Climate risk to UK Supply Chains: The roles of government and business

By Swenja Surminski, Member of the Adaptation Committee and David Style, Senior Analyst – Adaptation

Supply chains are the arteries of our economic system, spanning across continents and sectors, often complex and highly specialized. Built with a focus on speed and efficiency, supply chains are very vulnerable to any type of disruption. Recent events, such as Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have brought this to the fore, with significant impacts on people and the economy, causing rises in food and energy prices and disruption to the production and transportation of a wide range of intermediate inputs or final goods.  

A growing challenge for global supply chains are the physical impacts of a changing climate, with floods, heatwaves, droughts and windstorms triggering cascading impacts that can be felt locally, but also far away from where the actual event is taking place. This year record low river levels in Europe, China and the US in the summer of 2022 have caused factories and agriculture to reduce production, cargo ships to carry smaller loads and the risks of power blackouts for millions of people.  

All three of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessments (CCRA) including the most recent one, have highlighted the need for more action to increase the resilience of the UK’s domestic and international supply chains. Given the growing urgency, the CCC has written a new supply chain briefing to summarise the evidence in this area and identify actions for government and businesses.  

The CCC’s evidence shows that we are already experiencing disruption to domestic supply chains from floods, droughts, high temperatures and other extreme weather in the UK. A recent example of this was the impact of unusually poor weather conditions in 2020 on production of wheat, a key part of food supply chains. Very wet weather, followed by very dry weather, meant wheat yields were the lowest since 1981 and over £500m lower in value than the average for the previous four years. In a recent survey from the Business Continuity Institute 42% of all respondents identified that extreme weather events had resulted in supply chain disruptions. 

Read the full blog here.

Read the full report on Resilient Supply Chains from the Climate Change Committee here.