UK's climate resilience plan 'falls far short'

Advisers warn of lack of funding after Britain saw hottest February and unusually wet winter

Britain faces intensifying summer heatwaves after breaking the 40°C mark for the first time in 2022. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

The UK's emergency plans for living in a warmer climate fall “far short of what is required”, government advisers have said.

Britain has just had its warmest February on record, an unusually wet winter and faces increasing risks from extreme heat, coastal erosion and floods due to global warming.

But adaptation efforts are “inadequately funded”, sometimes “poorly understood” and the government lacks a “credible vision”, according to scathing findings by the Climate Change Committee.

Spending on flood defences has been eroded by inflation, while a lack of investment in energy, water and rail could expose key infrastructure to future climate extremes, it says.

It also chastises Britain's resilience vision up to 2028, which was published last year, for a lack of measurable goals and outcomes.

A government spokesman said Britain had a “robust five-year plan” to strengthen infrastructure, promote a greener economy and safeguard food production.

The adaptation drive is separate to the UK's efforts to limit the damage to the climate by curbing its carbon footprint. It announced on Wednesday it would build new gas plants to make sure it can “keep the lights on” even as it uses more wind and solar power.

Efforts gathered pace at the Cop28 talks in the UAE to draw up global targets for adaptation, expected to focus on water, agriculture, health, biodiversity, infrastructure, livelihoods and cultural heritage.

While the UK was an “important player” in those talks, its efforts at home are falling short of several of the goals it supported internationally, the advisory committee said in a report published on Wednesday.

“The evidence of the damage from climate change has never been clearer, but the UK’s current approach to adaptation is not working,” said Julia King, the chair of the committee's adaptation arm.

The battle plan should be improved immediately because “we cannot wait another five years for only incremental improvement”, said the peer, also known as Baroness Brown.

The world's key temperature threshold of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial norm is already being crossed in some readings.

This means that climate-related impacts “of a severity and frequency beyond those already experienced” will be felt in the UK during the 2020s, says the committee's report.

Without a push for resilience, new net zero energy and water infrastructure may fail to “accommodate future climate extremes for these long-lived assets”, it warns.

“Failure to act effectively over the lifetime of this [adaptation plan] increases the risk of locking-in poorly adapted infrastructure.”

Updated: March 13, 2024, 11:29 AM