‘Less talk and more action is needed’: Green economy reacts to major climate adaptation report from the CCC

Pictured: The aftermath of Storm Ciara at Climping Beach

The Committee has today (16 June) published a major report, assessing the UK’s exposure to hundreds of different climate-related risks. Some 60% of the risks assessed are classed as requiring the highest level or urgency, up from 36% at the last assessment in 2016. No risks have decreased in urgency.   

With the UK set for warmer, dryer summers and warmer, wetter winters, the number of risks crystallising and resulting in a damage bill of at least £1bn is likely to be three times higher in the 2080s as in the 2010s, according to the report.

The CCC is warning that these risks are, by and large, already ‘baked-in’. In other words, the UK’s efforts to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050 will have only a minimal impact in reducing the number of risks and their magnitude. As such, it is calling for a better adaptation strategy with more long-term certainty on the likely warming pathway for the UK.

You can read edie’s full coverage of the new report here. In this piece, we round up all the latest reaction from key figures and organisations across the green economy.

Green economy reaction 

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman Philip Dunne MP said: “It is of great concern that the gap between the level of climate risk that we all face and our plans to adapt to it has widened in the last five years. While the Government has been focussing on meeting net-zero, it has forgotten about the risks to soil health and subsequent disruptions to the food supply.

“It has also forgotten about preparing for the impacts of heatwaves, where the 2018 heatwave will become 50% more likely in 2050. Our Committee raised concern about the lack of preparedness for heatwaves in our 2018 report, warning that there will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year if the Government does not take action. Net-zero and adaptations must be tackled in tandem if we are to mitigate the risks that come with a warming climate.

“Against this backdrop of the dangers we face, the CCC has made some practical recommendations, such as increasing investment in flood defences, harvesting more rainwater and forecasting and early warning systems so we can adapt to each risk accordingly. I encourage the Government to take this report seriously. In our future work programme, we will consider how we can help focus on some of the adaptation solutions identified by the CCC.”

The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho said: “Today’s high-quality analysis from the Climate Change Committee makes it abundantly clear that adapting to climate change is an environmental and economic imperative. In addition to devastating impacts on species and habitats, climate change will, without further urgent action, significantly disrupt the UK’s critical infrastructure, supply chains, food supply and business productivity. Businesses are clear that climate adaptation and the delivery of the UK’s net-zero emissions target should both be cross-departmental priorities and be fully embedded across all areas of Government policymaking.

“A key message from today’s report is that restoring the natural environment – including soils, peatlands, wetlands and forests – will significantly improve the UK’s ability to cope with climate change as well as provide much-needed negative emissions to deliver the net-zero target. The Environment Bill could play a crucial, positive role here and we urge the Government to strengthen it by introducing binding interim targets that will drive rapid investment in nature restoration projects. 

“Businesses also have an important and pro-active role to play in improving the future resilience of the economy. This should include regularly monitoring and disclosing their vulnerability to the physical and regulatory impacts related to climate change, reviewing the environmental impacts and resilience of their supply chains, incorporating climate change adaptation in everyday investment decisions and large corporations supporting smaller businesses in their supply chains to develop adaptation strategies.”

WWF’s executive director of advocacy and campaigns Katie White said: “The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt by people and nature around the world, not least here in the UK. Protecting and restoring nature – including habitats, soils and trees – is crucial to limiting global warming to 1.5C and for building resilience to the changes we know are coming. 

“The CCC has provided the evidence. Now it is up to the government to set out the plan and investment, putting nature at the heart of decision making. The evidence shows that acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences and avoid further damage to landscapes, lives and livelihoods.”

WWF Scotland’s head of policy Fabrice Leveque said: “Coming the day after Scotland failed to meet its climate targets and two weeks after a WWF report identified the climate effects on Scottish species and habitats, this risk assessment is yet another reminder of the absolute urgency of acting on climate. Protecting and restoring nature – including habitats, soils and trees – is crucial to limiting global warming to 1.5C and for building resilience to the changes we know are coming.

“The evidence shows that acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences and will avoid further damage to lives, livelihoods and landscapes. As well as adapting to the warming we’re already experiencing, the Scottish Government has an opportunity before COP26 comes to Glasgow in November to show it is walking the talk and introduce the bold policies we need to cut emissions faster and keep warming below 1.5C.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs said: “The government’s response to the accelerating impacts of the climate emergency is totally inadequate.

“Ensuring that the nation’s housing stock is equipped for dealing with the climate challenges of the 21st century has to be a top priority. With more than one in five homes already at risk of overheating and with hotter summers on the way, a major retrofit programme is urgently required to keep our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 

“The government should immediately ensure that all new homes are built to the highest environmental standards and make the future-proofing of our existing housing stock a major focus of its forthcoming comprehensive spending review.”

IEMA’s director of policy and external Affairs Martin Baxter said: “The impacts of climate change are happening now, in that context it is disappointing to see the CCC’s announcement today stating that the government is currently falling short in enhancing the nation’s climate resilience to the growing threat. In the midst of the climate emergency, failure to act now will leave the UK underprepared for the challenges ahead.

“If the response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing it is that government needs to act quickly and follow the best advice – the threat the climate emergency brings to our lives and the future of our environment requires our leaders to take action today.

“The CCC has provided a comprehensive analysis of the many risks and limited opportunities that lie ahead – adapting to the impact of a changing climate while taking action to deliver net-zero will require a focus on the development of skills and expertise across business, industry and civil society. This is an area that is pivotal to mobilizing a timely response to the climate emergency and the reason why IEMA is calling on the government to develop a Green Jobs and Skills Strategy.” 

IEMA’s policy lead Nick Blyth said: “Extreme weather, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage are among the highest likelihood global risks over the next ten years. Today’s report and the accompanying publications, amply demonstrate this for the UK. As the UK builds back better, there is now an imperative for a ‘joined-up’ approach on climate policy across all government departments.’

“The recent proposal by BEIS for mandatory climate-related financial disclosures is useful in this context. Within IEMA’s response to this we stated how the information and resources within CCRA3, could potentially inform new guidance, helping companies respond effectively and consistently to better address these new disclosure requirements.”

PwC’s assistant director of sustainability and climate change Kiran Sura said: “Today’s Climate Change Risk Assessment delivers a stark message and shows the imminent risks we face if we do not take action to adapt to the changing climate. Analysis suggests that investment now can deliver up to 10 times the benefit across certain sectors.  We need a detailed and workable roadmap that outlines how to deliver the transformative adaptation in practice across government, industry and the whole of the UK economy to build our resilience to future impacts.

“While the targets are challenging and ambitious, the prize is a future that’s clean, resilient, and stands to offer a range of new jobs and skills in all sectors, as we develop and deploy innovative solutions to meet our net-zero commitments. COP26 provides the UK with a chance to show the world how a leading economy is embedding mitigation and adaptation in every aspect of its clean growth strategy, paving the way for others to do the same.”

The Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) director of external affairs Ross Easton 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.”

Sustainable Capital’s director, Professor Kevin Haines, said: “Solving this problem requires bringing the best of government, business and society together.

“Right now in the wider business community, there is a misunderstanding that is holding back the torrent of creativity and energy that business can bring to this challenge. Lots of entrepreneurs assume the scale of investment required to fund their impactful projects is beyond their reach, so leave it ‘big business’ or larger institutions to solve the problem. Our message is that that this is absolutely misplaced.”

Vysus group’s chief executive David Clark said: “The CCC’s third risk assessment laid out some relatively clear predictions focused on the potential impact of climate change in the UK, and certain scenarios can be deemed inevitable. We know certain crisis cannot be avoided including flooding, landslides, train tracks buckling, tarmac melting and moorland fires.

“This further supports the need for effective risk assessments which drive mitigating action. They are not a virtue – the real value in a competent risk assessment is what can and will be done with the information. For example, during a risk assessment of an offshore structure, a fire risk or the potential for gas escaping may be identified. In this instance, the risk assessment failed to solve the problem. However, by looking at what can be done to mitigate the risk, in this case introducing an engineering solution, that is where the problem can be solved. A detailed risk assessment therefore helps to prioritise and understand the true criticality of the various risks.

“This is nothing new, we have been mitigating risks as a result of change for years. However, it’s important to stop and look at the lessons that can be learned from previous situations. There’s action we can take today which is made possible by the technology and the expertise at our fingertips, and by asking the right questions.

“For example, in some parts of the UK we know that if the temperature increases by another 1-2C, it could be problematic, and even dangerous, for the house owners living in properties that were built to keep occupants warm in our harsh winters. We must ask; do we need to stop, and look at how we keep these houses cool in the summer?

“Furthermore, much of the UK’s rail infrastructure was built in the Victorian period to suit an environment that is very different to what exists today. We must ask; do we need to look at what we can do to mitigate the risks of these buckling with increased temperatures before a catastrophic and life-threatening incident occurs?

“What is clear is that we cannot prevent the impact of climate change, but we can retrofit and engineer solutions to help overcome the challenges of today, while we develop solutions fit for tomorrow.”

edie Staff

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