UK report: ‘lost decade’ of climate change planning will hit vulnerable groups News
© WikiMedia (Dave Pickersgill)
UK report: ‘lost decade’ of climate change planning will hit vulnerable groups

The UK Climate Change Committee Wednesday reported that Britain is “not adequately prepared” for the damaging effects of climate change. In its 2023 report to Parliament, the group found limited evidence of the implementation of adaptation needed at a national scale to mitigate the risks of climate change. Committee chairwoman Julia King stated that “the last decade has been a lost decade in terms of preparing for and adapting to the risks, the risk we already have and those that we know are coming.”

The Climate Change Act of 2008 requires the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the government has updated plans for more renewable power and energy conservation to meet the legally binding target, the report criticized the current Conservative government’s flagship climate policies as lacking “sufficient detail” on how the nation will adapt to climate change. “The lack of urgency with which Government has approached this task over recent years stands in sharp contrast to the experience of the damaging impacts…over the same period,” the report argued.

In the UK, 2022 was the warmest year on record, and the country saw unprecedentedly damaging winter storms, causing flooding and widespread disruption to local electricity grids. The report concludes that these events illustrate clear changes in observed temperature extremes. Climate hazards are also likely to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme heatwaves and heat-related deaths, placing significant stress on the UK’s health and social care system. Summer 2022 was characterised by the highest rate of heat-related excess mortality that the country has ever seen, with 2,803 deaths in England. Deaths among vulnerable people are “brought forward” during such high heat-periods. The report was critical of the insufficient progress made towards achieving continued health and social care delivery during extreme weather events.

According to the report, Britains will feel the impact of climate change through food price spikes and temporary reduced availability of particularly products, and this price volatility will predominantly affect low-income households and other vulnerable groups. Around 50 percent of the food consumed in the UK is imported, placing it at risk to overseas issues affecting the integrity of the supply chain.

Currently, only one quarter of English councils consider the impact of extreme weather within their climate action plans, and those who have policies limit them to flooding response. As a result, many councils lacked plans to target resources to support communities vulnerable to climate change, such as mitigation actions like targeting energy and fuel poverty and supporting job skills improvements and retraining. Just 8 percent of councils had plans specifically identifying which groups will be affected most by climate change.