Issue Focus: Climate Geopolitics

The focus of the debut edition of the Brunswick Social Value Review is Climate Geopolitics, Jon Miller takes a look at the featured articles.

Climate Change is not like other issues. The UN Security Council has recognized it as a “threat multiplier.” In January 2019, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was invited to brief the Security Council on climate risks. “Climate change has a multitude of security impacts,” Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist at the WMO, told the meeting: “Rolling back the gains in nutrition and access to food; heightening the risk of wildfires and exacerbating air quality challenges; increasing the potential for water conflict; leading to more internal displacement and migration,” he said. “It is increasingly regarded as a national security threat.”

In November 2019, Brunswick hosted a briefing at Chatham House in London to explore the climate crisis through a geopolitical lens: What happens when the Russian tundras melt and Russia becomes the most fertile country on the planet, in a food-stressed world? What happens when the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers and collapse of the river systems destabilizes the region, particularly India and Pakistan?

Or what happens when repeated powerful storms and sea-level rises combine to cause devastation and make homes uninsurable on the US East Coast?

And what new opportunities emerge when the balance of power globally is no longer determined by who happens to be sitting on the most oil, coal or gas, but by how efficiently countries can generate, store and distribute renewable energy? What happens to global trade when the major driver of new market growth is demand for low-carbon products and services?

What we are looking at here is re-drawing the political map—with significant strategic implications for businesses: Climate change can be regarded as a “critical issue multiplier” that cuts across business functions, and across sectors. Already, businesses are counting the cost of climate-related supply chain disruptions, and anticipating a tougher regulatory landscape on carbon.

The Brunswick Social Value Review will begin each edition with an in-depth focus on a global issue. We will explore different perspectives, asking what it means for business and what business leadership looks like. We begin with Climate Geopolitics.

The climate crisis is complex and intersects with political, social, economic and demographic factors. As Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s political affairs chief, told the meeting of the UN Security Council in 2018: “The risks associated with climate-related disasters do not represent a scenario of some distant future. They are already a reality for millions of people around the globe—and they are not going away."

Jon Miller is a Partner in our Business & Society practice. He is based in London. 

Photograph: Michael Melford

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