Guest Blog: Climate change and business action

30 Jul 2020
SOURCE:
Bryce Davies, Executive Manager, Corporate Relations IAG

At IAG we want New Zealand to focus a lot more on how it will adapt to the inevitable and growing impacts that climate change is bringing. As an insurer we are already seeing those impacts and how they are affecting people’s lives and finances. As part of this focus, we have been asking New Zealanders about their attitudes towards climate change, with an increasing focus on how the country should adapt.

In this year’s survey, our third, we looked more closely at people’s readiness to adapt and their expectations of government, business and other New Zealanders in helping them to do so. We also looked at their expectations of the impact that COVID-19 will have.

Key findings

Climate change continues to be an important issue for New Zealanders, with the majority of those interviewed thinking they will be personally impacted and, as a consequence, will be taking steps to reduce those impacts. They think the Government is doing a better job in responding to climate change and the country is heading in the right direction, but that the response is not moving fast enough.

The survey also found New Zealanders are more concerned about climate change because of COVID-19 and think it should be part of the economic recovery plan but are concerned that COVID-19 will delay the response to climate change.

The findings also highlight that important gaps remain in our ability to adapt.  People need better information to make decisions and take personal action.  We know that some land will be lost but don’t know how to retreat from it.  We know investment and support is needed but don’t know how best to pay for it.

Findings for business

As well as the general findings there were some interesting insights relevant for businesses.  The clear message is that we all need to do more.

The public is supportive of businesses taking action on climate change with:

  • 68% agree that business is responsible for taking action on climate change (a similar figure to those who expect individuals and their families to take action at 67%)
  • 75% agree that businesses should be reducing carbon emissions to keep in line with global targets
  • 73% agree that businesses should be factoring climate change into their decision-making
  • 74% think businesses should be talking about the risks posed to their business and customers by climate change.

However only 16% think that businesses are doing a good job in responding to climate change.  Even worse, 48% say that business is doing a poor job, with 30% sitting on the fence.  As a comparison, 46% think the government is doing a good job (up from 30% in 2018), with 19% thinking they are doing a poor job.

The survey also asked some questions that focused on the financial sector.  The message here is less clear.  Many people agree that insurers and banks should reflect growing climate impacts in their products and pricing:

  • 44% agree that insurers should be raising premiums for homes and businesses that face more risk
  • 43% agree that banks should be lending less or for shorter periods to people and businesses that face more risk
  • 42% disagree with insurers and banks getting those in low-risk locations to help pay for high-risk locations
  • 46% agree that banks and insurers should no longer support carbon intensive businesses.

But just as many (48%) want the Government to step in if banks and insurers pull back from insuring/lending in high risk locations.  Again, this tells us that there is more work to do to ensure that the financial system has a clear role in incentivising climate change adaptation.

See the full set of findings.

Bryce Davies is Executive Manager, Corporate Relations for IAG.