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Cancun: Adaptation to climate change not for the public sector to solve alone

  • Climate change impacts and opportunities provide business with rationale for action
  • PwC study supported by UNFCCC, WBCSD and DFID, collected views from over 40 businesses in developed and developing countries on adaptation
  • Better representation and engagement of the private sector needed in policy processes at international and national levels

Business believes that adapting to climate change is no longer an issue for governments to resolve alone, and it they can play a valuable role in advising on what policies would encourage action by business, according to a new study by PwC. 

The study, launched to mark the Global Business Day at the UN Climate Summit in Cancun, presents the views of a range of businesses, from major multinationals to local enterprises, on adaptation to climate change. It was conducted in collaboration with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UK Department for International Development. 

It concludes that business has an important role to play in adaptation, and that better engagement of business is needed in the policy-shaping process to harness this. The role of business is not just in preparing its own assets and operations for anticipated climate change, but also providing know how, solutions and resources to the adaptation challenge. This ranges from climate risk assessment, to designing disaster risk management and financing vehicles, and designing and deploying new technologies.

Dr Celine Herweijer, director, PwC sustainability and climate change, said:

“For business, adaptation is not just a defensive play, to protect business as usual. It is about capitalising on new opportunities, innovations and markets. That’s often the forgotten story.”

The report highlights that collaboration between governments and business is crucial to scaling up action and investment on adaptation. Richard Gledhill, head of climate change services at PwC, said:

“Traditionally, policymakers and the private sector don’t just sit in different rooms, they speak different languages. The new enthusiasm that the UNFCCC and the Mexican Government hosts are showing for engaging the private sector will be good for business and good for climate. Business engagement is not a nice to have, it’s a must have in the process.”

Recommendations from the report were released in Cancun today at the UN Climate Summit, COP 16. They call for more business action on adaptation, better representation of business in the international process,  and collaboration with governments in the development of adaptation responses. It covers five key areas:

  • National planning and implementation of adaptation;

  • Assessment of risks, impacts and vulnerability and knowledge sharing;

  • Technology development and transfer;

  • Disaster risk management and insurance;

  • Financing adaptation activities.

Commenting in the report Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said:

"Adaptation to climate change is no longer the exclusive ambit of the public sector. Investment in adaptation makes business sense, due both to the need for companies to climate-proof their operations, as well as to the new business opportunities opening in the area of adaptation. Companies that act on this vision place themselves in the forefront of sustainable entrepreneurship."

The report found that increased public and private action on adaptation would be central to the effectiveness of any future international framework agreement on climate change.


Business leadership on climate change and adaptation (Summary)

Notes to Editors:

1. Dr Celine Herweijer, and Richard Gledhill, from PwC's Sustainability and Climate Change team are available in Cancun for further comment and analysis on the summit's progress and business impacts.
2. Adaptation refers to the response of governments, business and society to the expected impacts of climate change, reducing the risk of negatives impacts, and maximising the opportunities that arise.
3. Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, Department For International Development commented: "The UK is working across the world to protect the poorest and most vulnerable countries from the worst effects of climate change. However, governments cannot go it alone. We need to harness the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to ensure years of economic growth and progress in the developing world do not unravel over the coming decades.  This important report shows that businesses investing in climate change adaptation are not only protecting their business interests from future climate shocks, but also grasping the many business opportunities presented by a greener future."
4. Anglo American, Centrica, HSBC, BASF, Nestle, Vodafone, Swiss Re, GSK, and Cafedirect are amongst firms featured in the study on their actions on adaptation.
5. Global cost estimates of adaptation range from US$4 (Stern) -109 bn p/a (UNDP). Developing countries need to invest US$70-100 bn p.a; including disaster preparedness that rises to US$86–109 bn p.a. by 2030 (UNDP). There will be higher costs post 2030 depending on mitigation success to that date.


For more information contact:

Rowena Mearley
Corporate PR Senior Manager, PwC
Tel:020 7213 4727
Mobile:07841 563 180

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