Embodied water imports to the UK under climate change

Commodities such as food and manufactured goods, particularly those that rely on land and water, are increasingly recognised as being potentially sensitive to climate change on a global scale, suggesting that the international dimension is critical when considering future supply susceptibilities of import-dependent countries, such as the UK. We estimated embodied water imported to the UK for 25 economically significant and climate-sensitive sub-sectors, then explored the current and future susceptibilities of these sub-sectors under climate change. In 2010, these products represented 31% of total UK imports by value (US$) and 12.8 billion m of embodied water. Of this total, rice, bovine and pig meat production, plastics and paper account for ~60% of the volume of water embodied in the import categories considered. By combining product-based water volume estimates with economic and climate model information, we show how the UK could be increasingly susceptible to loss of these water supplements in the future. In doing so, we provide an indication of how countries that depend upon climate-sensitive imported resources can account for these dependencies in a systematic way. For example, international adaptation and development funding may be targeted to the securing of supplies from existing exporting countries, or trade relations may be encouraged with potential new suppliers who are likely to be less resource-constrained. © Inter-Research 2014.