UK ranks climate change as the top future risk

Corporate Social Responsibility

29 September 2021

The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all our lives, but the AXA Future of Risks Report has 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 ranked number one, with cyber security risks second.

Top 10 emerging risks in the United Kingdom

  1. Climate change
  2. Cyber security risks
  3. Pandemics and infectious diseases
  4. Geopolitical instability
  5. Natural resources and biodiversity risks
  6. Social discontent and local conflicts
  7. New security threats and terrorism
  8. Financial stability risks
  9. Macro-economic risks
  10. Risks releated to artificial intelligence and big data

Source: AXA 2021 Future Risks Report

You can view the global findings and emerging risks in the AXA Future Risks Report 2021.

How does the UK compare to the rest of the world?

With a possible 25 risks that could impact the world within the next decade, the UK selected climate change as the most concerning risk. 64% of UK experts and 59% of the UK population ranked climate change as the highest risk. This is closely reflected in Europe; climate change was ranked the biggest future risk with 53% of the overall European population agreeing and 62% of experts ranking climate change first.

When asking everyone across the world, global experts agreed that climate change has the potential to have the biggest impact on society in the next five to 10 years. But the wider global public see it as the second most concerning risk, behind pandemics and infectious diseases. When considering the continued efforts to vaccinate people and control COVID-19 differs country-by-country, this isn’t a surprise.

When asked who is best placed to deal with risks like climate change, the study shows that, on a global level, people believe governments are underprepared to tackle the challenge. Only one in five experts believe that public authorities can help mitigate the climate crisis and only a third of the UK public agree that governments are well prepared.

The report also reveals that almost 57% of the UK’s general population think globalisation has a positive impact on solving risks, since it unites countries to fight against risk more effectively. The UK ranks highest in terms of feeling positive about the impact of globalisation compared to the rest of Europe, with only the Swiss feeling more positive than negative.

Overall, the UK public ranked pandemics and infectious diseases (57%), new security threats, and terrorism (39%) as their second and third top risks respectively. They also ranked risks associated with climate change, pandemics, cyber security, pollution, security threats and chronic illness higher than the rest of the world.

The collective need to take action

With today’s population feeling more vulnerable to future risks compared to five years ago (90% of UK experts and 83% of the UK population said they felt more vulnerable in the world due to emerging risk factors), now really is the time to take action.

The report shows that people feel governments need to do more to mitigate climate and environmental risks. It’s also clear that the insurance industry can play a larger and more visible role in making meaningful and sustainable changes.

Here at AXA, we recognise the threat posed by climate chance and have joined The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero and signed the United Nations-backed Race to Zero campaign to accelerate our journey to reach net zero emissions by 2050. We’ve also joined forces with some of the world’s leading insurers and reinsurers and will chair a new Net-Zero Insurance Alliance to demonstrate how the global insurance and reinsurance industry can collectively play a role to support the transition to a net zero economy.

We’re fully committed to the global effort to limit climate change. Take a look at what we’re doing.

Claudio Gienal, CEO of AXA UK and Ireland


“AXA’s Future Risks Report is a valuable source of insight which helps educate and prepare the UK for the challenges that may impact us in the years to come.

At a time when life has been dominated by other important issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic instability, it is perhaps surprising that climate change would top the list. However, this clearly demonstrates that for many people climate change is a very real risk which is fast approaching, if not already upon us. There is no doubt that climate change is one of the most serious and damaging risks we as a global population face, so it’s encouraging that this has been acknowledged as the number one risk in the UK.

We have a real opportunity here for everyone – governments, the private sector and individuals – to come together and work more closely to help mitigate the risks we face now and in the future.

That’s why it’s great to see the insurance industry stepping up with the launch of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, and we’re delighted to join the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign. Insurers have an essential role to play and AXA stands ready to play our part.”

Claudio Gienal, CEO, AXA UK and Ireland