By the end of 2023, it’s quite possible all Nordic countries will be members of the NATO military alliance — with Finland and Sweden joining in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Faced with clear security risks, leaders have shown they can move fast. But with an overwhelming focus on traditional security risks, we can miss other systemic, pervasive threats — notably climate change. We may feel safe and secure in our cooler climates, but Nordic states cannot afford to ignore the growing risks to global trade, food and commodity supplies that are unfolding globally.
At the Nordic Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, these growing risks that mostly originate outside a country’s borders, transboundary climate risks, are being given significant attention for the first time.
India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Vietnam are among climate risk hotspots Sweden has trade links with say researchers at SEI, who have mapped the origins of the country’s key imports.
European governments are slowly waking up to the risks they face from climate impacts on their supply changes. This year the UK’s climate advisory committee said that extreme weather concerns have been “largely absent from discussions on supply chain resilience” — citing its own research that suggests 20% of imports come from at-risk countries.
Germany is “considerably exposed” to supply chain threats, the German Environment Agency warned in 2021. It highlights Brazil, India, South Africa, Vietnam and Thailand as the climate vulnerable countries it enjoys strong trade links with. The agency predicts global impacts will start to hurt the German economy, with storms and floods causing “delays in delivery and consequently rising production costs in Germany.”
This is not an argument against overseas imports. The flow of global trade and consumer choice mean halting such supply chains is impractical. But it does require governments to start making decisions on how best to ensure their supply chain remains resilient in a volatile world.
We need a coming together of strategies, infrastructures and economies given many vulnerable countries will find it increasingly hard to move from low to middle income economies without massive support for adaptation. Without this they will be trapped in a cycle of damage control.
Similarly, we may feel immune to the effects of climate change. We are not and neither are our economies. Abandoning climate finance doesn’t mean escaping climate impacts.
We are already very engaged in climate action, development cooperation and in exporting knowledge on building resilience. We are also ahead when it comes to climate adaptation within our own borders.
What will make the difference is investing in adaptation through connections that build resilience not only here, but in countries impacted by the effects of climate change.
We must continue partnering with countries like Brazil and Kenya to secure future production and supply and at home, enable private-public partnerships through, for example, ensuring businesses disclose their climate risk.
Ahead of COP28, Nordic countries need to establish more ambitious international global adaptation plans. The only true climate adaptation solution that will see us all benefit is for Nordic countries to support and invest in vulnerable, producing countries.
We are widely considered front-runners in climate action but the race can’t be won alone.
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