The UK ranks climate change as the biggest threat facing the world

Collaboration between businesses, government and individuals, will be crucial to delivering on net-zero ambitions.

Claudio Gienal in Corporate responsibility

1 November 2021

Driving long-term sustainability and tackling climate change has never been more important. People are increasingly aware of the role they can play in minimising their impact on the planet and there is a growing recognition among businesses that they too have a duty to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the very real risks posed by climate change.

This rising concern about the impact of climate change has been reflected in the findings of our latest Future Risks Report. The global study measured and ranked changes in the perception of emerging risks via a survey of 3,500 experts and 19,000 members of the public.

Although COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on many people’s lives, the report revealed that for the UK public the risk of pandemics and infectious diseases was their second biggest concern behind climate change. For experts, climate change was also number one, ahead of cyber security risks.

The fact climate change is the biggest concern for both the UK’s public and experts is perhaps surprising considering the unprecedented 18 or so months we’ve all experienced. However, it demonstrates the extent to which the climate emergency pervades the UK’s collective consciousness. And in many ways it is encouraging that this threat has been acknowledged as the biggest risk in the UK because it truly does have the capacity to fundamentally change our lives forever.

The message from our report is clear: climate change is a priority and we all – businesses and individuals alike - must play a role in reducing our negative impact on the environment and secure long-term sustainability for the generations to come.

However, concrete actions need to be taken if the government and the private sector are to secure public trust in their ability to tackle climate change. Our report found that only a third of the UK population believe that governments are well prepared to tackle climate change and a similar number thought companies had the ability to limit future crises.

This shows how vital for all of us, businesses, the government and individuals to understand the necessity to work closely together to tackle the risks we face now and in the future. A collaborative approach is needed globally if we are to take significant action against climate change, and this is something echoed by over half of the UK public – more than any other in Europe – who said globalisation has a positive impact on fighting risks.

The insurance industry has the opportunity to play a vital role in supporting the UK government in its net-zero 2050 ambition and positioning Britain as a global leader at COP26. We believe that collaboration is crucial to achieving the UK’s environmental targets and accelerating the transition to a green economy, which is one of the reasons why we have joined the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign. We are also supporting the launch of the UN’s Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, pledging to reduce the carbon emissions of our investment portfolio to net zero by 2050.

The findings of our Future Risk Report clearly show that we must keep momentum behind tackling climate change by turning the public’s growing concern into collective action. To do so we need to develop new and global partnerships between the private sector and government. Insurers can play an essential role in driving this forward, but we all need to act now before it’s too late.