24 March – – Ribena is developing a new strain of climate change resistant blackcurrants as part of a world wide response by the world’s biggest companies to adapt to climate change and seize opportunities, The Economist Intelligence Unit and UK Trade and Investment have found in a new survey.

The survey, Adapting to an uncertain climate, a world of commercial opportunities, found that 90 per cent of major global businesses had already been affected by climate change and the major saw it as an opportunity rather than a risk.

In Australia, the survey found 45 per cent of companies are actively working on the issue. The report  is based on a survey of more than 700 global executives from industry sectors in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Western Europe, North America and Latin America.

Susan Haird, acting chief executive of UK Trade and Investment said: “Ninety per cent of those surveyed said they had been directly affected by climate change in the past three years and around one in five have already generated revenue from such opportunities.

“Recent floods and droughts across the world have demonstrated the urgency for business to adapt to the realities of climate change. Whether it is designing flood defences or developing new techniques for crop resilience,”

It was clear that businesses around the world were ready to grasp climate change opportunities, she said.

Key findings include:

  • 90 per cent of firms suffered climate impacts in the past three years, with more than half noting increased impacts
  • 30 per cent of firms are already actively planning and making changes to their businesses in response to these impact
  • 64 per cent see adapting to climate change as an opportunity, more than those that see it as a risk
  • One in five (19 per cent) firms has already generated new revenue from adapting to climate change. This was especially prominent within the professional services and consulting sector, where 24 per cent of firms had already generated revenues from this
  • 46 per cent are already conducting some degree of research into adapting to climate change
  • Emerging markets are seen as the primary business growth opportunity with regards to adaptation, especially within Asia, selected by 60 per cent of executives

James Watson, contributing editor to the Economist Intelligence Unit and the author of the report said in a media statement: “In the coming decade, a significant amount of investment will be directed towards climate adaptation, especially within emerging markets. Along with rising climate impacts being felt by companies around the world, this is prompting rising awareness about the climate risks that businesses need to adapt to, but also about the new commercial opportunities that are opening up as a result.”

“A small, but rising, proportion of firms from a range of industries are already tapping into such opportunities, with products ranging from drought-resistant seeds and climate insurance to an array of consulting, law and engineering services.”

A United Nations study forecasts that between $49 billion and $171 billion will be required annually by 2030 to deal with climate adaptation, Mr Watson said.

Globally, 31 per cent of those polled said their businesses were actively planning or adapting to climate change in some way. Europe overall registered 33 per cent, with the Middle East and Africa 31 per cent and North America 25 per cent. Asia tops the league at 37 per cent, which is a reflection of their greater exposure to climate risks.

Mexico leads the pack overall

From a country perspective, Mexican businesses were above average in actively planning or adapting to climate change. Thirty-six per cent of Mexican businesses said they were doing so, as opposed to the global average of 31 per cent. Australian firms were most active, with 45 per cent of those polled actively working on the issue. In the US, 22 per cent said they were working on this.

UK initiatives

UK firms are already innovating in response to adaptation across the four sectors considered in detail in the report: financial services; infrastructure and construction; professional services and consulting and agriculture and life sciences.

For example, HSBC is offering insurance products to cover climate-related losses to crops and repair homes and cars affected by weather events in vulnerable markets. In agriculture, the Scottish Crop research Institute has partnered with UK beverage company Ribena, to develop new varieties of blackcurrants that are more resilient to climate change.

The survey also found:

  • • The global market value of low carbon environmental goods and services is over $5.13 trillion (£3.2 trillion) and is expected to grow again by half by 2015
  • Research indicates that adapting to climate change now will be more cost effective than adapting later. Each $1.60 (£1)spent on adaptation represents four times its value in potential damages avoided (Source: OECD 2009 modelling)
  • The UK low carbon environmental goods and services market is the 6th largest in the world and grew by 4.3 per cent in 2009. It is now worth $179 billion (£112 billion), employing over 900,000 people, rising to an estimated 1.2 million by 2015.
  • The UK has world class financial and professional services, and specialist consultancy in carbon measurement and management. The UK leads the world in assessing carbon footprints, and strategic advising advisory on removing carbon from an entire supply chain.
  • London is the global centre for the $72 billion (£45 billion) industry of weather derivatives
  • The UK leads on sustainable construction, including new techniques and technologies for adaptation. UK architecture and engineering firms are creating and designing for sustainable cities across Asia and the Middle East, while UK standards, such as “BRE” Environmental Assessment Method, are ensuring best practice in sustainable design and achieving world class environmental performance from buildings
  • The UK is home to some of the leading centres of excellence in climate science including the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Tyndall Centre. It is also a world leader in flood forecasting.

See the full report

editorial@thefifthestate.com.au