SMEs Must Face Up to Climate Change

UK businesses need to be ready to face the risks and benefit from the opportunities that climate change could bring, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said today.

A new survey of UK businesses and other organisations carried out for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by Ipsos MORI has found that while many businesses have been affected by the type of weather that climate change may bring, preparations for the impacts of climate change are not well advanced. Three quarters of the businesses surveyed were concerned about the effects of climate change on the UK and one in three (31%) had been significantly affected in the last three years by extreme weather such as flooding and drought. However, less than a quarter (23%) had actually started to do something about the risks and opportunities that climate change poses.

The survey also shows that businesses generally perceive a changing climate to be a threat rather than an opportunity. However recent Defra-funded research has shown that the impacts of climate change will present opportunities for UK businesses across a range of sectors such as construction and retro-fitting, water management, tourism, transport and food production. But greater effort is needed by companies to factor climate risk and opportunity into their business if they are to exploit these new opportunities and areas for significant growth.

Speaking at the Met Office Hadley Centre, in Exeter, the UKs foremost climate change research centre, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“We know that some level of change is now unavoidable and it is the responsibility of us all to think about what a changing climate will mean for our health, our businesses and our way of life. By planning for the adaptation we need now we can ensure that the UK is best placed to meet the challenges of climate change head-on.”

“A warmer climate will bring both opportunities and challenges for businesses of all sizes. I want to ensure that UK businesses are well placed to take advantage of the new opportunities that arise as well as ensuring they are ready for the difficulties that higher temperatures and more adverse weather could mean for their staff and working practices.”

Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist of the Met Office said:

“I am delighted the Secretary of State has chosen to visit the Met Office to highlight the need for business to plan for climate change and hear about the important work we do. The Met Office occupies a unique position in being able to advise both the Government and business on the risks associated with hazardous weather in the short term, and the threats, and indeed opportunities, over the coming decades as our climate changes.”

Today Defra has also published its formal response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report Adapting to Climate Change. The EAC report is a welcome endorsement of the need for further action to meet the challenge of climate change and drive up resilience to current and future risks. Defra agrees with the EAC’s central diagnosis – that adaptation is a crucial area and one that must now become a higher priority. The EAC has also acknowledged that Government has made good progress in laying the foundations for action on adaptation. The Government is already starting to engage local authorities and other interested parties on the nature and focus of specialist adaptation advice required for the future, and will continue to do so as a priority.

Caroline Spelman added:

“Climate change is a global challenge but the impacts will be felt at a very local level by every person in every community. That is why it is crucial that we all now think what climate change could mean for us. Impacts will vary considerably from place to place due to different geographies and because local populations have their own very distinctive circumstances, characteristics and priorities.”

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