Climate crisis disproportionately impacting elderly and low-income families in UK

The climate crisis is disproportionately impacting low-income households, the elderly, children and minority communities, according to new research from CDP warning of a £17bn funding gap that is stopping local authorities from protecting their communities.

Climate crisis disproportionately impacting elderly and low-income families in UK

Flooding and heatwaves are just some issues authorities are trying to adapt to

The Building Local Resilience research from CDP saw 60 UK local authorities surveyed. These entities account for 45% of the UK population and one-third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The research found that the climate crisis looks set to disproportionately impact certain parts of society. It found that 92% of low-income households are those that will be most affected by climate-related risks including flooding and heatwaves, followed by the elderly (85%), children (73%) and minority communities (65%).

Every local authority surveyed disclosed a climate-related hazard in their area – up from 75% in 2018 – ranging from heat, flooding and heavy rainfall. The research also found that 77% of local authorities have reported that health is being impacted by the climate crisis. Conditions range from heat-related illnesses, mental health impacts, injuries and death.

The research finds that local authorities are implementing measures to respond to the climate crisis. Of the surveyed respondents, 90% have introduced emissions reduction targets and 90% have implemented a mitigation plan. More than three-quarters 77% have adaptation plans, compared to just 33% in 2018. Almost all local authorities are implementing their adaptation plans, which range from reforestation to improving flood defences.

However, the research warns that many local authorities are struggling due to budget capacity, with 66% stating that a lack of funds is limiting their ability to respond to the climate crisis. In total, 21 local authorities disclosed to CDP how much additional funding they’d need to deliver adaptation projects, with the total gap standing at £17.4bn.

CDP’s director of cities, states and regions Maia Kutner said:  “The ravaging effects of our warming planet spare few corners of the globe, and the UK is no longer immune from them. From the hottest year on record in 2022 to multiple floods, droughts and thousands of wildfires, the country is experiencing just how severe climate change really is – and, unfortunately, its knock-on impact on health and vulnerable communities.

“Many local authorities are adapting to climate change with commitment and agility. Our latest report shows the encouraging numbers developing adaptation plans, alongside targets and plans to reduce their emissions, and what this looks like in practice. With their closeness to communities on the ground and ability to deliver tangible impact, local authorities are vital champions of climate action in the UK. A more holistic approach to tackling climate change, from joined up thinking on and funding for action within councils to listening to vulnerable groups, will help local authorities take greater strides in their climate action.”

IPCC warnings

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a major report providing starker warnings than ever before on risks to the economy, nature and human health.

It found that historic failures to cut emissions and slow progress on adaptation efforts have left more than 3.3 billion people – half of the world’s population – “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of the climate crisis.

The report warned that long-term trends will include greater levels of migration; a widespread mental health crisis; increased transmission risks for food-borne and water-borne disease; water scarcity and irreversible biodiversity loss. To the latter, it states that the proportion of species facing a high risk of extinction could be held to 3% in many regions in a 1.5C world. But, in a 2C world, this proportion rises to 18%. For 2C, it’s 29%. For 3C, it’s 39%.

The IPCC has since published the fourth and final installment of the sixth assessment report (AR6). The IPCC’s report reiterates that the world is not on track to achieve either of the Paris Agreement’s temperature pathways – 1.5C and 2C –  with stated policies likely to result in a 2.8C trajectory even if delivered in full. At this level of warming, many places will not be “liveable”, the IPCC has stated.

Read what the IPCC report means for businesses here.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Every mishap has a proportionally greater effect upon the less financially secure, poorer, sectors of the community.
    Spreading the load is the basis of a socially aware society, is it not??

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