Even though I wasn’t able to attend the Climate Group’s Climate Week NYC event this year, I kept a steady eye on the buzz. As ever, the event has brought together a strong coalition of environmentalists, politicians and businesses. The sea change in businesses taking a serious stance on climate change over the past few years is a necessary shift. Here are four quotes from conversations and presentations around Climate Week NYC last week that, I think, exemplify why climate change is a concern for businesses as much as any other Group.
1. Japan cannot do without nuclear power to secure the stability of energy supply and fight climate change – Shinzo Abe, Primate Minister of JapanThere are two reasons why this is important. First is because energy is a great collective challenge of our time – the burning of fossil fuels has contributed massively to changes to our climate but has been required to power industry and the quality of life many enjoy. Industry commentators are merited in worrying about how we handle a transition to new ways of powering everything from phone chargers to fighter jets. We need to think about preserving the world for tomorrow while being sensitive to the livelihoods of today.The second point is about the asymmetrical strain countries will face. For Japan, a nation with little in the way of domestic sources of fossil fuels, nuclear energy has been critical in powering the populous nation. At the same time, one would have to have a very short memory to have forgotten what an earthquake did to one of the nation’s key nuclear reactor facilities, or the follow-on effects to the water and food supplies. This is why dialogue is key. We all have something at stake in mitigating the risks of climate change but every country – and, indeed, company – has different resource pressures. Communicating will help us work together to create effective solutions to these problems.
2. It is becoming more and more difficult to produce food because of the increasing variability that is a direct result of climate change – Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers UnionThis one’s pretty much right to the point. A changing climate – with rising temperatures changing the seasonality of crops and water supplies for irrigation ever constricting – will have a huge impact on agriculture. A three degree warmer world would result in agriculture being 50 per cent less productive in 2050 in some parts of the world. This, in turn, will put major strain on the global food supply, with some regions bearing the brunt earlier than others. Keeping a view to how these challenges will develop will help create strategies for resilience and help companies build risk models and locate workforces accordingly.
3. Shifting to a low-carbon and resilient trajectory will require coordinated, integrated solutions to catalyse the transformation of three key economic systems: energy, urban and land use – Naoko Ishii, CEO, Global Environment FacilityEnergy and land use are of critical importance – largely for reasons I’ve already mentioned. Populations shifting to urban centres create a huge challenge that needs to be considered. The profile of human habitats has changed considerably, with the rise of megacities and migration of people looking for jobs and opportunities in cities. This will only increase as climate change makes agriculture in certain areas untenable, so livelihoods and the means of living need to be sought elsewhere from rural landscapes. Crowded populations create a number of risks. Any species in close quarters creates a situation where diseases can spread rapidly. Unplanned-for rises in populations also putstrain on infrastructure and resource management systems. Finally, large groups of jobless individuals creates a scenario for social and political uprising as people feel disenfranchised.
4. Businesses that set science based targets immediately start to change the way they work – Paul Simpson, CEO of CDPThis may seem intuitive but is still somewhat short of widespread adoption. With the impacts of climate changes already making themselves evident in tangible ways – in recent bouts of flooding and heavy storms, for example – businesses need to be considering an entirely new risk bracket.Placing science at the centre of strategy and risk models will be important to establishing a long-term outlook on how to build resilience. This is ultimately the goal for businesses in focusing on climate change: building resilience. And building resilience doesn’t stop at your company. Just like the impacts of climate change, resilience should be widespread – protecting the communities your employees work in by investing in flood resilience infrastructure or water management systems, for example. It’s critical to remember that we’re all in this together.Which quote highlights the importance of climate change for you?