My Romanian friends know that as a British person, talking about the weather comes easily to me. This has been particularly so after what, for me at least, has been a summer of lovely weather in Bucharest and in Scotland. It will however have escaped few of us that elsewhere
in the world, people have not been so fortunate with their weather.
It should also not have escaped the notice of most of us that much of the “interesting” weather we are seeing is discussed in the context of global warming. The purpose of this article is not to debate the science involved, but rather to draw the attention of readers to the COP26 conference which will take place in Glasgow in November 2021. In longer terms, this is the 26th Conference of the United Nations on Climate Change and is particularly significant, as it is expected that the nationally determined contributions towards mitigating climate change which were agreed in Paris in 2015 will be upgraded at COP26. This means that national measures to mitigate climate change – in particular the emission of greenhouse gasses – in participating states such as the UK and Romania are likely to be increased, with further measures to decarbonise the economy.
This presents a particular opportunity for business in Romania and in the UK, as well as a wake-up call for businesses to become more resilient (if this latter element was needed after businesses have coped with the current pandemic and disruption caused by both the virus and by measures to contain it).
Business opportunities from this should not be hard to find – for instance, both in Romania and in the UK, there have been significant developments of renewable energy to reduce the role of fossil fuels.
Resilience is an essential part of the sustainability of businesses: international supply chains and food security are obvious candidates for being adversely affected by changes in weather and climate. The issue goes beyond the availability of goods and foodstuffs: the risk of losses of agricultural products due to changing weather patterns has implications for financial services, whether through insurance or through futures and derivatives markets. Enforcement is also likely to be relevant to businesses – in the UK the ultra-low emissions zone for vehicles is already in force for vehicles in central London. Given the importance placed on planting trees to mitigate climate change, instances of illegal logging such as have appeared in the Romanian media over the years can be expected to take on a greater significance and it is to be hoped that this damaging practice can be effectively suppressed by serious enforcement measures (the curtailment of deforestation and the protection of ecosystems and natural habitats form specific parts of the goals of COP26).
The British Chambers of Commerce (to which the BRCC is affiliated as part of the BCC’s Global Network) sees the climate challenge as the single most important long-term issue and had a number of campaigns relating to it, as well as resources to assist businesses wherever they are located. At one end of the scale, the list of the principal partners of the COP26 event in Glasgow includes many large UK companies and multinationals. Changing business models to reduce carbon footprints and to improve resilience is not a matter for the large corporates alone, however. Small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) which form part of the supply chains of large corporates may of course find that they are asked by their large corporate customers to demonstrate their green credentials, just as they do in relation to the prevention of modern slavery and other labour abuses and exploitation.
SMEs should not however limit their ambitions to keeping larger supply-chain customers happy. SMEs make up a major part of the global economy and have a significant role to play in their own right. This importance is reflected in the UK’s Climate Hub (https://smeclimatehub.org/uk/ ) and also in the equivalent for SME’s elsewhere in the world (https://smeclimatehub.org/). Quite apart from the wider questions of climate change and of how businesses are perceived by their customers, staff and other stakeholders, taking practical measures to “future-proof” a business is good sense. Who could argue with measures such as minimising waste from products and packaging, making business premises heat-efficient and so on? As a simple example, I can remember the campaign some years ago to save power – and money - by switching off unnecessary lights. It was good business sense then and is good business sense now – as well as helping to meet the COP26 targets and mitigate the effects of any climate change. It is also good business sense to be ahead of market trends – and trends to further decarbonise the economy appear to be certain to follow COP26.