Public sector still unprepared for floods and droughts, research reveals

Only a quarter of Britain's public sector organisations have plans in place to adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as more frequent flooding or higher temperatures, new research from the Carbon Trust has found.

This compares with 70% that have put action plans in place to reduce carbon emissions and resource use, according to the survey of 189 professionals from central government, local government, non-departmental public bodies, the NHS, public services and universities.

“This research suggests that public sector organisations are making some progress on mitigating climate change – although not at the rate that scientists tell us is necessary to avoid the worst impacts,” said Tim Pryce, head of public sector at the Carbon Trust.

“However, they remain largely unprepared for taking action to reduce the risks of impacts such as flooding on public services, transport and healthcare.

“This fits with our own experience working with the public sector, who are only now starting to get to grips with what will be need to be done to create stronger and more resilient communities in the UK. Practically, this means undertaking a full risk assessment, then intelligently using their powers as planners and service providers to minimise future disruption and costs, while showing leadership in their local areas.”


Almost half of respondents pointed to a clack of budget as the greatest obstacle to action, with a lack of financing options also mentioned by 26%. To help public sector organisations take more effective action on climate change, 72% wanted more support from central government and 64% wanted more budget or finance.

Pryce added: “It is true that progress is being made in the public sector, but meeting the UK’s science based targets on climate change is going to require a huge effort. Unfortunately, there are still far too many cost effective energy efficiency projects that are not being implemented.

“What is needed is a greater level of investment into high quality projects. This can deliver a number of benefits, not least better quality and more efficient public services. Public bodies also need to consider the impacts of climate change on their buildings, workforce and services far more seriously.”

The lack of investment is not a new problem – a similar survey conducted by the Carbon Trust last year also highlighted lack of funding as the main barrier to energy efficiency programmes.

Brad Allen

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