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Lessons from the climate change debate for financial services

Author: ICAEW

Published: 28 Sep 2021

Scientists from the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine joined members of the Financial Services Faculty to present information for modelling about climate change scenarios, writes Brian Cantwell.

Financial services firms are presented with a stark choice for action regarding climate change, according to scientists from the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine during a webinar hosted by the ICAEW Financial Services Faculty.

Firms need to incorporate increasingly realistic climate scenarios into their business planning in order to survive and to positively influence climate change.


A range between two likely scenarios exists for the global climate, one where the global average temperature warms by 1.5C by 2100 should we take concerted action on carbon emissions. This would involve the most aggressive adaptation and mitigations for carbon emissions by governments and businesses right now.

The other scenario sees us continue the same emissions growth path and by 2100 the global average temperature will reach 4.5C.

The latter scenario would see malaria and dengue fever spread across Europe, especially during wet seasons, while floods and forest fires would become commonplace, with floods becoming particularly disastrous for urban areas including hospitals and nursing homes.

Climate heat

Greater global heatwaves would fall unevenly across geographies, contributing to a rise in mortality during and outside the period of the heatwave due to contributing factors from the heat, charts showed.

Different species of animal would change geographies leading to zoological transmissions of diseases and a rising likelihood of further pandemics. Biodiversity would suffer placing greater stress on food chains and resources, said Dr Rachel Lowe.

Food supply issues

Food production and human diet are main contributors to global warming, with the current global food production alone pushing the temperature up by 1.5C by 2100. 

Professor Alan Dangour said this had forced the UK government to act by commissioning a White Paper on a sustainable food plan for the country that took climate change into account. 

The scientists cautioned that food shortages could occur a lot sooner because of the changes already afoot in the climate, with certain grains and vegetables challenged in their current growing locations. Madagascar is now in the grip of a climate change-driven famine, added Dangour.

Human health

Human health will be impacted with rising mortality for the elderly, higher rates of miscarriage during pregnancy during heatwaves and a raft of mental health problems as a result of a permanently challenged future.

There are four actions that businesses can move on now in order to change the dial:

  1. Advocacy for change and education – financial services firms can lobby government for wider acceptance and adoption of changes to behaviour that individuals and employees can take to make a difference.
  2. Businesses must speed up their environmental adaptation plans, which all financial services firms will have been working on given the growth of ESG.
  3. Government actions are key – firms must work with policymakers to ensure the most harmonious regulatory environment.
  4. Working from home needs weighing up as a real answer to reducing firms’ carbon footprint, said Dr Sari Kovats.