Global climate change impacts via European foreign trade

11:15 Thursday 30 May


Room S5


Martin Peter (Switzerland) 1; Madeleine Guyer (Switzerland) 1; Jurg Fussler (Switzerland) 1; Nina Knittel (Austria) 2; Gabriel Bachner (Austria) 2; Magnus Benzie (Switzerland) 3; Clements Hasse (Germany) 4

1 - INFRAS AG; 2 - Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change, University of Graz (WegCenter/UniGraz); 3 - Stockholm Environment Institute, SEI; 4 - German Environment Agency

Until now, the effects of climate change have mostly been studied within political boundaries. However, depending on the extent of global connections with vulnerable countries, international effects of global climate change come to the fore. This applies especially for countries which are strongly interwoven with the global economy, such as European countries with vital international trade relations, a pronounced global division of labour, highly interlinked industrial production processes and a high importance of imports and exports. Thus, European countries may be affected by global climate change via trade flows: the more open an economy, the higher its exposure to economic impacts of climate change through international impact chains. In this session four contributing authors present their latest research results on this topic, showing that climate change impacts transferred via international impact chains are at least as important as climate change impacts that occur within (national/political) borders.

Target audience

Researchers, consultants, policy makers in the field of climate change impacts and adaptation strategies, private sector representatives


The audience will receive insights into the latest findings of a German and a Scandinavian research project with strong policy focus. They will benefit from results and discussion of a highly important topic which is – until now – only very little analysed. The topic is of high relevance for an audience working at the nexus of research, policy and the private sector. Discussions will trigger the further development of the topic amongst researchers, policy makers and the private sector.

Proposed format for the session

The session will be formed by four presentations (each speech 15 minutes incl. Q&A after each presentation) the focus after the presentations will be on an audience discussion (45 minutes), the discussion will be moderated by the session leader.

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Madeleine Guyer (INFRAS Switzerland):

Overview of international impact chains how worldwide effects from climate change may affect European Countries over trade relations for the example of Germany, it will be shown which countries and what kind of goods are primarily exposed. The analysis of the possible impact chains results in a rating of the economic relevance (risk and opportunities) of the identified impact chains

  • Why to focus on international climate change impacts?
  • Exposition of German trade partners to climate change
  • German foreign trade is affected over various impact chains
  • Potential risks and opportunities for Germany
  • Need for adaptation measures, government actions?

The session also provides insights in ongoing projects from Switzerland dealing with international impacts of climate change.

2. Nina Knittel (Uni Graz, Austria)

This presentation provides a quantitative assessment of global climate change impacts transferred to the German economy via trade, by focussing on heat-related labour productivity losses (e.g. in the manufacturing sectors), sea level rise, change in agricultural yields and reduced purchasing power in destination countries of German exports.

We assess the effects by means of a global, multi-regional, multi-sectoral computable general equilibrium model, comparing a baseline scenario (SSP2 and SSP3) with an ensemble of climate change scenarios in 2050 (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 assessed by three global climate models).

We find that all impact chains lead negative economic consequences in all world regions with most severe effects in Southeast Asia, China, India, Africa and the Middle East. The largest driver of the results are changes in labour productivity. In response to these global impacts, German trade flows shift with respect to region and sectors both for imports and exports. Regionally, non-European countries become less attractive trading partners, while trade within Europe intensifies. On a sectoral level, the trade balance increases in machinery, electronic equipment, textile and chemical products. Overall, Germany can improve its trade balance, however, effects on both German GDP and welfare are clearly negative.

3. Frida Lager & Kevin Adams (SEI, Sweden)

An overview of the potential global distribution of trade-related climate risk exposure will be offered, before focusing on how a highly trade-dependent country like Sweden can begin to assess its own exposure using quantitative indicators. Results of an initial study will be presented, showing the limitations and opportunities provided by existing national trade statistics and new modelling approaches respectively. The presentation will also address governance questions about how such data might be used to improve adaptation planning.

4. Clemens Haße (UBA, Germany)

The National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) in Germany acknowledged the possible risks arising from climate change induced impact in other world regions. But it also stated that more research is needed to understand the detailed relation. This presentation will sum up the research done recently in this field and discussed how to bring the findings into the policy sphere.