The climate emergency presents chronic and acute risks to the UK, according to the 2023 iteration of the National Risk Register (NRR) which was published today by the government. IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

Environmental risks such as global heating and environmental disasters which could harm people, and potential human impacts on the environment, featured heavily throughout the report.

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of IEMA, said: “The visibility of climate and biodiversity risks in this document shows that government is giving due attention to the most significant existential risk we face.

“It is critical that government works with all sectors to upskill the workforce with the right skills and training which are needed to improve our capacity to adapt and mitigate the climate and biodiversity crises.”

The NRR is described as the ‘external version’ of the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) which government describes as a summary of ‘the most serious risks facing the UK’. The NSRA contains classified information which was redacted from the public-facing NRR.

Oliver Dowden MP, cabinet secretary and deputy prime minister, said: “In the 3 years since we published our last National Risk Register in 2020, we have seen the barbaric invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the wide-ranging and long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing impact of climate change on our day-to-day lives.”

The key focus areas of the NRR are terrorism, conflict, and accidents, as well as natural disasters (including human-caused climate-related disasters), and risks to human, animal, and plant health.

The report said: “For the first time since the NRR was first published in 2008, this edition of the NRR aligns with the structure and content of the classified internal NSRA, and is based on the same methodology.

“The government has declassified more risk information than ever before, adopting a transparent by default approach to the NRR, so that risk practitioners can see more clearly how the government identifies and assesses risks. Only in a small number of cases has highly sensitive information not been included, for national security or commercial reasons.”

The NSRA assesses the impact of risks across seven dimensions, one of which is environmental risk.

In the NRR, a section is dedicated to ‘chronic’ risks, of which climate is listed as number one. It said “The impact of climate change on the intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extreme events is already being observed globally, and these impacts will worsen in the future. Climate change adaptation is a priority for government.”

A pandemic is most likely (5-25 percent) and most catastrophic risk (‘catastrophic’) according to the report, meanwhile, conventional attacks on infrastructure, severe space weather, low temperatures and snow, and outbreak of an emerging infectious disease are all rated as having a 5-25 percent likelihood and would have a ‘significant’ impact on the UK.

High temperatures and heatwaves, failure of gas supply infrastructure, and flooding are all seen as having a 1-5 percent likelihood of happening and they would have ‘significant’ impacts.

The report mentioned the ‘WeatherReady’ campaign which aims to help “helps individuals, families and communities prepare for and cope with” extreme weather, as well as the Emergency Alerts system which has the ability to issue alerts about environmental events which post immediate risks to life, such as flooding.


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