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Businesses warned against ‘foolish risk’ of not adapting to climate crisis

A landmark report from scientists has highlighted that climate change is unfolding faster and more severely than previously thought, with firms being urged to build resilience into their business models.


A landmark report from scientists has highlighted that climate change is unfolding faster and more severely than previously thought, with firms being urged to build resilience into their business models.

The latest global report on the impacts of climate change on nature and people from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that the world faces unavoidable multiple ‘climate hazards’ over the next two decades, despite efforts to reduce the risks.

Even if the global community manages to hit internationally-agreed climate targets, we can still expect to see severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. These include increased weather extremes such as heatwaves, droughts and floods occurring simultaneously and becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Already, half of humanity are considered ‘highly vulnerable’ to the climate crisis, with millions of people exposed to acute food and water insecurity.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” explained Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.

‘Climate resilience must be a priority’

To avoid mounting loss of life, nature and infrastructure, scientists say accelerated action is required to not only cut greenhouse gas emissions, but adapt to climate change as well. To date, this ‘adaptation’ activity - such as restoring natural habitats, conserving natural resources and building resilient infrastructure - has generally played second fiddle to efforts to avoid climate change (also known as climate ‘mitigation’).

“The IPCC shows clearly it is time the issue of adaptation…is given equal footing to action on mitigation,” said Beverley Cornaby, programme director at the UK Corporate Leaders Group (CLG UK). Businesses have an important role to play by making climate resilience a strategic priority - both in terms of championing UK adaptation strategy and in supporting the adaptation actions in the countries in which they operate.

“By driving adaptation action in the UK, businesses can help support international action for countries and communities on the frontline of climate impacts.”

No country is protected

While the global south and small island states remain particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, no country is protected - the UK included.

Nina Seega, research director for sustainable finance at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), said: “Climate impacts are also taking place closer to home and, from the staggering heatwave in Canada to flash floods in Europe, each delay that increases global temperatures even fractionally means lasting economic damage to both vulnerable and resilient countries alike.”

‘Follow best practice’

Nicolette Bartlett, chief impact officer at corporate environmental disclosure programme CDP, said: “Companies must prepare themselves for the impacts of climate change and show that they have the ability to adapt, be it through resilient supply chains or business models; efforts toward adaptation are now the minimum requirement for survival. Inaction is a foolish business risk no company can afford.

“Measuring and managing environmental risks through disclosure will help to build resilience and plan for the future. There are a wealth of frameworks and standards to guide [businesses] through that process in line with best practice.”

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