The UK Government forecasts that, if there are no better plans for climate resilience, billions will be wiped from national GDP over the next decades. The costs of inaction are expected to exceed the benefits of taking action by 2045.
The forecast is a headline finding of the UK’s Third Climate Change Risk AssessmentThe Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the following today (17 January).
Building on Forecasting and advice on climate risks and resilience published by the Government’s advisors, the Climate Change Committee, last June, the new report assesses dozens of risks the UK could face due to the global temperature increase and related changing weather patterns through to 2050 and 2080. It lists the likely risks in two warming scenarios: 2C or 4C.
For eight of the risks assessed, economic damages will exceed £1bn each year by 2050, even if warming is limited to 2C. Another 36 risks will be responsible for annual damages. If all risks are accounted for, the total impact is likely to exceed 1% of GDP in a 2C scenario.
2C is the least ambitious pathway described in the Paris Agreement. Since years, Island States and the most affected nations and regions have argued that 1.5C is too ambitious and should be the absolute limit. The agreements made at the COP26 are estimatedTo align with a temperature pathway in a region of 1.8C-2.4C.
The loss of natural carbon stocks, water scarcity, the risk of agricultural productivity, coastal erosion, risks to infrastructure networks and water service; risks to health and well-being from high temperatures; flooding risks to buildings and communities and risks to finance investment and insurance are all considered very high.
The UK, as a net importer and host to a large international investment community, will be at risk from the global climate crisis. With each passing decade, the risks to international trade routes are expected to increase. The report also highlights the risk of potential violent conflict as a result of the climate crisis hitting new heights in 2050. This would be worse for a 4C-world than a 2C-world, and there are increased risks of wars over natural resources.
The UK Green groups often accuse the company of failing to account international emissions.The climate risks that international supply chains and investment portfolios face,
According to the new report, some of the UK’s most pressing challenges to effective climate adaptation are a lack of awareness on climate risk; disagreements over who is responsible for responding to risks and “the complexity” of adapting when the future is not certain. It recognizes the importance of avoiding a fragmented approach and instead focusing on solutions that span the entire system.
The report was already presented to other senior policymakers in other departments of Government, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, (BEIS), and the Department for Education, (DfE), and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, (LUHC).
The report commits Defra that it will lay a new National Adaptation Programme in the Parliament in 2023. This report will expand on its predecessors and also include the UK’s first Climate Adaptation Communication and England’s current £5.2bn flood defence spending plan.
It is not clear what the Programme will include at this stage. Climate Adaptation Minister Jo Churchill said Defra recognises the need for a “significant increase” on current levels of action, underpinned by “ambitious and robust policies”.
Green economy reaction
Reacting to today’s report from Defra, the Aldersgate Group’s head of public affairs and communications, Signe Norberg, said: “The report rightly emphasises the need for urgent and coordinated action to both reduce emissions and adapt the UK’s economy and infrastructure to the levels of climate change we are already locked into. In practice, this means that the Government’s work on implementing The Net Zero StrategyCreating the next National Adaptation Plan, enacting long term nature improvement targets under Environment Act, and enacting long-term goals under the Environment Act all need to be done. At your own pace and in a team-based manner.
“Investing in a healthier natural environment is key to making the UK more resilient to the impacts of climate change and it will be critical that the Government puts forward ambitious and credible targets under the Environment Act as well as a new and comprehensive Environmental Improvement Plan later this year. The UK must continue to work towards rapid emission reductions throughout the economy and beyond the power sector. As set out in the Aldersgate Group’s Net Zero Strategy Policy TrackerKey policy gaps remain in crucial areas like energy efficiency, agriculture, land use and skills.
“The Government is right to want to increase awareness of climate risk at the local level in future assessments but this ambition must be paired with further financial and policy support for local authorities, so they can play a significant role in tackling climate change.”
Research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 2019 revealed that the average council in England was able to spend £7.8bn less annually on key services than it would have been in 2010, primarily due to real-terms cuts in central Government funding. Regarding net-zero specifically, the Government’s approach to providing funding and open-source tools – and to opening communication – has been slammed by The National Audit Office (NAO). LUHC Committee.
Adding to Norberg’s comments, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) lead for climate and land programmes Matt Williams said: “The damage caused to the UK by climate change will be greater than the investments needed to avoid harmful levels of warming. This will impact on the British countryside, carbon in trees and peatlands, as well as on food production and potential increases in food prices. The Government’s net zero plan is weakest link. It’s clear that farmers and the natural world need help not just in cutting emissions, but in adapting to the impacts of climate change too.”
The Net-Zero Strategy didn’t provide any new mandates for farmers or policy support. Defra Implementation of the new payment plans promised by the Agriculture Bill has begunThe CCC is behind in publishing a new Land-Use Sector Deal. The CCC estimates that land uses account for approximately 12% of UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The CCC also responded. The chair of the organisation’s Adaptation Committee Baronness Brown said: “We strongly welcome the Government’s Climate Change Risk Assessment which is based very closely on the CCC’s independent view of UK climate risk.
“But agreeing on the risks is one thing – taking action to address them is another. Building resilience to a cocktail of climate impacts facing our country, including flooding, drought, heat exposure and extreme weather events, is a mammoth task and we’re falling well behind. We look forward to seeing the Government’s action plan to shift the dial and deliver a well-adapted UK.”
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Defra has laid in Parliament the UK’s third climate change risk assessment, drawing on our advice and the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CCRA3?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CCRA3</a> analysis.<br><br>The Climate Change Act now allows for the start of the fourth cycle. But the spotlight really needs to turn to the need for better <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/adaptation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#adaptation</a> planning across the UK. <a href=”https://t.co/lR4OmRC6KA”>https://t.co/lR4OmRC6KA</a></p>— Chris Stark (@ChiefExecCCC) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChiefExecCCC/status/1483071548852510721?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 17, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>