The UK government is failing to protect us from the increasing risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts, according to a report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC). The Committee is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change (see https://www.theccc.org.uk/ ).
The report, published on 16 June is hard hitting and points to food shortages and power cuts linked to global warming as well as predicting flooding caused by rising sea levels resulting from melting ice, as well as heatwaves, droughts and the destruction of rivers and lakes as temperatures increase.
In the foreword to the report Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee, Climate Change Committee points out that “the highest temperature recorded in Britain was in July 2019, 38.7 ºC at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UK’s Met Office have announced that there is now a 40% chance of the average annual global temperature reaching 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels in at least one of the next 5 years. Climate change is here, now.”
It points out that in 2020’s heatwave, 2,500 people died in the UK, but the government had not heeded CCC warnings for more than a decade that homes must be made easier to cool, such as by using shutters.
Ministers are accused of failing to plan for the “inevitable” impact of climate change, despite the CCC’s repeated warnings, leaving the country worse prepared to tackle global warming than it was five years ago.
Baroness Brown pointed out that: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored. Not only is it essential that we do adaptation, but it also provides economic benefit. So it’s absolutely illogical that we are not doing it.
“Our particular frustration is that after the last climate-change risk assessment in 2016, the adaptation plan that was published was really inadequate,” she said. “It didn’t address many of the risks highlighted and it wasn’t in any way action focused. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”
Her concerns were backed up by Chris Stark, the CCC’s chief executive, who said there was a “wilful reluctance” of ministers to factor adaptation into their policies: “That’s because it’s hard, it doesn’t fit with the [five-year] political cycle and it doesn’t have the glamour of net zero attached to it. The government has got to get real about it.”
A government spokesperson said: “We welcome this report and will consider its recommendations closely as we continue to demonstrate global leadership on climate change ahead of COP26 in November.”
The report can be read at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/independent-assessment-of-uk-climate-risk/