Climate change made today's heatwaves more likely, but what does that mean for businesses?
By Michael Holder
In a timely intervention, environmental lawyers ClientEarth warned today that businesses and governments which fail to mitigate and adapt to climate change - be it extraordinarily high or low temperatures, or volatility between dry and wet weather - face increasing risk of litigation.
As scientific understanding and evidence of climate change rapidly improves, it is strengthening the link between human activity and extreme weather events, which in turn can make it far easier to apportion blame for what were historically known as 'Acts of God'. Clearly, this has huge ramifications for the legal sector and the insurance industry, but it also gives further impetus for businesses to measure and disclose climate risk in order to better guard against extreme events and demonstrate they are taking reasonable steps to mitigate escalating risks.
ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac said governments and businesses had legal responsibilities to protect people from risks attributable to climate change. "Failure to act could mean they face expensive court cases for loss and damages resulting from extreme weather events," she warned.
At a local level, avoiding material and litigation risk could mean businesses ensuring buildings in flood prone areas have adequate flood prevention measures in place, or landlords ensuring their apartments, if situated in regions facing more heatwaves, are fitted with appropriate ventilation or shading measures. But for carbon intensive firms with high historic emissions and a track record of downplaying climate risks there is also the threat posed by landmark legal action that seeks to hold them to account for their past actions.