The adaptation tipping point: are UK businesses climate-proof?

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1 The adaptation tipping point: are UK businesses climate-proof? Most people who have taken climate risks into account have only considered half the picture acclimatise John Firth UK Climate Impacts Programme Chris West Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Paul Dickinson

2 Acclimatise and UKCIP gratefully acknowledge the advice and contributions of Malcolm Dowden (Charles Russell, LLP). We would also like to thank Yara Chakhtoura, who undertook the analysis of FTSE 350 responses to the CDP4 request for information. Design by Stephanie Ferguson, UKCIP. This report should be referenced as: Firth, J, and Colley, M (2006) The Adaptation Tipping Point: Are UK Businesses Climate Proof? Acclimatise and UKCIP, Oxford. ISBN X Further copies of this report can be downloaded from and Hard copies of the report are available from: UK Climate Impacts Programme Oxford University Centre for the Environment Dyson Perrins Building South Parks Road Oxford OX1 3QY Tel: +44 (0) Fax: +44 (0) Most people who have taken climate risks into account have only considered half the picture. Chris West, Director, UKCIP

3 Foreword Foreword The adaptation tipping-point : are UK businesses climate-proof? Our climate is changing, and we are faced with many years of continuing unavoidable change. Even if we make a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the lag in the climate system means that we will need to cope with a changing climate for the next 40 plus years, due to emissions we have already put into the atmosphere. Businesses and the financial markets need to grasp the reality we face that we have to both reduce our emissions, and adapt to inevitable climate change. There is no choice between mitigation and adaptation we have to pursue complementary actions on both. The report explores why adaptation is and will become an increasingly important issue for businesses, investors and the financial markets, in addition to the already urgent mitigation agenda. This report provides a concise explanation of the scale of the adaptation agenda and the implications for business. It establishes a milestone against which future actions will be measured by investors, employees, customers and communities. All CEOs, Finance Directors, non-executive Directors and all those engaged in providing business, legal and financial advice will greatly benefit by reading this report and reflecting on the consequences for their companies and clients if they fail to take action now. Chris West Director, UK Climate Impacts Programme John Firth Managing Director, acclimatise 1

4 Executive summary Executive summary Our climate is changing. We are already faced with many years of continuing unavoidable change. Even if we make a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we will need to cope with a changing climate for the next 40 plus years, due to emissions we have already put into the atmosphere. The future climate is already set over this time period and the consequences can not be ignored. Businesses and the financial markets need to grasp the reality we face that we have to both reduce our emissions and adapt to inevitable climate change. There is no choice between mitigation and adaptation we have to pursue complementary actions on both now. The implications for businesses, and to their investors, customers and workforce, through failure to assess and manage climate risks are significant. Value, return and growth will reach a tipping-point when an increasing awareness and understanding of the realities of climate change challenges previous expectations. Decisions taken by directors and professional advisers may be open to legal challenge. The tipping points on value, return and growth are likely to trigger credit rating revisions and increases in the costs of capital. Customer expectations, preferences and needs will change as the impacts of climate change become apparent. Governments are likely to resort to prescriptive regulation if businesses do not respond with adaptive action. This report has analysed the Carbon Disclosure Project responses of businesses in the UK FTSE 350 to explore their understanding of the need for adaptation. These are the key findings. Despite an increasing realisation of climate risks, this is not reflected in the risk management strategies of the majority of the FTSE 350. Only 10% of the FTSE 100 reported that they considered the impacts of climate change pose a high risk to their business operations. Adaptation is not as well understood as mitigation. The number of good responses, with a rich description of climate risks, is low. Within some sectors, there are a small number of companies that have demonstrated an understanding of climate risks. These companies are setting the pace and will become the benchmarks. 2 This contrasts markedly with other companies in the same sectors appearing not to recognise that they face any climate risks. Although the potential direct impacts of extreme events are recognised, there is less appreciation of the impacts, both direct and indirect, arising from changes in longer-term average conditions and seasonal variation in temperature, precipitation etc. In addition to analysing the adaptation results from the CDP4 survey, this report also provides a primer for directors, investors, fund managers and their professional advisers on the adaptation agenda and the need for action. Businesses can respond to build resilience and climate-proof their interests. Uncertainty about the future is not a reason for inaction. There is sufficient information to enable the impacts of a changing climate over the next 40 years to be embedded in decisionmaking at strategic and project levels. Adaptive management is feasible. Changing markets, customer needs and investor expectations will present significant opportunities for those companies that take action to climateproof their businesses. Taking adaptive action early may be costeffective when compared with the costs associated with remedial action at a later date. When analysing potential action, companies should consider their fiduciary responsibilities. Businesses should review their climate risk management strategies and check that they are responding to both the mitigation and the adaptation agendas. Action is required on both now.

5 Table of contents Table of contents Introduction 4 Why adaptation matters 5 to business A changing climate what is the 6 science telling us? Significant business risks 7 Value, return and growth at the 7 tipping point Litigation 8 Brand and reputation 9 Credit rating 10 Growing government action on 10 adaptation Sector summaries 11 Aerospace and defence 12 Automobiles and machinery 12 Banks 13 Chemicals 13 Construction and building 14 materials Food-related industry 14 General retailers 15 Hotel and leisure 16 Insurance 16 Media and entertainment 17 Mining, steel and other materials 17 Oil, gas and electricity 18 Pharmaceuticals and 19 biotechnology Real estate 19 Software and computer 20 services Specialty and other finance 20 Support services 21 Telecommunications services 21 Tobacco and beverages 22 Transport 22 Utilities 23 What can business do? 24 Appendices 25 Appendix 1: References 25 Appendix 2: About the Carbon 26 Disclosure Project Appendix 3: CDP4 questionnaire 27 Appendix 4: CDP4 signatories 28 Appendix 5: Companies 30 responses to the CDP4 questionnaire 3

6 Introduction Introduction "We are not talking any more about what climate models say might happen in the future. We are experiencing dangerous human disruption of the global climate and we are going to experience more." John Holdren, President, American Association for the Advancement of Science This report focuses on the climate risks to business from inevitable climate change. The CDP4 questionnaire included a very specific question (number 3) which, together with responses to other parts of the questionnaire, was designed to assess the understanding of the UK s major companies of the risks they face from a changing climate rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and extreme events and the adaptation measures currently being used to safeguard assets and operations. The question asks: How are your operations affected by extreme weather events, changes in weather patterns, rising temperatures, sea level rise and other related phenomena both now and in the future? What actions are you taking to adapt to these risks, and what are the associated financial implications? The analysis in this report sits within the context of growing engagement in recent years by both businesses and their advisers in developing an understanding of climate change, and of calls from investors for greater disclosure in forward-looking risk management statements. The report explores why adaptation is and will become an increasingly important issue for businesses, investors and the financial markets. Exposure areas are described and the key risks including litigation, brand and reputation, credit rating, regulation and financial performance are discussed. Summaries are provided for each of the main business sectors. Finally, the report considers the actions that can be taken to embed climate risk management into decision-making, to build resilience and climate-proof businesses. These actions will allow risks to be assessed and managed, and significant market opportunities to be identified. 4

7 Why adaptation matters to business Why adaptation matters to business We face two climate change challenges, not just one. Any conceivable emissions reductions policies, even if successful, cannot have a perceptible impact on the climate for some decades some change is already locked in by historic emissions and by inertia in the climate system. Global temperatures will continue to increase for the next years and sea level will rise for many centuries, and we must develop strategies to address these climatic changes. This is not a reason to be complacent about emissions reductions. Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin: we must mitigate emissions in order to limit future climate change, and we must adapt in order to deliver a sustainable economy in the face of current and future climate change. These are not alternative strategies. Climate change is happening the process is already underway. It is having an effect on business now. There is no quick fix as these effects will stay with us for decades to come. Business has paid increasing attention to the mitigation agenda, but has not yet grasped the significant emerging risks posed directly by climate change and variability. Investors and businesses alike must recognise that the past climate is no longer a sound basis upon which to plan for the future. Uncertainty is no excuse for inaction. Uncertainty over climate change is often cited as justification for delay or inaction. Yet there is greater consensus in the scientific community that man-made climate change is underway than on almost any other issue. We have more knowledge and understanding about how our climate is changing than we have about demographic change, interest rate movements, currency fluctuations, or market variations, and yet every day businesses are prepared to take decisions which are affected by these uncertain drivers. While there are still uncertainties about the precise impacts of these climatic changes at individual locations, there is sufficient information now to enable businesses to incorporate climate risks into decision-making. Uncertainties can be better understood by using climate change scenarios and by identifying thresholds and sensitivities. The sophistication of climate modelling improves year on year. In the UK, the UKCIP02 climate change scenarios (produced by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) currently provide the best information on how the UK s climate is expected to change over coming decades. The next UKCIP climate change information package, due to be released in 2008, will incorporate probabilistic climate information, and provide a useful tool for risk-based decision-making. A business will only flourish if its leaders are adept at weighing risks and making robust decisions in the face of uncertainty. The successful business of the future is taking climate risks into account today, and is developing adaptive strategies and actions to manage the uncertainties. 5

8 A changing climate what is the science telling us? A changing climate what is the science telling us? The rising concentration of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is changing its composition and preventing heat from escaping the earth s surface. Man-made emissions have already increased CO 2 concentrations by one third compared to the start of the industrial era and, by mid-century, concentrations are expected to be twice pre-industrial levels. Temperature change ( o C) Observations Medium High Emissions The result is climate change. Global average temperature has risen by about 0.6 C since the beginning of the twentieth century, with about 0.4 C of this warming occurring since the 1970s. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has attributed most of the observed warming of the last 50 years to human activities. The summer of 2003 was an unusually hot one over large parts of Europe, with August temperatures 3 C higher than the long-term average. This caused major business disruptions and over 20,000 excess deaths directly attributable to the high temperatures. In the UK there were an estimated 2,000 excess deaths. The Met Office estimates with high probability that the risk of such anomalously high European temperatures has already doubled due to the effects of GHG emissions Year In the absence of any human modification of climate, temperatures such as those seen in Europe in 2003 are estimated to be a 1-in-1,000 year event. A simulation using the Hadley Centre s global climate model (Figure 1, red line) of summer warming until 2100 over southern Europe shows that by the 2040s a 2003-type summer is predicted to be about average, and by the 2060s it would typically be the coolest summer of the decade. Under continuing climate change, in the UK we can expect: increasing climatic variability, rising temperatures, increasing risk of heat waves, changing patterns of rainfall, with wetter winters and drier summers, increasing risk of drought and flood, rising sea level, increased frequency and severity of sea storm surges, possible increased storm intensity and frequency. There is also mounting evidence that tropical cyclones (known as hurricanes in the North Atlantic) will become more intense in a warmer world. The devastating impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 demonstrate the kinds of risks that could become more common. The Gulf Stream will continue to exert a very important influence on UK climate. Although its strength may weaken in future, perhaps by as much as 25% by the end of the century, it is unlikely that this would lead to a cooling of UK climate since warming from GHGs will more than offset any cooling from a weakening of the Gulf Stream. Figure 1: European 2003 summer temperatures could be normal by the 2040s; cool by 2060s [Source: Hadley Centre, 2005] 6

9 Significant business risks Significant business risks The impacts of increasing climate variability and a changing climate for business will be far reaching. Our current economic structures and social and cultural support systems have developed over many years partly in response to relatively stable climatic conditions. The stability to which we have become accustomed has allowed a measure of predictability based on the analysis of historic climate data. In a changing world these systems and structures are increasingly exposed to extreme weather conditions and changing long term average climate conditions. Decisions based on a historic analysis of climate data are no longer future-proof. Awareness of climate risks is growing across all areas of government, business and society. There are a number of driving forces that are increasing the visibility of climate risks and the market opportunities: the climate is changing, the frequency and intensity of severe weather events is increasing, there is increased interest in scientific information about the climate and a consensus within the scientific community on climate change, there is also increasing interest from the legal profession and recent cases of litigation on climate change in the US, governments and others in the public sector are beginning to create guidance, legislation and regulation to address changing climate risks, public awareness of climate change is very high and is linked to brand value, the insurance and investment communities have awakened to the risks, and are highlighting their concerns, there is increasing importance attached to business continuity, corporate governance interest in director-level risk management is growing fast, society is becomingly increasingly risk-averse. It is clear that few businesses have yet to recognise the new and unfamiliar threats arising from a changing climate. Fewer still have begun to assess the risks and opportunities and to develop risk management processes and actions to meet the challenges. Impacts will be felt by every business irrespective of their size, location, markets, products and services, and will affect: natural resources and raw materials, supply chains and logistics, fixed asset design and construction, asset operation, performance and maintenance, processes, asset values, markets, products and services, workforces. In this report we discuss some of the risks companies will face to, for example, financial performance, litigation, brand and reputation, credit rating and regulation. Those that fail to respond will be unable to take advantage of the opportunities. Value, return and growth at the tipping point The perception and realisation by the financial markets and investors of the risks to value, growth and return are emerging. The insurance industry in particular, is already acutely aware of the potential impacts and has had first hand experience of the costs arising from events driven by climate change. The direct risks arising from climate change rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, alterations to rainfall patterns will affect operational costs for many businesses as they adapt sites and processes to mitigate them. Tom Burke, Visiting professor at Imperial and University Colleges London, Environmental Policy Advisor to Rio Tinto "Integrating climate change into investment analysis is simply common sense The carbon intensity of profits is an approach that needs to be adopted Climate change is a problem that s not going to be solved by politicians Politicians have an important role to play; but the underlying reality is going to have its effects on the market, regardless of public opinion and government action. Al Gore 7

10 Significant business risks The potential results of climate change including changing weather patterns, rising temperatures and sea level rises would affect Sky (in the same way as any business) in the long term in many ways. British Sky Broadcasting, FTSE 100 Climate change impacts increasing impacts, risk and cost Current value, return and growth expectations Measures of business success We expect climate change not only to produce extreme capital damaging events but also to increase uncertainty around corporate business plans and potentially reduce asset values. Lloyd s of London Reduced value, return and growth 2006 Tipping point Significant impacts Figure 2: Value, return and growth at the tipping point Sudden financial shocks could still pose a threat to financial stability. Such shocks can take a variety of forms, such as natural disasters (possibly driven by climate change) Financial Services Authority While some companies have begun to treat climate change as a fundamental strategic issue, many more are not disclosing their climate risks or plans to address it, creating uncertainty for investors and difficulty assessing the true longerterm value of our portfolios. Institutional investors at the Investor Summit, May 2005 Climate change could be the next legal battlefield: compensation claims for man-made environmental damages would make the tobacco sector payouts look small. Financial Times, 14 July 2003 Hurricane Katrina has been widely recognised as a tipping point for the insurance industry in the USA. In the UK and Europe insurers have been at the forefront of business sector activity in analysing the potential impacts. The Association of British Insurers assessed the financial risks of climate change and warned of the risk of increasing tropical storm activity and its impact on insurance and economies prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Lloyd s this year warned of the challenges the industry and its clients faced and the threats to long-term solvency. Aviva, Allianz and Axa have been active in understanding the risks to their businesses; Swiss Re and Munich Re have been at the forefront of raising the profile of climate change as a business risk rather than an environmental issue. Figure 2 shows that the costs, risks and impacts of climate change will increase over time. There will be a point (the tipping point) driven by either a financial shock (for example, an extreme event) or by an increasing awareness and understanding of the reality of climate change, when these costs, risks and impacts challenge expectations for value, return and growth. At this point the financial markets, analysts, credit rating agencies, investors, fund managers etc., are likely to review the risks and their expectations of value, return and growth figures. Although for some sectors there are perhaps 20+ years before the impacts of climate change have a significant effect, the tipping-point will occur earlier, as investors review their portfolios and assess their investment liabilities. Directors are being challenged by investors to demonstrate their corporate governance credentials. The spotlight on financial management and reporting is now also focusing on wider strategic risk management issues. Over the next few years we will see a greater awareness and understanding of the impacts of a changing climate. The importance of this for businesses is that their adaptation strategies and actions need to be in place, that is businesses must become climateproofed, before the tipping point and well before the direct effects of a changing climate are felt. Litigation The interest in climate change from the legal profession has for the most part been restricted to the emerging markets in carbon trading and emissions. There has been limited attention to the issue of adaptation. As the financial impacts of climate change and adaptation begin to be recognised we are likely to see the use of litigation as a means to recover costs. The legal costs and reputational damage associated with defending climate change actions could be enormous. A recent report by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has challenged the traditional narrow interpretation of fiduciary duty. The report identifies the impact of climate change as a risk which may affect any investment; failure to assess the risks may result in claims of neglect of fiduciary duty by beneficiaries. 8

11 Significant business risks Lawyers are beginning to acknowledge that there is now sufficient information available on climate change for companies to take it into account in both strategic and project level decision-making. All decisions taken by directors and professional advisers that do not take climate change into account may be open to legal challenge. In the future the courts will examine claims and may decide that it was reasonable, at the time the decision was made or advice given, to have foreseen the impacts of climate change, based on the information available in the public domain. The issue for the courts will be deciding if there were any knowledge points from which it may have been reasonable to consider that the impacts of a changing climate should have been known. Potential knowledge points may include documents produced by governments, regulatory agencies, professional institutions, sector organisations and advisory bodies setting out the impacts of climate change and actions that may be necessary, relevant or advised. These knowledge points already exist. There is generic information, for instance, reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and also sector-specific information. Some examples of these knowledge points are given in the sector summaries in later sections of this report. Figure 3 identifies the effect of knowledge points on decision-making and litigation risks. All decisions made and advice given since the dates of the knowledge points have an accrued litigation liability. The accrued litigation liability will continue to increase through continuing failures to build climate change into decision-making. Reasonable forseeability of climate change and the risk of litigation should be on the radar screens of all companies in their corporate risk assessment procedures. Brand and reputation Consumer preferences and needs will change as the impacts of climate change become apparent. To take a simple example, southern European holiday destinations may become less attractive in summer, due to increasingly hot temperatures. Those sectors and individual businesses that do not respond will find their reputations suffer significant damage. Correspondingly those that recognise the opportunities will become sector leaders. Research commissioned by the Carbon Trust demonstrates that there are high levels of public awareness of climate change in the UK, and that it may not be long until it becomes a mainstream consumer issue. The effects of climate change can now be regarded as being reasonably foreseeable at every stage it must be incumbent upon professional advisors to ensure that appropriate steps have been taken. Malcolm Dowden, Charles Russell LLP It is prudent to plan for a substantial change in consumer behaviour on climate change. The Carbon Trust Figure 3: Increasing liabilities Climate change impacts IPCC First Assessment Report Increasing impacts, risk and cost Future 1990 Generic knowledge point Accrued liabilities for decisions which are not climate-proof Now Accumulating liabilities 9

12 Significant business risks The insurance industry has to respond to customer and shareholder needs. Both will increasingly look to the industry to provide effective responses to the threats caused by climate change. Evan Mills, Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Increased losses could raise the cost of capital and increase the volatility of insurance markets. ABI 2005 These are the conclusions from the research. The public today are aware of the prospect of climate change. Two thirds of Britons say they know a great deal or a fair amount about it. In banking, the mostly likely exposure to climate risks arises from a bank s investment and lending exposure. A bank s position on decisions such as mortgage conditions on properties exposed to increasing flood risk may cause a negative response from consumers. In some sectors, the lead time for action could be several years, leaving unprepared companies at risk. There is an opportunity for differentiation against competitors. Forward-looking companies need to assess the risks, to avoid falling behind on such a mainstream consumer issue. This research is confirmed by further work recently commissioned by BSkyB, which found that 81% of UK consumers are "strongly concerned" by climate change or recognise it as important, demonstrating a significant latent demand. The insurance sector is showing leadership in this area recognising that consumer preferences and needs will be different. A recent report commissioned by CERES explores the opportunities for new products and services. Credit rating Credit ratings and the cost of capital will change in response to the actual and the perceived impacts of climate change. The tipping points on value, return and growth are likely to trigger rating revisions and increases in the costs of capital. We are already seeing these movements in the insurance industry. The increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related catastrophes has exposed a number of insurers and reinsurers who had underestimated their catastrophe exposures. Credit rating agencies around the world have been reassessing the exposures of the industry and adjusting credit ratings accordingly. Increasing storm activity and intensity and the impact of more frequent droughts, heatwaves, fires, subsidence and heave, together with the effect on business continuity and increasing director and officer liabilities will increase the pressure on the insurance industry. Other sectors will be similarly affected with changes to credit ratings and higher costs of capital as they reach their own tipping points. Growing government action on adaptation The response by governments in Europe to inevitable climate change has so far been patchy. In the UK we have seen a tightening of building regulations and planning policy controlling the use of land and construction standards in response to concerns over increasing flood risk and subsidence risk due to climate change. The EU is currently considering a floods directive and an adaptation strategy with calls for greater controls on spatial planning. Government action on adaptation is not confined to flooding. A new Planning Policy Statement, PPS26, focused specifically on climate change, will be published towards the end of All sectors could be affected by changes in government policy and regulations. There are already, for example, calls for the introduction of maximum workplace temperatures for factories, offices, schools, hospitals and public buildings. If such standards were introduced, there could be significant financial impacts arising from the increased capital and maintenance costs necessary to adapt buildings. It is inevitable that legislation and regulations will change, as will supporting guidance, codes of practice and standards in response to the impacts of climate change. This will impose future liabilities which may require remedial action. Climate-proofing strategies and projects now is a sensible adaptation action. The longer the delay by business in responding to inevitable climate change, the more likely we are to see governments respond and act more aggressively with prescriptive regulation on adaptation. 10

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