The latest report published earlier this month by the United Kingdom (UK) Committee on Climate Change has highlighted the priority climate change risks that must be tackled by the UK in the next five years. The ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 – Synthesis report: priorities for the next five years’ assesses the urgency of further action required by the UK to combat current and future climate change risks, and to realise opportunities arising from climate change. The findings of the report clearly indicate that over the next 5 years increased flooding and exposure to higher temperatures pose the highest climate change risks to the United Kingdom.
The Committee on Climate Change is an independent United Kingdom (UK) statutory body, which was established under the Climate Change Act 2008 to advise the UK Government on setting and meeting carbon emission budgets and preparing for climate change. Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK Government is required to assess the climate change risks and opportunities and report these to Parliament. The first such Government assessment report was submitted in January 2012.
significant climate change risks are also present in the form of water shortages and threats from new and emerging pests and diseases
According to the Climate Change Risk Assessment report, higher temperatures could lead to more moisture being held in the atmosphere, which in turn could lead to heavier rainfall and more frequent flooding. These higher temperatures will also affect public health, infrastructure, farming, forestry and the natural environment. The projected sea level rise of 50-100 cm by 2100 will exacerbate flood risks, accelerate the modification of coastlines and in turn could increase the likelihood of coastal communities in the UK having to relocate to areas with lower flood risk. In addition to increased flooding and exposure to higher temperatures, significant climate change risks are also present in the form of water shortages and threats from new and emerging pests and diseases in the UK.
The ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 – Synthesis report: priorities for the next years’ took into account the evidence for the following four scenarios:
1) Risks to the UK from climate change elsewhere – incremental changes in global climate and extreme weather elsewhere in the world can affect the UK through global trade, international supply chains and the transfer of financial capital
2) Risks relating to the capacity of communities, businesses, infrastructure providers and national and local Governments across the UK being able to act early and effectively – risks are often considered in isolation however in practice they will act synergistically and therefore actions to address the risks need to be coordinated amongst the Government bodies responsible for addressing them
3) Changing vulnerability to climate change impacts – changes in the size and demography of the UK population will influence the scale of the future impacts. The location and design of new buildings and infrastructure should address rather than exacerbate vulnerability to climate change
4) Adaptation steps already being taken across the UK or the steps that are expected – adaptation measures such as increasing the height of sea walls and addressing unsustainable groundwater extraction need to be planned and implemented to reduce the impacts of climate change
The report identifies a number of opportunities resulting from climate change for the UK:
- Milder winters should reduce the heating costs for homes and other buildings, which in turn will alleviate fuel poverty and lower the number of winter deaths from cold
- cold weather is expected to remain a cause of death and more action is needed to address the poor thermal performance of houses if this opportunity is to be realised
- UK agriculture and forestry may be able to increase their respective production with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons
- some crop and tree species may benefit from higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, although further research is needed to identify the species that could benefit
- Economic opportunities for UK businesses may result from increased demand or adaptation related goods and services
- the UK is home to extensive experience in architecture and construction, finance and investment, business risk management and water and environmental conservation. UK businesses will develop new products and services related to climate change adaptation in response to increased market signals
I will be very interested to see how the UK focuses its efforts following the findings of the UK Committee on Climate Change given the recent Brexit decision and requirement to negotiate with the remaining 27 members of the European Union for two years. It is not impossible to think that many international investors may also be pondering this as part of deciding whether to invest in UK projects.
The UK Committee on Climate Change is very clear with respect to climate change risks posed to international trade and global supply chains
A number of my previous articles have discussed the important roles that strong and enduring policy signals from Governments play in encouraging investors to fund renewable energy and other projects as part of a transition to a low carbon economy. The UK Committee on Climate Change is very clear with respect to climate change risks posed to international trade and global supply chains – demonstrating that both the national and local Governments must act early and effectively.
The national UK Government needs to lead by developing robust policy frameworks that lay the foundation for investors to feel sufficiently confident to fund projects that are part of the transition to the lower carbon economy. Following framework development, the national Government must coordinate its response with local Governments given that increased flooding and exposure to higher temperatures are the highest climate change risks for the UK over the next five years.