Authorities assess climate risks

2nd March 2011


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The first reports on how transport and utility companies are assessing and acting on the future risks and opportunities posed by the changing climate have been published by Defra.

Under the Climate Change Act2008, 91 organisations have to submit assessment reports to the environment department over the next year.

National Grid (gas and electricity transmission), Environment Agency, Trinity House, Highways Agency, Network Rail and Natural England are the frst six to do so.

National Grid, which made its assessment against the worst-case scenario in the latest UK climate projections (UKCP09), reports that its assets and processes are resilient to the climate change that is predicted to occur, although some may be at risk of localised flooding or ground movement, for example.

The Highways Agency used the previous climate projections (UKCIP02) to develop its existing adaptation framework, but will now revise it in line ith UKCP09.

The agency reports that it is also examining changes in soil moisture, which is not covered by the latest climate projections, but which nevertheless has significant implications for its assets, including foundations and embankments.

Longer, drier summers, as well as increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as fl ooding and storms, will impact on the rail system to some extent, reports Network Rail.

Trinity House says that climate change has so far had no material impact, but the lighthouse authority concedes that sea-level rise, cliff and beach erosion and changing weather patterns are the factors most likely to affect its statutory functions in future.

One of the key threats to Natural England from climate change is the shift in species distribution or loss of habitat, while changes to rainfall patterns and sea level rise are two of the biggest risks faced by the Environment Agency.

It expects inland flood risk to increase, and droughts to become more common.

These changes will also influence water quality.

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