The UK government is failing to do enough to ensure the country adapts to the impact of global warming, its independent climate advisers have warned.

Action to improve the nation’s resilience against global warming is failing to keep pace with increasing climate risks facing the UK, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) concluded in a new assessment on Wednesday.

In its latest five-year assessment, the CCC said the government must deliver a much better action plan and integrate this into all relevant policies.

The CCC said the UK is not as well prepared as it was in 2016.

'Not heeding advice'

“The government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately. This needs to change,” the CCC said.

The CCC said that, while global warming is presenting opportunities in many aspects of life, these are far outweighed by a “catalogue of risks”.

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People, nature and infrastructure are already vulnerable and the risks will only increase in the coming years as the climate continues to change, the CCC said.

Average UK land temperature have risen by around 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, UK sea levels have risen by 16 centimetres since 1900 and episodes of extreme heat are becoming more frequent.

Since the CCC’s last assessment five years ago, more than 570,000 new homes have been built that are not resilient to future high temperatures and, since 2018, more then 4000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England.

Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC adaptation committee, said: “The severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated. These risks will not disappear as the world moves to net zero [emissions] — many of them are already locked in.

“By better understanding and preparing for the coming changes, the UK can prosper, protecting its people, its economy and its natural environment.

“A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”

Priority areas

The CCC identified eight priority risk areas where “immediate attention” in the next two years is needed. These are risks to:

  • the viability and diversity of land and freshwater habitats and species;
  • soil health from increased flooding and drought;
  • natural carbon stores and sequestration, leading to increased emissions;
  • crops, livestock and commercial trees;
  • the supply of food, goods and vital services;
  • people and the economy;
  • human health, wellbeing and productivity;
  • to the UK from climate change impacts overseas.

The report said: “There are strong benefits from taking effective adaptation action.

"The assessment identifies a range of steps that will have benefits in the next five years if implemented on a wide scale, such as building design and retrofit, habitat creation and improved access to information on climate impacts.

"Importantly, while the changing climate also creates some opportunities for the UK, these do not offset the risks and also require early action to realise.”

The is the CCC’s third Climate Change Risk Assessment. The body is required by the UK Climate Change Act to publish one every five years.

Need for hydrogen and CCS

Mike Tholen, sustainability director at trade body Oil & Gas UK, pointed out that the report highlighted the need for an increase in hydrogen use and increased use of carbon capture and storage if the UK is to reach its climate goals.

“We strongly agree with the committee’s recommendation that hydrogen and carbon capture must be ramped up and that we’ll need every tool in the box to reach net zero.

“The North Sea Transition Deal, between industry and government, sets out a clear plan that will develop these technologies, cut our emissions, and produce homegrown cleaner energy here in the UK. There are projects already under way across the UK which need support.”

Commenting on the report, David Clark, chief executive of Vysus Group, said: “The CCC has laid its cards on the table; less talk and more action is needed if the UK is to succeed in achieving the ambitious net-zero targets. It’s clear, the CCC will play a critical role in bringing key solutions to the fore.

“Following decades of oil discovery and exploration, the UK has developed world leading credentials and technological capabilities to deliver effective net-zero solutions.

"However, these innovations will only be successful with a fiscal model in place across many countries.

"True carbon pricing will ultimately be the key behaviour change driver and project enabler.”