The UK has received a damming review by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), calling the country “strikingly unprepared” for the impacts of the climate crisis and suggesting there had been a “lost decade” in efforts to adapt to the impacts of global heating.
The CCC, the government’s official climate adviser, said climate damage will inevitably intensify for decades to come. It has warned repeatedly of poor preparation in the past and said government action was now urgently needed to protect people and their homes and livelihoods.
The extreme heatwave in 2022, when temperatures surpassed 40 °C for the first time, was both an example and a warning, the CCC said. More than 3,000 people died early and 20% of hospital operations were cancelled at the peak of the heatwave, while rail lines buckled, wildfires raged and farmers struggled with drought. “It won’t be long before those kinds of very hot summers are a normal summer,” said Chris Stark, CCC chief executive.
According to the report, action is needed to heat-proof homes, stem leaks from water supply pipes and prepare for flash floods and shortages of food and other imports from nations struck by climate impacts.
“The government is not putting together a plan that reflects the scale and the nature of the risks that face the whole country,” said Stark. “This is completely critical. There is no option but to adapt to the change in the climate. The question is only whether we do that well by doing it early or wait until later.”
Julia King, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, said: “The last decade has been a lost decade in terms of preparing for the risks we already have and those that we know are coming.”
A recent IPCC report showed that climate damages are hitting harder and faster than expected, she said, and that the global temperature will not stop rising until carbon emissions reach net zero, a target set for 2050 by many countries, including the UK.
“It means we’ve got at least 30 more years of escalating hazards,” she said. “Every month that passes locks in more damaging impacts. Action is needed, and we need it now.”
The CCC report said UK government planning for climate change, where nearly all the necessary policy milestones were in place, was found for only five of the 45 adaptation requirements examined. However, the report found there was not a sufficient implementation of adaptation plans in any of the 45 areas.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We welcome the CCC’s recognition of our progress so far and will factor its recommendations into our updated National Adaptation Programme, which will be published later this year and will ensure we robustly address the full range of climate risks to the UK.”
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