The UK government is “strikingly unprepared” for the effects of global warming leaving vital sectors, including agriculture, vulnerable even if emissions are cut, its independent climate advisers have warned.
In a critical report published on Wednesday, the Climate Change Committee identified multiple failures, including limited progress on reducing water consumption and leakage and the absence of a clear strategy to protect the productivity of agriculture as weather conditions change.
The lack of monitoring systems to track and review progress towards building resilience to climate change was identified as another shortcoming.
“Climate change has arrived, yet the country is still strikingly unprepared,” it said. “The impacts of climate change will intensify over coming decades, leaving the UK vulnerable without better resilience planning and preparation.”
The CCC’s biennial adaptation progress report is the latest in a series of critical assessments of the government’s performance in tackling climate change. These included a warning earlier this month by the National Audit Office that the UK was at risk of missing its goal to decarbonise the power sector by 2035.
Professor Julia King, also known as Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, said the government’s “lack of urgency” on climate resilience was “in sharp contrast to the recent experience of people in this country.”
A drought was formally declared across large parts of England last year, while parts of the country sweltered in record temperatures of more than 40C in July. Scientists have predicted that as planet warms, the UK will experience warmer and wetter winters and drier and hotter summers.
The CCC’s critical assessment comes ahead of a government announcement of a range of measures aimed at boosting Britain’s energy security and meeting net zero targets.
The report found there was insufficient evidence of increased resilience to climate-related risk for any of the CCC’s 45 key objectives, which cover areas including towns and cities, agricultural production and natural habitats. The government had credible policies in place for just five of those objectives, including ensuring the resilience of railway infrastructure.
The government said it welcomed the report and would “factor its recommendations” into its update of the national adaptation programme (NAP), its five-year action plan for addressing climate change.
The report described the planned revision of the NAP this summer as “a make-or-break moment to avoid a further five years of lacklustre planning and preparation for the changing climate”. The NAP should include specific and measurable goals and be complimented by more state funding for adaptation efforts, it added.