Regulators must play greater role in climate adaptation, CCC and NIC say

27th April 2023

Improving the resilience of infrastructure to the effects of climate change will require a greater role from regulators, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) have said.

In a letter to government, they highlight how Ofwat has been central to resilience planning in the water sector, and argue that similar duties need to be given to Ofgem, Ofcom and the Office of Rail and Road.

This is among five recommendations made to accelerate national adaptation planning for key networks, with the letter stating that this is an “opportune time” to ensure each regulator has a duty to support the delivery of net zero.

It also highlights cascading risks between infrastructure systems, and the need for cabinet-level oversight of interdependencies, common resilience standards, and data sharing between infrastructure providers.

Power outages during Storm Arwen, which then disrupted water supplies, and the flooding of a gas pipe in Sheffield following a broken water main, are just a few examples of these cascading risks and interdependencies.

“Record-breaking storms and temperatures in 2022 brought widespread disruption to energy and transport networks, with substantial impacts for people living and working across the UK,” the letter states.

“As the climate continues to change, these impacts are likely to intensify. We urge you to develop more effective plans to improve the resilience of infrastructure, which is so critical to the UK’s economic prosperity.”

The five recommendations outlined in the letter include:

• Setting clear and measurable goals for resilience, and action plans to deliver them

• Ensuring these standards are developed in time to inform forthcoming regulatory price control periods (which set investment levels for operators)

• Giving explicit duties for resilience to all infrastructure regulators

• Cabinet-level oversight of interdependencies and whole-system resilience

• Embedding resilience in infrastructure planning as we move to an economy more reliant on electricity.

These recommendations build on the CCC’s biennial Adaptation Progress Report, and the NIC’s annual Infrastructure Progress Review, which were both presented to parliament in recent weeks.

The letter also calls on ministers to clarify important delivery milestones for the National Resilience Framework, and to show "real vision" in the Third National Adaptation Programme.

It adds: "We must not delay improving the resilience of UK infrastructure to protect the country from the well-understood risks of the UK’s changing climate."

Image credit: Shutterstock

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