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Britain faces climate change hardship due to adaptation failures, report warns

There is a “striking lack” of climate preparation efforts from the government as the UK braces itself for ever-more extreme temperatures, its advisers have said.

A new report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) assessed what is needed to build climate resilience across the economy and the extent of policies needed to meet them.

Despite some evidence of improved planning for key climate risks, a “fully credible” climate change plan is only found for five of the 45 adaptation outcomes examined in the report.

Furthermore, it found that none of the adaptation efforts were happening fast enough to manage the predicted risks appropriately.

The UK saw its first 40°C day last summer in a record-breaking heatwave that caused deaths, wildfire incidents and significant infrastructure disruption.

The impact of climate change is expected to intensify over the coming decades, leaving the UK vulnerable without better resilience planning and preparation.

Baroness Brown, chair of the Adaptation Committee, said: “The government’s lack of urgency on climate resilience is in sharp contrast to the recent experience of people in this country. People, nature and infrastructure face damaging impacts as climate change takes hold. These impacts will only intensify in the coming decades.

“This has been a lost decade in preparing for and adapting to the known risks that we face from climate change. Each month that passes without action locks in more damaging impacts and threatens the delivery of other key government objectives, including net zero.”

Last year, the government’s own Climate Change Risk Assessment identified 61 separate risks and opportunities for the UK from the changing climate spanning the natural environment, infrastructure, the economy and society.

But the CCC said the current National Adaptation Programme “lacks a clear vision” and does not account for the scale of the challenge facing the country.

“Wider policy priorities, including net zero and nature recovery, will fail if adaptation to climate change is not incorporated from the start,” the report said.

“The absence of robust monitoring and evaluation is also a barrier. Key datasets to evaluate resilience do not exist or have limitations that prevent effective tracking of climate resilience. A well-resourced climate change adaptation monitoring and evaluation programme is now an urgent priority.”

It called on the government to avoid a further five years of “lacklustre planning and preparation” for the changing climate.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas added: “In the past year we’ve seen flooding, drought, chronic food shortages and the hottest temperatures on record – the climate emergency has well and truly arrived.

“Not only are we ill-equipped for what’s happening now, but we’re also nowhere near ready for what could happen in the future. Adapting to the climate emergency is not a matter of choice, but necessity.

“Mitigating its very worst impacts – while delivering green and resilient homes, healthy and low-carbon food and a restored natural world – requires not just more planning, but also more political will to act with real urgency.”

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