“Underfunded and ignored” verdict given to UK’s climate change approach

By - World Infrastructure Journal

“Underfunded and ignored" verdict given to UK

Despite making moves to reach the Net-Zero 2050 target, the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) most recent report claims that the UK government may still struggle to get there. It argued that Britain’s leaders have both continually underestimated the risk posed by climate change and failed to keep pace with the latest research on its impact and so called for a more proactive approach to climate policy.

The CCC’s latest report, published 16 June, claims that the risks of climate change have not been adequately assessed or accounted for by the UK government. According to the Committee, the current impacts of global warming (most notably the increasing frequency of heatwaves and floods) are set to worsen, regardless of the progress made in emissions. As such, it is of crucial importance that steps are taken to adapt infrastructure and practices to account for these oncoming changes to save both lives and money. Also, as the 1,500 page report outlines, these adaptations would also ensure the creation of a more resilient electrical grid and a greater emphasis on the maintenance of healthy, carbon-dioxide consuming, forests. Both of which the committee argues, are absolutely necessary to reach the Net-Zero 2050 goal.

However, despite urgent action needed and the growing awareness of the need for such action, there has a been a noticeable lack of interest in measures that would prepare the country for the ongoing (and irreversible) pattern of climate change that the UK is currently experiencing. As it stands, sea levels and temperatures are due to rise. Yet, the necessary precautions for these impending changes, such as the creation of more heat-resistant housing, have often been underfunded or simply ignored altogether.

The CCC claims that there is a widening gap between the reality of the climate risk faced by the UK and the capability of the UK government (given its current plans) to cope with it. As this “adaptation deficit” grows, so too does the risk to the British public. The lack of action on the need for housing that can withstand rising temperatures, for instance, has meant that within the last five years over 570,000 new homes that are not resilient to high heat have been built while over 4,000 people in England have died of heat-related deaths. This is only set to worsen given that the report alleges the risk posed by climate change “to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system” and “to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings” for the next 80 years

As Baroness Brown, Chair of the CCC Adaptation Committee said, “the severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated… [they] will not disappear as the world moves to net zero. ” In fact, “many of them are already locked in. ” This will require a complete overhaul in the way that the UK both envisions and executes its plans to expand and adapt infrastructure, as according to the report only four areas of infrastructure planning are being “managed sufficiently” with adaptation plans – including “risks to offshore infrastructure from storms and high waves” and “opportunities from climate change on international trade routes. ” Such a significant change in practice will, undoubtedly, be painful for a Britain that is about to embark on the process of its post-COVID-19 ‘levelling up,’ but if the UK government continues to fail to act on the recommendations of experts, the consequences may be fatal.

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