Government’s Plan to Mitigate Climate Impacts in UK ‘Falls Short’

The government’s plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the UK “falls short once again”, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said.

The CCC is the statutory body in charge of monitoring the government’s progress on net zero and preparing for climate change. Its latest report provided a damning assessment of the government’s Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3), with the CCC stating that it contained “no credible vision” for a UK that was adapted to climate risks.

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The evidence of the damage from climate change has never been clearer, but the UK’s current approach to adaptation is not working.

“[The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)] needs to deliver an immediate strengthening of the Government’s programme, with an overhaul of its integration with other Government priorities such as Net Zero and nature restoration. We cannot wait another five years for only incremental improvement.”

The NAP3, published in July 2023, set out government actions for safeguarding people, businesses, and infrastructure against extreme weather, such as storms, floods, and heatwaves, caused by climate change. A new NAP is published every five years, as required under the 2008 Climate Change Act.

The CCC found that, although the NAP3 showed improvement compared to previous programmes, it was largely based on existing policies. This means that progress has been made on less than half of the short-term risk mitigation actions outlined in the previous NAP.

The report also outlined three critical issues that need to be addressed for the UK to have a viable climate mitigation strategy. These were:

  • A failure from Defra to make climate mitigation and adaptation a priority, and a lack of cross-governmental coordination on mitigation strategies
  • A lack of government funding, and failure to attract private funding for climate change mitigation, because of a lack of “clear targets” and the perceived “low urgency” of the crisis
  • No clear monitoring on climate risks and mitigation policy, making it difficult to measure progress and assess urgency
car driving on road with flooded fields on either side

In their response to the CCC’s latest report, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), highlighted the risk that changing weather patterns caused by climate change pose for the UK’s food supply.

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of International Programme at the ECIU said: “We import half our food, and half of the UK’s food supply chains are in climate impact hotspots. If we don’t support other nations to adapt, then harvests of staples like rice, bananas, and tea will fall, leading to shortages and higher prices.”

His colleague, land analyst Tom Lancaster added: “The inadequacy of the Government’s plans on climate change adaptation beggars belief, when all around us there are increasingly alarming consequences of our past failures to adapt. Relentless rain this winter is likely to lead to a terrible harvest come the summer. Floods last year hit yields, just as droughts did the year before.”

February 2024 was the warmest February on record, according to the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, making it the ninth consecutive warmest month.

The mild winter has been accompanied by above average rainfall in much of the continent, including the UK, where farmers have warned flooding has reduced their crop yields for this year.

But it’s not just local food production that’s being affected by climate change, so are imports.

The ECIU published a report in December 2023, that found that 16% of UK food imports came from countries with “low climate readiness”.

Food harvests in these countries are at high risk of being impacted by extreme weather, which could lead food prices to increase in the UK. Among the items most at risk are common staples, such as rice, tea, sugar, and bananas.

According to the ECIU, the price of food for the average UK household rose by £400 last year because of rising fuel prices and climate impacts.

Mitigating the impacts of climate change is a global issue, and the ECIU has stressed the importance of the UK and other wealthy nations helping poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change.

Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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