A new report by the government’s official climate adviser has found ‘very limited evidence’ of the implementation of climate adaptation strategies needed to prepare the UK for the risks of a warming planet. The analysis comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to outline dozens of green policies and consultations on Thursday as part of the updated net-zero strategy, after a High Court rejected the previous version last year.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) said the UK is “strikingly unprepared” for the impacts of climate change ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated release of a revised net-zero strategy.
In its 2023 Report to Parliament about the progress in adapting to climate change, the government’s official climate adviser said there had been a “lost decade” in efforts to adjust to a warming planet and urged officials to act as climate-related damages will inevitably intensify in the coming decades.
“Our assessment has found very limited evidence of the implementation of adaptation at the scale needed to fully prepare for climate risks facing the UK across cities, communities, infrastructure, economy and ecosystems,” CCC scientists said.
“The next National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) must be much more ambitious than its predecessors and lead to a long overdue shift in focus towards the delivery of effective adaptation.“
The CCC has repeatedly urged the government to act in the past as there is “little time left” to protect people and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change and said last summer’s record-breaking heatwave was both an example and a warning that the country ignored. Unprecedented temperatures surpassing 40C for the first time in parts of England claimed more than 3,000 lives in what experts described as an “all-time high” heat-related mortality rate in the country.
“It won’t be long before those kinds of very hot summers are a normal summer,” said Chris Stark, CCC chief executive.
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The Committee analysed progress in 45 key objectives, which cover areas including food and water security, natural habitats, health, energy, transport, and urban adaptation, and concluded that for none of them there is sufficient evidence that reductions in climate exposure and vulnerability are happening at rates needed to appropriately manage risk.
“The government is not putting together a plan that reflects the scale and the nature of the risks that face the whole country,” Stark told The Guardian.
“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.”
The assessment comes ahead of the long-awaited “Green Day” on Thursday, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to outline dozens of policies as part of the country’s updated net-zero strategy after the previous version was rejected by a High Court judge last summer for being insufficiently detailed.
The new measures, listed in a draft document seen by Bloomberg News, include the expansion of home energy efficiency programmes, steps to speed up the deployment of renewable energy infrastructure, and an announcement of the UK’s first carbon capture and storage support mechanism.
According to a 2021 analysis by Carbon Brief, the UK is halfway towards meeting its 2050 net-zero carbon goal. Per capita CO2 emissions in the country are now 4.5 tons, which is less than two-thirds of the per capita emissions in the US and 40% lower than in China.
A more recent report based on preliminary government energy data found that carbon emissions fell by 14 million tonnes in 2022, with experts warning that they will need to fall by a similar amount every year for the next three decades to reach net zero by 2050.
But while progress in the renewable energy sector has contributed to a reduction in coal production and overall emissions, the UK will now have to “address emissions from buildings, transport, industry and agriculture if it is to make further progress towards its net-zero target.”
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