Panel: Climate adaptation cannot be ‘poor cousin’ of climatic mitigation
The chief of UN Global Compact UK warned today the world needs to make climate adaptation a priority
Climate adaptation needs to be higher up on global agendas and global warming risks urgently addressed, according to the boss of the world's largest responsible business initiative.
Referencing to the so-called 'Project Fear' during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign in the UK, Steve Kenzie, executive director of the UN Global Compact Network UK, said: “You need another Project Fear, only one that works this time, to get people really understanding what's at risk for the climate and that we just can't keep delaying the change. I think that the focus on mitigation is really important, but we can't just keep adaptation as the poor cousin.”
Kenzie made the remarks on the final day of Economist Impact’s Sustainability Week, at a discussion of stepping up global efforts towards adaptation.
Also speaking at the panel was Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge and chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, Katharina Neureiter, head of ESG within the EMEA region at the Carlyle Group, as well as Mahesh Roy, investor practices programme director at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).
King relayed examples of how climate change was causing real world catastrophe today, with the rate and severity of such events only likely to increase in coming years.
He pointed to homes being lost to coastal erosion in North Norfolk, and Marie-Eve Volkoff, a Swiss woman suing her government for the “climate lockdown” of increased heatwaves keeping elderly people trapped indoors.
Citing a company that the UN Global Compact has engaged with over its emissions and impact of climate change, Kenzie pointed to drinks manufacturing giant Diageo. The firm assessed its supply chains and found them all to be facing climate risk, most keenly surrounding issues relating to water.
Kenzie said: “The action [Diageo] has taken is to work with us to lead on a programme to catalyse collective action to address water scarcity and water stressed areas, and also by working with other businesses also in those water basins to make real change and to adapt.”
New oil and gas exploration
Opening speaker at the final day of the Sustainability Week event was Graham Stuart, minister of state for energy security and net zero within the UK Government.
When asked why the UK government was showcasing its net zero commitments while still funding new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, Stuart took on the defensive: “The energy mix of the most decarbonised major economy in the world is still 75% fossil fuel. We are utterly dependent for heat, light, and jobs on fossil fuels. What we have to do is accelerate the transition away and accept it is a transition under net zero. We will be using gas and oil in 2050 and beyond under net zero.
“Even with the North Sea we are still net importers of both gas and our oil, which means the UK will be paying tens of billions, hundreds of billions over the years for oil and gas from abroad, which has higher emissions when used as a result of being produced than if we'd done it at home”, he said.
The 75% figure quoted by Stuart is contestable, with nuclear and wind power making for a combined 77% of France’s energy mix.
Stuart also spoke enthusiastically of the UK’s support for climate adaptation projects in developing countries, including an energy transition partnership object with South Africa, mobilising private and public finance to move people from jobs in the coal industry to positions within clean energy projects.
However, Stuart also spoke of disappointment of the failed pledge made at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, for developed countries to supply poorer nations with $100bn for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts by 2020.
“This was a solemn promise by developed rich countries, and it has not been delivered and the fact that it's not delivered undermines trust, and therefore we really do need to fix that and get that right”, he said.
At COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, a “loss and damage” fund was established for for countries impacted by climate change.