Key sectors nearing their limits of coping with climate change – 14 July 2011

The UK is coping now, but it is near its limits in some key sectors and could be pushed over the edge by climate change. But by preparing now, the UK can reduce the adverse effects of climate change and take advantage of opportunities, according to a new report published today by the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC).

In the water sector for example, while only 8% of resource zones in England are currently at risk of a supply shortfall in a severe drought, this could increase to around 45% by 2035 without additional investment. And, the UK’s vulnerability to climate change is potentially increasing as a result of patterns of building development in some areas and demographic trends.

For example, in almost all of the nine local authorities studied*, development in the floodplain had increased, and four of them the rate of development was higher than across the locality as a whole. The ASC sets out a series of actions, which if implemented more widely could reduce the costs of climate change and save people money, including measures to improve water efficiency, flood protection and summer cooling in buildings.

Lord John Krebs, Chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee said:

“The results in this report demonstrate how a sharper focus on the UK’s current vulnerability to climate can improve the way we prepare for climate change. By taking steps to manage this vulnerability, local communities, businesses and households can save money today and reduce the costs of climate change in the future”.  

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“The increasing frequency of extreme weather events like the severe winter we had and the second dry spring are stark reminders that we must adapt and build resilience to face the challenge of climate change, as the ASC’s second assessment makes clear. But our response cannot be business as usual. That’s why the government is developing the National Adaptation Programme to help businesses and communities minimise the risks.” 

The recommendations set out to Government today were published in the ASC’s second progress report, ‘Adapting to climate change in the UK: measuring progress.