Climate Change Resilience: The development of a defensive strategy to combat the effect of climate change

Why can Climate Change Resilience be described as a defensive strategy to tackle climate change?

The previous articles on sustainable development and business have concentrated on reducing carbon emissions to meet the challenge of the climate emergency. This can be described as an offensive strategy where organisations work hard to achieve a net zero status or become carbon neutral.  This is only one half of the story. Business also needs to adapt and prepare for the changes to the climate that are already here.  This can be described as a defensive strategy and is the topic of this article.

The media reporting of COP26 concentrates on articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement [1] that requires countries to implement plans to limit global warming to a maximum increase of 2oC, but ideally 1.5oC.  The offensive strategy to reduce carbon emissions.  

In article 7 The Paris Agreement [1] contains a requirement to improve climate change adaptation and resilience for society and business.  This will require preparation for the climate changes that are already locked in, due to the current high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This defensive strategy is just as important for business to continue functioning over the next few decades.

Why do we need to improve climate change resilience?

The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its’ third assessment of climate risk in June this year [2]. The committee predicts warmer, wetter, winters and hot, drier summers.  Average and extreme temperatures are predicted to be higher. Changing rainfall patterns will lead to flooding in some areas and drought in others.  There is likely to be an increase in coastal flooding and erosion and more frequent wildfires. Businesses will need to consider how to build their resilience to ensure these changes do not have a negative impact on them.

The CCC [2] noted that between 2018 and 2021 there were:

·         4,000 heat related deaths in England.

·         570, 000 new homes were built in England that are not designed to cope with higher temperatures.

·         3 wildfires burnt an area in England equivalent to the size of a medium city, resulting in habitat loss and an increase in emissions.

As the extreme effects of climate change become more frequent, business will need to protect infrastructure and buildings from increasing temperatures, a higher flooding risk or water scarcity.  The effects of climate change on business supply chains should also be considered. Increasing climate change resilience may also involve more frequent inspection and maintenance schedules for essential infrastructure.  The types of adaptation that should be considered in the next five years are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Seven types of beneficial adaptations recommended by the UK’s Climate Change Committee [2].

 

Table describing adaptation measures

Climate change resilience and the business planning cycle

Adapting to climate change is a partnership between individuals, business and the government.  The government is starting to address this nationally in the National Infrastructure Strategy [3] and the National Adaptation Programme [4].  This will look to adapt national infrastructure to cope with increased temperatures and rising sea levels.

Individual businesses can strengthen their climate change resilience by adding it to their business planning cycle and developing a plan for action.  One way to do this is to adopt the advice given by the Climate Change Committee shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Planning stages to make a business more resilient to climate change (adapted from CCC advice [2]

The key message in planning for climate change is to identify risk and adapt business premises and activities to cope with a 20C rise in temperature and asses the risks for a 40C rise in temperature.  If the world is not able to reduce emissions to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement [1] then a 40C rise in temperature could be the eventual outcome. 

Adapting to climate changes is as important for a business to have a long-term sustainable future in much the same way as becoming a net zero business is important.  It does not always receive the attention it deserves.

If you have enjoyed this article, you can follow me on Facebook or Linked-In. This will ensure you are notified about future posts.

Paul Beers

October 2021

Sources

[1] The United Nations (2015) Paris Agreement. [online] Available
at ADOPTION
OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT – Paris Agreement text English (unfccc.int)
 Accessed 28

October 2021

[2] Climate Change Committee (2021) Independent Assessment
of UK Climate Risk. [online] Available at Independent
Assessment of UK Climate Risk – Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk)

Accessed 28 October 2021

[3] HM Treasury (2020) National Infrastructure Strategy. Fairer, Faster, Greener. [0nline] Available at CP 329 – National Infrastructure Strategy – Fairer, faster, greener – November 2020 (publishing.service.gov.uk) Accessed 28 October 2021.

[4] Defra (2018) The National Adaptation Programme and the Third Strategy for Climate Adaptation Reporting. Making the country resilient to a changing climate. [online] Available at national-adaptation-programme-2018.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk) Accessed 28 October 2021

Share:

More Articles