No Vaccine for Climate Change Industry Warned

Insurers and the wider business community have been told they cannot put the brakes on the momentum towards efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

Company board members have been warned that while the fight to eradicate COVID-19 remains paramount the efforts on climate change could not be side lined, as the impact of climate change would not be solved with any magic bullet.

Speaking at a webinar jointly organised by Chapter Zero and Willis Towers Watson, Susan Hooper, Chapter Zero steering group member and non-executive director who sits on boards including Uber UK, Wizz Air and Affinity Water, said, “COVID-19 has truly been an eye opener to the disruptive power of extreme events, but remember, there won’t be a vaccine for climate change.”

Chapter Zero was with the support of the World Economic Forum, by senior business managers and is aimed at engaging with company boards to increase awareness of the business implications of climate change.

Ms Hooper said firms need to maintain focus on meeting the UK government’s target of a net zero carbon economy by 2050, as well as the short-term goal of reaching a 50% reduction in emissions during the decade.

A poll of the over 150 webinar attendees, comprising mainly non-executive director members of Chapter Zero, found that just over half of the companies on whose boards they serve have so far developed a ‘net zero’ strategy.

Rowan Douglas, head of Willis Towers Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub, who chaired the webinar, said: “That result shows that progress in addressing climate risk and resilience is being made in some boardrooms but that there is an urgent need and opportunity to build further momentum across the business spectrum.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, added: “The sooner we act, the lower the cost to our economy and planet. The CBI’s current focus is to learn from companies that have set clear targets and share that experience more widely across our business and industrial community. One positive that I think has come out of COVID-19 is that it has shown the ability of government, the public sector and companies to come together quickly and positively to tackle major challenges, of which decarbonising our economy is clearly one. It has also given us a sense of what everyday, more sustainable life could look like.”

Among those companies implementing net zero carbon strategies is Hammerson plc. Chair David Tyler said its rolling climate risk reviews and detailed climate governance structure had resulted in a 60% reduction in carbon emissions in the past 13 years. “Inevitably, there will be companies that are just trying to get through the COVID-19 crisis, but I really hope the pandemic will be a wake-up call to teach us the importance of planning for the worst given the extent of the risks associated with climate change. Directors need to do their bit to ask the right questions.”

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