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Preparing UK’s Homes for Extreme Weather ‘Chronically Under-Funded’, New Report Finds

Adaptation to the effects of climate change remains ‘overlooked’, according to a new report by the Government’s independent advisory body on tackling the issue

Then Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021. Photo: Steve Reigate/Pool via Reuters

Preparing UK’s Homes for Extreme Weather ‘Chronically Under-Funded’New Report Finds

Adaptation to the effects of climate change remains ‘overlooked’, according to a new report by the Government’s independent advisory body on tackling the issue

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A new report has warned of the Government’s lack of planning and investment in future-proofing the UK’s infrastructure and housing against the potentially dangerous effects of climate change.  

A combination of more regular heavy rainfall and outdated drainage systems has seen an increase in towns and cities across the UK struggling to cope with floods and the resulting power cuts, stranded vehicles and disrupted public transport networks. 

Following record-breaking temperatures, and more than 3,000 heat-related deaths last summer, the Met Office is predicting that 2023 will be even hotter than 2022.

The report by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – the UK’s independent advisory body on tackling climate change – says that the Government has been “slow to react”.

The chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, Baroness Brown said: “Our last major assessment of the UK’s climate risk found that climate impacts have increased in the UK but that actions to prepare us are not keeping pace. It is no secret that the UK is now experiencing a range of damaging consequences of climate change, but adaptation in the UK remains chronically under-funded and overlooked. This must change.”  

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said it is “taking clear and decisive action on climate adaptation including record investment in flood defences along with changing building regulations to make sure new homes are resilient to a changing climate”.

“Our Environmental Improvement Plan published this week sets out a range of measures including plans to create and restore at least 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitats as well as deliver a clean and plentiful water supply into the future by tackling leaks and boosting household water efficiency,” they added.

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However, the “record investment” in flood defences only amounts to £5.2 billion over a six-year period, and the changes to building regulations do not come into effect until 2025 and only require new-builds to produce 30% less CO2 than current standards. 

The CCC estimates that investment of £10 billion a year may be required to prepare for the expected impacts of climate change, investment in public water supply and nature restoration, and warns that that figure could rise further with more dangerous levels of global warming.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, has said £1.2 billion extra each year is the sum needed to restore nature. 

But in the Government’s autumn statement last year, DEFRA – which has the main responsibility for climate change resilience – saw its total budget cut from £4.6 billion in 2022-23, to £4.3 billion in 2023-24, and just £4.1 billion in 2024-25. 

Bob Ward – deputy chair of the London Climate Change Partnership and policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics – told Byline Times that while the report “sets out the significant economic benefits of making the UK more resilient to the growing impacts of climate change” it also makes it clear that the Government is “falling short because of a failure to invest in climate resilience, resulting in preventable damage to lives and livelihoods across the nation”. 

He is urging a radical change in approach and calling on DEFRA to provide strategic leadership. 

The UK’s third National Adoption Policy (NAP) – due to be published by DEFRA later this year – is a five-year framework of actions and targets designed to ensure that the UK adapts to climate change.

“The new NAP needs to set out a strategic approach, led by the Government and including a clear commitment for additional investments to make our homes, businesses and infrastructure more resilient,” Ward said. “It should place a particular focus on cities, which are concentrations of risks to people and infrastructure, and where the dangers of heatwaves and surface water flooding are exacerbated by the urban environment.”

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Recent research by Friends of the Earth concluded that more than 3,000 neighbourhoods in England are in need of help to adapt to hotter weather. 

Its head of policy, Mike Childs, agreed that a lack of leadership is preventing essential investment to prepare the UK for climate change. “The Government must do far more to prepare for the growing impacts of the fossil-fuel driven climate crisis,” he said. “This must include better insulation in our homes to ensure they are warm in winter and cool in the summer and more tree planting to cool our towns and cities.” 

“Accelerating the transition to a cleaner, greener Britain will create long-term jobs, bring down our energy bills and cut the harmful emissions fuelling climate change,” he added.

The CCC’s report is clear that major investment is required to restore nature, tackle the climate emergency, and prepare the UK for the effects of climate change, and that – while vitally important – current levels of public sector funding are not enough. Contributions to climate resilience investment must also come from the private sector. 

The CCC believes that “expanding and combining the range of investment sources” that are “able and willing to invest into climate resilience” needs to be a key Government priority, requiring “a range of incentives that allow businesses to raise capital to invest in resilience, well-designed regulation to enable investment in all regulated sectors and improved incentives and understanding to enable households to invest in their own climate resilience”.

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