I’m delighted that we have published the report on the International Dimensions of Climate Change this week. This shorter type of Foresight project examines what risks the UK could face in the future through international climate change and the strengths it possesses to best position itself in this warming world.
This report has used peer-reviewed evidence to consider the effects of climate change that could occur outside of the UK, but which could give rise to threats and opportunities which need to be considered by UK policy makers. The message is clear – the UK will be vulnerable to adverse impacts from climate change abroad and more attention needs to be given to how climate change effects in other countries may have impacts here.
It is likely that these impacts from abroad will have implications across wide ranges of government policy, such as:
- Foreign policy and security – International instability could increase as a consequence of climate change, either directly through extreme weather events and water system stresses, or indirectly as social and political systems in vulnerable parts of the world come under increasing strain.
- Resources and infrastructure – Climate change could affect the overseas resources and infrastructure on which the UK depends: the UK is a net energy importer and had an energy trade deficit of £8.2 billion in 2009. Climate change may disrupt critical infrastructure (for example pipelines, ports and overseas refineries) affecting the price and security of UK energy imports.
- Financial sector and business –the financial and business sector may fail to properly evaluate and take into account changes in the balance of risks associated with climate change overseas. In 2008 UK firms managed worldwide assets of £1.2 trillion, and the accurate assessment of their level of exposure to climate change effects will be required to ensure these assets are properly insured or protected.
The report will help the UK Government consider how climate change impacts will be felt here so we can better prepare and adapt for the future. The UK must not respond by becoming insular, instead it needs to broaden its international reach to tackle climate change and these risks around the world.
The UK has the potential to make a strong contribution to help the world tackle climate change. These opportunities build on existing UK strengths and include a wide range of green technologies, particularly in the energy sector, such as carbon capture and storage, and new forms of financing for the green economy. The global environmental and low-carbon market was estimated to be £3.2 trillion in 2008/09 with a predicted 4% growth rate to 2013/14, with the UK forecast to achieve up to 3.9% growth in these areas by 2016. BIS has already made two major announcements in the last month, with extra investment in green technology and the creation of the world’s first Green Investment Bank.
I would like to thank DEFRA, a key sponsor department for the project, who will use the report to inform the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment (as required by law through the 2008 Climate Change Act). This will ensure that the Government’s policy on adaptation to climate change takes appropriate account of international impacts. My thanks also go to the FCO, who held a launch event for the report for UK based diplomats and climate change attaches, and to DECC who also sponsored the project.