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Climate change and business: what the national adaptation plan means for you

This info sheet explains how Aotearoa New Zealand's first national adaptation plan will help New Zealand businesses adapt to the effects of climate change.

Adapt and thrive: Building a climate-resilient New Zealand

Our first national adaptation plan will help New Zealanders adapt to the effects of climate change now, and better protect us against changes to come.

Many impacts are already with us, with unstable and unpredictable weather, worsening floods, droughts and storms, and rising sea levels. We can expect more changes will happen. Lowering emissions can reduce the impacts of climate change but won’t eliminate them all.

The national adaptation plan sets out what actions the Government will take over the next six years to help all New Zealanders adapt and thrive in a changing climate.

It has actions relevant to every sector and community in New Zealand, and addresses the priority risks that need action now.

Climate change risks and the costs of adapting will need to be shared across society, but through the actions in the plan we can reduce the long-term costs across the motu.

Managing risk now and for the future

In 2020, the National Climate Change Risk Assessment set out 43 risks New Zealanders face from the impacts of climate change up to 2026.

These include risks to people’s health and property, risks to our infrastructure like roads or water supplies, and risks to our natural environment.

This national adaptation plan is the first in a series. It will be updated every six years to respond to changing climate risks.

Impacts of climate change on business

Everyone is affected by climate change. But some industries and businesses are more exposed than others. This makes them more at risk from extreme climate events or changing weather patterns.

For example, climate change can create supply-chain disruptions, which cause productivity losses and reputational damage.

Land-based primary industries (such as agriculture and horticulture) rely heavily on resources such as arable land and water. Climate change affects both the availability of these resources and farm productivity. Gradual changes in temperature and rainfall patterns may also mean some crops can no longer be grown in certain areas.

The fisheries and aquaculture sectors are likely to be exposed to economic risk. Climate-related warming and ocean acidification will affect fish stocks. Tourism is also sensitive to climate change, which poses a risk to attractions and activities like glaciers and ski fields.

All sectors will have to adopt new techniques and, in some cases, change activities. Other sectors will also need to adopt new practices. For example, the construction industry will need to consider the resilience of buildings and infrastructure.

Many regional economies rely heavily on at-risk industries, and some areas will also be vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change (eg, low-lying land). If they don’t adapt, it could lead to business closures and job losses.

The Māori economy is heavily invested in land-based primary industries, fisheries and tourism. These sectors also employ a significant Māori workforce. Economic inequity means some Māori businesses and workers will find it harder to adapt.

Meanwhile, climate change may also create economic opportunities. Investing in climate resilience can reduce risks for some businesses and open up new technologies and markets.

What you told us during consultation on the draft adaptation plan

  • Business and industry body submitters noted the importance of infrastructure and business in adapting to climate change.
  • The availability of data was a big focus for industry. Submitters suggested the plan could facilitate better and more urgent access to climate data.
  • Industry was mostly comfortable sharing the costs of adaptation with local and central government. Some submitters in this group suggested costs and funding are considered on a case-by-case basis.

How actions in the plan will help businesses adapt to climate change

The plan outlines a programme of work to support and encourage businesses to adapt. It brings together existing actions and proposed future work.

Enabling better risk-informed decisions

The actions in the plan provide information, guidance and tools about climate change threats and responses. Businesses and industries can use these to understand and assess the risks they face and decide how to adapt. Some of the key actions include:

Adaptation options including managed retreat

Many communities are already under threat from natural hazards. Successfully adapting will be vital as climate impacts worsen. Some people and communities may have to alter how and where they live.

One option is managed retreat, which may be necessary to reduce or eliminate exposure to intolerable risk. It’s a carefully planned and managed process of relocating assets, activities and sites of cultural significance away from at-risk areas.

The plan will support businesses, councils, communities and people to understand the range of adaptation options available. Key actions include:

Embedding climate resilience across government

The Government will embed climate resilience across all its strategies and policies. The following chapters in the plan have actions relevant to businesses:

The natural environment chapter sets out how the plan will support the natural environment. A thriving natural environment is intrinsic to New Zealand’s lifestyle, industry, wellbeing and cultural identity. A key action for business is:

  • Action 6.6 Implement the Water Availability and Security programme: this will help food and fibre businesses and rural communities adapt to increasingly variable freshwater supplies. Taking its lead from the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the programme will help restore and maintain the health of fresh waterways. It will also support ways to reduce demand and make the best use of available water supplies.

The economy and financial system chapter focuses on how we will adapt and build resilience to the economic and financial impacts of a changing climate. Some actions will also help identify new economic opportunities. This is part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s wider transition to a high-wage, low-emissions economy that provides economic security in good times and bad. Actions include:

Future engagement during implementation

As the plan is implemented, more targeted engagement with different stakeholders, including the business sector, will take place.

Inclusive engagement, particularly with those disproportionately affected by climate change, will help to ensure actions lead to equitable climate resilience.

We are taking the same approach with the implementation of the emissions reduction plan, and encouraging engaged and active public participation in the plan.

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