduced emissions over the past years, this has almost entirely come from the power generation sector but very little from the other parts of the economy. Following the publication of the Sixth Carbon Budget and the target of 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, there is clearly an urgent need for robust policy that will act as a framework for the UK economy’s action and delivery of the path to Net Zero by 2050.
The Government is currently developing its policy framework ahead of COP26 later this year, with the Net Zero Strategy expected to be published soon, but this is not a sign for businesses to wait. Climate change is happening now and the road to Net Zero is an entire economy effort. In the words of Chris Stark, CEO of the CCC “there is a huge need for real world delivery.”
Under the current conditions, the CCC sees continued warming until 2050 and beyond to 2100 with the highs of the 2018 Summer projected to be average by 2050.
What consequences could this have for business and what can they do to prepare?
The CCC has stressed the need for climate change adaptation – the process of adjusting to current or expected climate change and its effects. It is crucial for protecting people, the environment as well as economic success.
Unlike for carbon mitigation strategies, we are yet to see high ambitions in the space of adaption, according to the CCC experts. Baroness Brown Baroness Brown, Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, has spoken about adaptation as the “Cinderella of climate change”. But this is one poor relation businesses simply cannot afford to ignore.
Failure to meet the current demands of the climate crisis comes with the overwhelming risk that businesses products and services will become obsolete, or raw materials just too difficult and expensive to source.
There is of course a need for government action to help reduce barriers to adaptation as well as raise public awareness. Mike Barry, Strategic Advisor on Sustainable Business, expects that we will see a blizzard of policy announcements in the area of adaptation, notably on heat and homes (such as a ban on sale of new gas boilers rather like new diesel/petrol cars by 2030); EV charging roll out; farming (new subsidy scheme aimed at protecting nature); and further restoration of nature (peatland, tree planting).
But businesses also have a role to play in maximising the opportunities that adaptation presents and plugging the current gap. For example, a greener construction company can play a pivotal role in building zero carbon flood defences.
The key questions for businesses are: have you considered how you will protect your business against the impacts of climate change? And, have you considered how your business might lose out, or win commercially, from the impacts of climate change?
As part of our ambition to help businesses navigate the challenging and ever changing ESG landscape, we have launched ESGOptic – a new digital tool that instantly measures how organisations are performing in relation to ESG requirements – including climate change – against expectations from all key stakeholders. It is important to act quickly and this tool will provide a frank assessment of current strengths and weaknesses to be able to address complex challenges in a more sustainable and purposeful way.