Updated Mar 30, 2023

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CCC says UK 'strikingly unprepared' for climate crisis

In a report, "Progress in adapting to climate change", the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said that the UK is "strikingly unprepared" for the impacts of the climate crisis and there has been a "lost decade" in efforts to adapt for the impacts of global heating.

The CCC, the government's official climate adviser, said climate damages will inevitably intensify for decades to come. It has warned repeatedly of poor preparation in the past and said government action was now urgently needed to protect people, their homes, and their livelihoods.

They said that the extreme heatwave in 2022, where temperatures surpassed 40°c for the first time, were both an example and a warning. The heatwave caused:

  • 3,000 early deaths;
  • 20% of hospital operations to be cancelled;
  • rail lines to buckle;
  • wildfires; and
  • farmers struggling with drought.

Chris Stark, CCC Chief Executive, said: "It won't be long before those kinds of very hot summers are a normal summer".

Areas where needed action is missing include:

  • heat-proofing homes;
  • stemming leaks from water supply pipes; and
  • preparing for:
    • flash floods,
    • food shortages, and
    • other imports from nations struck by climate impacts.

Stark said: "The government is not putting together a plan that reflects the scale and the nature of the risks that face the whole country".

"This is completely critical. There is no option but to adapt to the change in the climate. The question is only whether we do that well by doing it early or wait until later".

He added that acting early would be cheaper and better, rather than acting in a "panicked way" later.

Julia King, Chair of the CCC's Adaptation Committee, said: "The last decade has been a lost decade in terms of preparing for the risks we already have and those that we know are coming".

She said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report showed that climate damages are hitting harder and faster than expected, and that the global temperature will not stop rising until carbon emissions reach net zero, which is a target set for 2050 by many countries.

As a result King said: "It means we’ve got at least 30 more years of escalating hazards".

"Every month that passes locks in more damaging impacts. Action is needed, and we need it now".

The CCC report said "fully credible" UK government planning for climate change, where nearly all the necessary policy milestones were in place, was found for only five of the 45 adaptation requirements examined. Plans to cope to with river and coastal flooding was one positive example.

However, the report found there was not sufficient implementation of adaptation plans in any of the 45 areas.

A UK government spokesperson said: "We welcome the CCC’s recognition of our progress so far and will factor its recommendations into our updated National Adaptation Programme, which will be published later this year and will ensure we robustly address the full range of climate risks to the UK".

The last National Adaptation Programme was published in 2018 and the CCC said it "lacks a clear vision. It is not underpinned by tangible outcomes or targets. It has not driven policy and implementation across government".

The CCC assessment highlighted:

  • the lack of reporting by major food companies on climate risks to their supply chains;
  • homes still being built in areas at future risk of flooding, while on the coast plans are inadequate to deal with people losing their homes to rising seas;
  • lack of policy to tackle overheating in existing homes.

The CCC say the new National Adaptation Programme will be a make or break moment and would have to increase public funding for adaptation as well as remove barriers to private investment.

Stark said: "The National Adaptation Programme we have at the moment is just nowhere near the kind of cross-government, powerful framework that would be equivalent to the climate risks that we face".

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