Urgent action needed to address climate risks to infrastructure and networks, government advisers warn

More action is needed to combat risks of cascading infrastructure failures across interdependent networks, according to the latest report from the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, the statutory body appointed to advise the government on climate change.

The report also advised more action on risks to infrastructure from all types of flooding and coastal erosion. More action is also needed to protect power plant’s water supply from drought and low river flows. The report said research should be done as a priority on the vulnerability of infrastructure networks near rivers, especially bridges, electricity and communication cables, and gas pipelines, to higher flows and erosion of bridge foundations.

Individual infrastructure sectors have improved their understanding of risks within their own sector over the last five years, the report said, but more work is now needed to understand how the impacts of climate change could be amplified by interdependencies between infrastructure sectors. The report said more research was needed to assess the risks to energy infrastructure from high winds and lightning and the risks to offshore assets from storms and high waves.

The authors said that the Brexit vote didn’t change the overall findings of this risk assessment, but “the magnitude of individual climate change risks and opportunities could be affected if legislation, policy and funding derived from the EU, relevant to climate change adaptation, are changed”. The Adaptation Sub-Committee will consider the implications in its next statutory progress report on the UK National Adaptation Programme, which will be published in June 2017.

Lord Krebs, chairman of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “The impacts of climate change are becoming ever clearer, both in the United Kingdom and around the world. We must take action now to prepare for the further, inevitable changes we can expect. Our independent assessment today, supported by the work of hundreds of scientists and other experts, identifies the most urgent climate change risks and opportunities which need to be addressed. Delaying or failing to take appropriate steps will increase the costs and risks for all UK nations arising from the changing climate.”

Reacting to the publication today of the Committee on Climate Change’s Risk Assessment Report, Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group said: “Today’s report from the CCC shows that climate change will increasingly have disruptive impacts on the UK’s infrastructure, businesses and the state of its natural environment. In addition to developing a clear plan to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases to meet its climate targets, the government must strengthen its existing National Adaptation Programme to improve the state of its natural environment, ensure that its infrastructure is as resilient to extreme weather events as possible and build greater awareness in businesses and local authorities of the likely impacts of climate change in the years to come”.

  • The Synthesis Report ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment: priorities for the next five years’, together with the chapters of the full Evidence Report, and associated materials is available here.

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