Adaptation: An issue brief for business

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report,1 Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, forecasts that climate change will have significant impacts on populations and environments around the world. Furthermore, it is likely that in the absence of concerted efforts to mitigate greenhouse emissions, climate change will have negative effects on business and global markets. It will likely lead to a change in existing business models and current risk management structures.

Members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have acknowledged climate change and its attendant implications. They are beginning to plan accordingly to minimize risks, improve adaptive capacity and resilience, leverage new opportunities and collaborate with the global community.

Over the last two decades, much attention has focused on the scientific evidence of climate change. More recently, attention has transitioned towards efforts needed to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. There has been considerable progress made in measuring greenhouse gas emissions and developing methods and technologies to reduce them. A priority for business will be to continue to seek and implement pragmatic and sustainable solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

These solutions include pursuing energy and process efficiency across operations, and developing innovative products and technologies. Prior to the publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, adaptation to climate change had not garnered much attention. Indeed, the focus was on raising awareness and mitigation efforts. However, the Fourth Assessment Report established that even if we do succeed in reducing emissions, some climate change impacts are now unavoidable and solutions will be needed to adapt to them. The necessity for adaptation to climate change impacts gained momentum at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) Meeting in Bali, Indonesia in December 2007. One of the outcomes of this meeting was the establishment of a United Nations Adaptation Fund.

This publication is focused on providing an overview of adaptation from a business perspective.2 It describes potential impacts of climate changes, risks and opportunities for business, and why business should consider adaptation planning and measures. It summarizes intergovernmental efforts to promote adaptation in vulnerable regions and highlights areas in which business could have a role in promoting adaptation, both at community and global levels.

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