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Climate change: England not ready for impact - BBC

Climate change: England not ready for impact – BBC

Storm Franklin Floods: Property surrounded by floodwater after the River Severn burst its banks at Bewdley in Worcestershire, February 22nd 2022PA Media

England is not ready for the unavoidable impacts of global warming, the government’s advisers on climate change say in a new report.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said the government hasn’t achieved any of its targets and needed a policy “step change” to avoid loss of life.

The CCC reviews the government’s adaptation plans – preparations to cope with the effects of global warming.

The government said it would take the recommendations into account.

The committee, also known as the CCC, is an independent group of experts set up to provide the government with advice on the climate crisis.

Baroness Brown, chairwoman of the CCC’s sub-committee on adaptation, said that the government wasn’t taking the issue seriously enough.

“The government’s lack of urgency on climate resilience is in sharp contrast to the recent experience of this country,” she said.

Over the last couple of years, England has faced a series of extreme weather events, likely made worse by climate change.

Last year was the warmest on record for the UK – temperatures broke 40C for the first time and more than 25,000 wildfires broke out.

In this aerial view Firefighters contain a wildfire that encroached on nearby homes in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield on July 20, 2022 in Sheffield, England.

Christopher Furlong

As well as extreme heat, rainfall has been consistently low for parts of south and southeast England, affecting crop yields.

Andrew Blenkiron’s 6,000-acre (24 sq km) farm in Thetford, Norfolk saw just 2.4mm of rain in February compared to the local average for that month of 43mm. He has now been forced to cut back on plans to plant potatoes, onions, parsnips and carrots by around a fifth.

He said: “Farmers are at the very forefront of climate change on a day-to-day basis… we are used to working with these issues, but we are concerned with the extremes we are now facing.”

To cope with the impacts of extreme heat Mr Blenkiron has enlarged reservoirs on his farm and shifted harvesting patterns to prevent wildfires.

But he said that farmers needed more money from government to implement their climate plans, especially if they involved new infrastructure projects like reservoirs.

Andrew Blenkiron stands with his arm on a solar panel on his farm

John Cottle / NFU

A UK government spokesperson told the BBC: “We have taken decisive action to improve the UK’s climate change resilience – including investing a record £5.2bn into flood defences.”

The spokesperson said the government would factor in the committee’s recommendations to the new National Adaptation Plan, which is expected to be published this summer.

The committee said the government needed to consider the resilience of farming systems in other countries.

Nearly half of all the food the UK consumes is imported. The CCC said this makes all of the UK’s food supply vulnerable to global weather patterns.

Already this year supermarkets have placed limits on fruit and vegetable sales after bad weather in North Africa affected supply.

The committee has recommended the government require all large food sector companies by law to assess the climate risks to their supply chains.

Woman in front of empty veg shelves

PA Media

The committee reviewed the government’s plans across 12 other areas – from buildings to transport to nature. They found that just five out of the 45 policy areas had fully credible climate change plans and none were making progress to improve climate resilience.

The committee commended the government for updating building regulations last year for new domestic properties – requiring developers to take account of overheating.

But they said this needed to be extended to cover all existing homes – as 80% of all homes that will be around in 2050 have already been built.

As many as 4.6 million homes overheat, according to a recent survey, putting those with existing health conditions like asthma at risk.

Internet at risk

The report singled out England’s internet networks as being woefully unprepared for climate change despite their crucial importance.

England’s internet networks – made up of hundreds of data centres, and extensive networks of cables and masts – underpin the UK’s service-based economy.

This infrastructure is already at risk from extreme weather, including heat and strong winds during storms. In November 2021, Storm Arwen left one million British properties without power and internet supply.

The committee found “there was no visible plan by the industry or government, to manage long-term risk”.

Damaged power lines can be seen in a remote area of Teesdale on December 05, 2021 in Durham, England. Several thousand people in the North East remain without power more than a week after Storm Arwen battered parts of England and Scotland.

Ian Forsyth

Matt Evans, director of Markets at techUK, the UK’s tech trade association, told the BBC the report showed there needed to be better collaboration across industry and government.

But he said it “doesn’t fully capture the resiliency strategies employed by high-tech industries”.

The committee did praise local governments for innovative climate change preparation, including the work of Kent County Council to help farmers switch their crops to those that will fare better in warmer weather.

But Baroness Brown said that central government needed to better support local adaptation plans by providing more funding and more region-specific information on future threats.


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