UK government publishes third climate change risk assessment

18th January 2022

The UK government published its third climate change risk assessment yesterday, which highlights the multiple threats that higher temperatures pose to society and the economy.

The five-year assessment, delivered under the Climate Change Act 2008, is based on evidence and advice published by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) last year.

Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought, and risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees from multiple climate hazards, are among eight individual threats identified which require urgent attention.

These risks could see economic damages exceed £1bn per year each by 2050 with a temperature rise of 2°C, with the cost of climate change to the UK rising to at least 1% of GDP by 2045.

“Yesterday’s report from the CCC, serves as another stark reminder of the risks that climate change poses to all life on earth,” said Ben Goodwin, IEMA's Head of Policy.

“Whether it be the increased likelihood of severe weather events that cause catastrophic flooding and drought, through to question marks over food security and human health, the risks of climate change are well known.

“Whilst on the one hand it is critical that we step up to mitigating the impacts of climate change, it is, on the other, equally as important that we invest resources into adapting our behaviours to manage the risks.

“Climate adaptation is an area that many IEMA members are directly involved in and an area that the Institute has identified where there is a need for the development of much more practical guidance to help organisations operating in different sectors of the economy to take effective action.

“We will be developing and publishing such guidance throughout the course of 2022.”

The eight priority risks identified in the report which require urgent action include:

  • Risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards
  • Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought
  • Risks to natural carbon stores and sequestration from multiple hazards, leading to increased emissions
  • Risks to crops, livestock and commercial trees from multiple climate hazards
  • Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks
  • Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system
  • Risks to human health, well-being and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings
  • Multiple risks to the UK from climate change impacts overseas.

The government said that it will now conduct further internal work to develop new and existing policies to tackle the risks, and engage with external stakeholders to further develop objectives.

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

“By recognising the further progress that needs to be made, we’re committing to significantly increasing our efforts and setting a path towards the third National Adaptation Programme, which will set ambitious and robust policies to make sure we are resilient to climate change into the future.”

Image credit: iStock

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