CCC: UK’s energy and water infrastructure providers not yet prepped for climate risks

Despite improving their climate risk reporting in recent years, many of the UK’s energy, water, transport and digital infrastructure organisations are not yet taking action to prevent “cascading failures in service provision” caused by climate-related events.

CCC: UK’s energy and water infrastructure providers not yet prepped for climate risks

That is the latest warning from the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC). The Committee has this week sent a new report to the Government, assessing climate risk measurement, reporting and adaptation plans from 90 of the nation’s key infrastructure owners and operators.

Respondents to that survey included National Grid, Network Rail, Highways England, the Environment Agency, UK Power Networks and a swathe of airports, water companies and telecommunications firms.

Of the 90 organisations, one-fifth submitted no reports to the CCC when invited. Around half of the non-reporting organisations had reported previously, with the CCC concerned that engagement levels with the process may be decreasing at a time when they need to be increasing. Among the non-reporting organisations were six port authorities and organisations in the aviation, water, rail, finance and heritage conservation sectors.

Of the 80% of organisations that did provide a report, the CCC noted an improvement in report quality since the last time it asked for disclosures. It is recommending that the Government works more closely with it to strengthen report quality ahead of the next reporting cycle, and to get those non-reporting organisations on board. The next reporting cycle is set to be scheduled for 2024.

This move, the CCC states, will be “essential” if the UK is to deliver effective climate adaptation. The Committee has described the nature of physical climate risks to the UK as “cascading” and warned that many organisations will face challenges providing their key services in the coming decades without more action.

‘Catalogue of risks’

The CCC notably published a major report assessing the UK’s exposure to – and preparedness for – climate-related risks last summer. At that point, the Committee classified 60% of the risks as requiring the highest level of urgency, up from 36% at the last assessment in 2016. No risks were deemed to have decreased in urgency. The Environment Agency subsequently issued its own report forecasting increased winter rainfall and summer heatwaves that the UK is not prepared for.

An updated UK adaptation plan was presented by the UK Government in 2021 but this was before either of those reports came out. The CCC has expressed concerns multiple times that this plan contains loopholes. An update to this plan is due in the mid-2020s.

“Prudent planning today can help avoid a domino effect of failures in the future,” said CCC adaptation committee chair Baroness Brown.

“In this [latest] report we’ve uncovered a key gap in the country’s national adaptation planning: to varying degrees the organisations we have assessed are not prepared for cascading infrastructure failures…For example, a flood might damage an electricity substation which has a knock-on effect on the transport network due to a power outage. These dependencies, if disrupted, have potentially devastating consequences.”

Eight top tips for reporting environmental risk and becoming a more climate-resilient business

edie recently hosted a webinar in association with Manifest Climate on the theme of ‘moving from risk to resilience: practical solutions to climate-proof your business’. Readers interested in this article may wish to read our round-up of eight top tips provided by expert speakers during that webinar, and to watch that session for free on-demand. 


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