The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic provides unexpected lessons, commonalities and intersections with climate change.

It is well documented that climate change acts as a threat multiplier for other global challenges. However, it is recognised by the World Health Organisation that climate change can contribute to the potential for pandemics and other health conditions, and academic papers have analysed how changes in weather and ecology due to climate change can contribute to the potential for pandemics. Supply chain risks are common to both pandemics and extreme weather events, with both acting as disrupters to the usual production and distribution of goods and labour.

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the gaps in their business continuity plans, with some industries finding overnight that their business is unable to function with changes in supply chains, or bans on large public gatherings, brought on by the pandemic. This provides important lessons for all industries on the significance of having appropriate business interruption insurances, contingency plans, and flexible arrangements. 

The Carbon Market Institute has further called on government post-virus economic repair plans to be integrated with other land and climate repair plans, recognising that all three issues require dedicated planning to give businesses and workers certainty on the road ahead.

Anticipating and grappling with these risks raises a number of legal and liability issues for businesses to consider into the future:

  • Is the business managing and disclosing these risks?
  • Are directors fulfilling their duties to manage these risks?
  • Are employees being exposed to safety and health risks?
  • Are customers being exposed to safety and health risks?
  • Does my business have an integrated incident response plan able to respond to environmental, safety, or health incidents?