Which nations are most resilient to rising climate risks? And who is most vulnerable? We have ranked 77 countries on their ability to shift from fossil fuels, adapt to change, and profit from cleantech.

Top of our league of most resilient countries are four wealthy, European nations – Sweden, then France, Finland and Germany – followed by the US. The most vulnerable country is Nigeria, with Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania and Tunisia just above.

But focusing on apparent winners and losers masks important findings in our Fragile Planet analysis. This is our fifth report and we have expanded the list of developed, emerging and frontier market economies from 67 to 77. We explored 49 indicators – an extra 12 this year – through 92 datapoints for each country.

We start by analysing transition risks. It shows that Switzerland, Sweden and Norway have the lowest emissions per unit of GDP. Energy subsidies distort the energy market by creating an uneven playing field – Egypt gives out the most significant amount, at around 6.3 per cent of GDP. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman are the three countries with the highest earnings from fossil production, as a percentage of GDP.

As global warming increases, so do the associated impacts – including melting Arctic ice, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, desertification and higher risks from extreme weather.

Romania has warmed up fastest, rising 0.92°C over the past 20 years, with Serbia, Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria rapidly getting hotter. Kuwait has the lowest water-availability per person, followed by the United Arab Emirates. The lowest availabilities per head in developed countries are in Singapore and Israel.

Only 44 per cent of The Netherlands is higher than 5 metres above sea level, but Bahrain, Vietnam and Denmark also face sea-level risks.

The number of US residents affected by extreme weather – from floods to forest fires is rising. In the decade to 2010, some 67 people per 1,000 were affected: this quadrupled to 270 per thousand in the next decade. However, Sri Lanka is most vulnerable to weather events, ahead of Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia and Cote d’Ivorie.

Some countries can respond better to climate risks because they have the policies, institutions, financial strength, health preparedness and informed populations. Norway is best placed, followed by Finland, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. Least resilient is Pakistan, behind Nigeria, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Kenya.

Climate change can present significant health risks. One measure of response capacity is the specialist surgical workforce. Here, Greece ranks highest, with 164 surgical specialists per 100,000 people, followed by Italy and the United Kingdom, but African countries are most vulnerable: Tanzania has only 1 specialist for each 200,000 people and Nigeria and Kenya are only marginally better.

Countering climate risks requires technological innovation and financial support as well as political response. The US and China are already earning substantial revenues from climate solutions while Italy’s industrial diversity suggests it could do in the future. Japan and the US have registered the highest number of patents related to climate change but, relative to their populations, Switzerland and Korea head the list.

Meanwhile, South Africa, China and Australia look best placed to provide the commodities that underpin the cleantech build-out, including lithium and other battery materials, copper, uranium, rare earths and vanadium.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the world’s fragility, but also showed our potential for resilience. Now we need a similar level of urgency and determination to protect populations from the dangers of global warming.

First published 30 March 2021.

Would you like to find out more? Click here to read the full report (you must be a subscriber to HSBC Global Research).


From resilience to vulnerability infographic (PDF, 185KB)

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