Environment Agency urges businesses to “seek opportunities” from climate change

A third of the climate risks identified by UK businesses are being managed within low-cost "business-as-usual" budgets, according to a new report from the Environment Agency which has addressed how businesses view the risks and opportunities presented by climate change and severe weather.

Combining evidence from Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) surveys of UK companies with insights from interviews with leading firms, the ‘Business opportunities in a changing climate report’ revealed a range of benefits for companies taking action to build resilience to extreme weather including business continuity, cost saving and competitive advantage.

According to the report, UK businesses have the necessary skills and expertise to export highly transferable domestic climate-related solutions to the global market.

The Environment Agency’s acting chair Emma Howard Boyd commented: “Planning now for the impacts of severe weather and a changing climate makes good business sense and can have immediate benefits. For instance, if businesses can keep trading during severe weather they will not only retain customers, they may have the chance to win new ones.

“We want UK businesses to be resilient to extreme weather to, be prepared for future risks, and to seek opportunities, where they can, from a changing climate.”

The report revealed that 34% of the climate risks identified are being managed using an inexpensive, “business-as-usual” approach, and with no need for extra funding or staff. Other key findings from the report are that 44% of companies do not know the financial costs of climate impacts and 62% of the market opportunities identified by companies related to increased demand for existing and new products and services.

‘Adaption finance gap’

The Environmental Agency findings arrive in the same week that a new United Nations Environment (UNEP) report revealed that the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could rise to $500bn by 2050.

The report assesses the “adaptation finance gap” between the financial costs of adapting to climate change in developing countries and the amount of money readily available to meet these costs, highlighting a potentially significant funding gap by 2050 unless new and additional funding for adaptation is forthcoming.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has urged developed countries to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate climate change, and adapt to its impacts, such as drought, rising sea levels and floods.

UNEP deputy executive director Ibrahim Thiaw said: “It is vital that governments understand the costs involved in adapting to climate change.

“This report serves as a powerful reminder that climate change will continue to have serious economic costs. The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new, additional and innovative financing for adaptation.”

Floods of anger

Both reports come less than a month after 175 nations signed the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change in New York, which marked an important step to implementing the deal which includes a “legally-binding” target to keep global warming “well below 2C”.

The UK government, one of the ceremony signatories, has received widespread criticism in recent months for its inability to prepare the country against ‘devastating’ climate change effects.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart last month defended the Government’s record on flood defence spending, following a succession of reports claiming that many of Britain’s flood-risk households have suffered from insufficient protection.

George Ogleby

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