The UK government’s own advisers have found that there are no adequate plans in place to protect people from the repercussions of the climate crisis or to help them to cope with natural disasters such as floods or heatwaves.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report on the UK government’s “progress in preparing for climate change” on Wednesday, July 10th. It was delivered to parliament and includes worrying findings.
The first main conclusion of the report is that a target priority that was set in England in the past, covering the measures required to prepare homes, businesses and the land for higher temperatures, has been neglected over the last decade.
With stark clarity, the findings state that England “is still not prepared for even a 2°C rise in global temperature, let alone more extreme levels of warming.”
That conclusion is particularly worrying, as the committee explains that some degree of climate change is inevitable at this point, due to both past and present greenhouse gas emissions.
Even in a best-case scenario, where action will be taken in a collaborative international manner to contain emissions, global temperatures still have a 50% chance of rising above 2°C by the end of the century.
The report identifies a highly likely level of increased warming but finds that only a handful of sectors in England are taking it into consideration in their planning in terms of water supply, infrastructure or flood defences.
The report goes on to describe many national plans and policies that lack a basic acknowledgement of long-term climate change.
To make a passing mention but then have no associated actions to reduce risk is not enough, the CCC stresses. Specific reference is made to aspects of agriculture, the natural environment, health, other infrastructure sectors and business.
None of the sectors assessed have been given top scores for reducing the risks from climate change through their appropriate action.
On its homepage, the committee urges the UK government to “raise the profile and strengthen the governance of preparations for the impacts of climate change”.
The government should also “ramp up resources and action on all of the urgent risks set out in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, continue to take appropriate action for those classed as less urgent (but still important), and monitor the effects on climate risk over the next five year period.”
These measures are important, as extreme weather events already cause damage and disruption. To support that statement, the website gives a listing of tragic effects from such events in recent history: Around two thousand people across the UK died as a result of the 2003 heatwave. In 2007 widespread flooding affected 55,000 homes, killed 13 people and cost the economy billions of pounds.
In the past month, Europe battled another historic heatwave with several countries finding themselves overwhelmed by new record-breaking high temperatures.
The government has to tackle the problems highlighted in the report, as events such as these are likely to become more and more frequent and more severe as the climate changes, the committee warns.
CCC Chairman Lord Deben said, “It’s time for the government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, requires real action by government now.”
Targets are simply goals and are not enough to deliver action, Deben pointed out and highlighted the UK’s intention to host the world’s leaders at next year’s landmark climate conference, a crucial UN climate summit.
Speaking of “historic steps forward” that would “position the UK at the forefront of the global low-carbon transition” is a claim that is in stark contrast to the findings of the CCC report. The report seemed almost to be an attempt to politely but firmly point out potential hypocrisy. The UK’s credibility on climate change rests on Government action over the next 18 months, the CCC concluded.
The Committee submits annual progress reports to the UK government.