UK fails to keep pace with increasing climate risks, CCC warns

The Climate Change Committee suggests climate risks will not disappear as the world moves to net zero

The Big Zero report

The UK is ‘failing to take action to improve climate resilience and keep pace with the impacts of global warming’.

In its Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk (CCRA3) published today, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has compiled a list of risks and opportunities affecting the UK’s natural environment, health, homes, infrastructure and the economy.

The authors of the report conclude that the gap between the level of risk the UK faces and the level of adaptation underway has widened in recent years.

Nearly 60% of the risks and opportunities assessed in the 1,500-page report have been given the highest urgency score.

The CCC identifies eight priority risk areas that require the ‘most urgent attention’ in the next two years.

These include risks to soil health from increased flooding and droughts and threats to carbon stores from a range of hazards, leading to increased emissions.

The supply of food, goods and vital services is also facing risks due to the climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks, the CCC suggests.

The assessment identifies a range of measures that could benefit the UK in the next five years if deployed on a wide scale.

These include green building design and retrofits, natural habitat creation and improved access to information about climate impacts.

The CCC stresses that since its last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built in a way that does not future-proof them against high temperatures.

More than 4,000 heat-related deaths have also been recorded in England since 2018, according to the report.

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee, said: “The severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated. These risks will not disappear as the world moves to net zero, many of them are already locked in.

“By better understanding and preparing for the coming changes, the UK can prosper, protecting its people, its economy, and its natural environment. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK was the first major economy to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Our plan to further reduce emissions in 2035 by at least 78% compared to 1990 levels is the highest reduction target by a major economy to date.

“As we work to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change and build back greener after the pandemic we will increase biodiversity, protect and restore our peatlands, clean up our country’s air and help protect our waterways through our landmark Environment Bill.

“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.”

Responding to the CCC’s report, Ross Easton, Director of External Affairs at Energy Networks Association, said: The energy networks are central to unlocking net zero in Great Britain. Our networks provide the backbone needed for more electric vehicles, heat pumps, hydrogen and renewables.

“We’re working with Ofgem to ensure our energy system is ready and resilient and that doesn’t just mean building more. It’s about using infrastructure and new technology in better, smarter ways to unlock benefits for consumers, businesses and society.”

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