UK failing to address climate change priorities, say MPs

Around 12,000 new UK homes are being built at flood risk every year due to a failing climate change adaptation plan, MPs have warned.

The Environment Agency does not consult on property developments with fewer than 10 houses, meaning that 12,000 homes are being built on floodplains every year

The Environment Agency does not consult on property developments with fewer than 10 houses, meaning that 12,000 homes are being built on floodplains every year

The Environmental Audit Committee released its analysis of the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) on Wednesday, finding that "there is no sense we are tackling priority risks".

The Environment Agency, for example, does not consult on property developments with fewer than 10 houses, meaning that 12,000 homes are being built on floodplains every year. 

Committee chair Joan Walley MP said: "With the effects of climate change likely to persist for centuries to come, the need to adapt is unavoidable. Flooding poses the biggest adaptation risk here in the UK, yet the Adaptation Programme gives you no sense of this.

"Continuing to build houses on floodplains at high risk of flooding is foolhardy as this is merely storing up risk and costs for the future. With flooding likely to increase the Government should enforce existing powers to require Sustainable drainage systems in all development."

Independence

The committee also criticised the Government's "reactive policy" on flooding, which prioritised the "most recent events". It suggested the Government should allow the Environment Agency to allocate flood defence funds according to objective cost-benefit model considerations, without political interference.

The NAP – required by the Climate Change Act 2008 – sets out what government, businesses and others are doing on adaptation. It has to be updated every 5 years, with the next edition due in 2018. 

When the next Government comes to produce the next NAP, the report claims it needs to provide a more top-down strategic direction, with a set of measures and targets against which progress can be measured.

Walley added: "In preparing the next NAP, the Government should appoint a person whose sole job it is to champion and raise awareness for the adaptation measures that need to be taken."

Cause and effect

Responsding to the report, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) warned that the Committee should focus on the cause of climate change as well as its effects.

ECIU  director Richard Black said: “While the committee is absolutely right to argue for smarter development that reduces the risk of flood damage, adaptation is just one side of the coin. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Committee on Climate Change both point out, the further climate change progresses, the less able we will be to adapt to its impacts.

 “The conclusion must be that governments have to tackle the cause as well as the symptoms, by cutting the carbon emissions that are fuelling climate change, just as science recommends.”

Brad Allen

 


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