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Flooding in Mytholmroyd after River Calder burst its banks in 2020

Image source, Getty Images

The government has admitted that its efforts to insulate the UK from climate change impacts have been inadequate.

The costs of climate change to Britain are “high and increasing”, it says, and could reach many billions of pounds a year.

Ministers say they’ll have to go much further and faster to curb the worst impacts.

It means climate change must be built into all long-term decisions, such as new housing or infrastructure.

The aim should be to avoid costly remedial actions in the future.

The government has also accepted that it must consider low-probability but high-impact events arising from a heating climate.

The report is a response to an analysis of the UK’s vulnerability to climate change by the official advisers, the Climate Change Committee.

“Climate change is happening now. It is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and has already begun to cause irreversible damage to our planet and way of life,” the report begins.

It earmarks 61 climate risks cutting across multiple sectors of society.

Health and productivity could be affected, it says, with impacts on many households, businesses and public services.

The report warns of worsening soil health and farm productivity, reduced water availability, and impacts on alternative energy supply.

For example, it notes, unless the UK takes further action, the cost of flood-related damages for non-residential properties is expected to increase by 27% by 2050 and 40% by 2080.

That’s with a temperature rise of just 2C – and even that relatively low figure is looking very hard to achieve.

If temperature rises to 4C – which the government’s science advisers say is possible – this increases to 44% and 75% respectively.

The government says it’s already investing to adapt to climate change.

It mentions:

  • £5.2bn for 2,000 new flood defences by 2027
  • Increasing cash for peat restoration, woodland creation and management to more than £750m by 2025
  • Continuing work on the Green Finance Strategy to help money reach “green” projects

But critics say efforts so far have been diluted by inadequate finance from the Treasury for long-term schemes. Indeed the chancellor didn’t mention climate change once in his Budget.

Green MP Caroline Lucas MP said: “It’s crystal clear that we are moving nothing like fast enough to net zero emissions and the longer we delay, the more it will cost. The government acknowledges the risks. We have yet to see the action plan that will deal with them.”

Ministers admit they must do much more.

Climate Adaptation Minister Jo Churchill said: “The scale and severity of the challenge posed by climate change means we can’t tackle it overnight, and although we’ve made good progress in recent year, there is clearly much more that we need to do.”

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said: “After more than a decade in power, the Conservatives have failed to build the efficient homes, strengthened flood defences, and resilient natural habitats necessary to tackle the climate crisis.

“Their lack of action and empty promises are putting people, nature, and our economy at risk.”

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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