The independent body that advises government on climate adaptation (the Adaptation Sub-Committee) today published the first national assessment of how well prepared the UK is for climate change. The report concludes that, with the impacts of climate change already being felt in the UK, people must start preparing now.
Climate change is already having an impact in the UK. Since the 1970s, average annual temperatures have risen by 1°C, and Spring arrives 11 days earlier. These impacts are likely to increase as a result of future climate change, with the incidence of extreme weather events such as floods, heat-waves and droughts becoming more frequent. The UK needs to start taking action to prepare for these impacts, ensuring that we have the resilience to cope with climate change.
The Committee stressed that adaptation is not an alternative to mitigation but complements our continued and essential efforts to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050. Adaptation is about adjusting the way that we do things to ensure that we are prepared.
Recent research suggests that taking measures to adapt to climate change could halve costs of climate change, and that the costs of failing to adapt will outweigh the costs of acting in the short term.
Chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee on Climate Change, Lord John Krebs:
“The UK must start acting now to prepare for climate change. If we wait, it will be too late. It is not necessarily about spending more, but about spending smart and investing to save. If we get it right, we can save money in the short term and avoid large extra costs in the future. The time has come to move from talking to acting”.
Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman said:
“Climate change is an absolute priority for this Government. The UK is committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but must also accept that some climate change is inevitable and already happening.
“The effects of this – such as heavy rainfall and flooding, heat-waves, and droughts – present a real challenge to infrastructure and business continuity. So in Defra we want to help communities and businesses prepare now in order to cope with the challenges which lie ahead.”
In 2011 the Sub-Committee will provide develop a further assessment of preparedness against this more detailed monitoring framework, together with formal advice on the Climate Change Risk Assessment, as required in the Climate Change Act.