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UN: Climate Change May Impact Global Business

  • Selah Hennessy

Cover of UN's "GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector" report

Cover of UN's "GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector" report

Extreme weather events, including rising temperatures linked to climate change, and growing competition for natural resources mean tough times may be ahead for the business sector, the United Nations said in a report published Friday.

Nick Nuttall is from the United Nations Environmental Program.

“We are living in a world of more extreme weather events. We are living in a world of rising water scarcity. We are living in a world where things like natural resources are being gobbled up at an increasing rate. By 2050, if we carry on this way, natural resource consumption will triple," said Nuttall.

The report is called "GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector." It follows the U.N.’s Global Environment Outlook which made a comprehensive assessment of the state of the world's changing climate.

According to that report, human pressures on the planet mean that several critical environmental thresholds are approaching or have already been surpassed.

Nuttall says that has widespread implications for global business. The new report looks at how construction, chemicals, mining, food, and other industries will all be impacted.

Nuttall gives the example of South Africa, where pressure on natural resources will impact mining costs.

“Certainly in respect to their platinum mines, they could actually face water charges 10 times their current value by 2020, so that's in just seven years, because of water scarcity in South Africa," he said.

Rising temperatures will also impact the tourist industry, the report says. For example, it says less than half of the ski resorts operating in the northeast of the United States will remain economically viable 30 years from now.

Nuttall says that meanwhile, the world's population is growing, especially in countries with developing economies. Governments will have to make major investments for infrastructure needs such as transport and electricity.

Nuttall says it’s important the future is built with the environment in mind.

“So there is a huge amount, trillions of dollars, being invested in the coming years in many developing countries. And that is happening in a sense through the private sector. The question is whether the governments involved can push that investment into the green, environmentally friendly space," said Nuttall.

According to the U.N. report, 80 percent of the capital needed to address climate change may come from the private sector.