Climate change is a global phenomenon and is happening now. The world is already a degree warmer due to the discharge of greenhouse gases from human activities leading to melting of glaciers, warming of oceans water, frequent floods and other potentially irreversible changes to the planet. 2016 was the warmest year making it third record warmest year in a row and to break this trend Paris agreement was signed in 2016 with the aim to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. Although, Paris agreement is a big step forward the UK is already facing the brunt of climate change. In the last decade, the average temperature has increased drastically causing milder winters, hotter summers and more torrential rains; which has resulted in several floods throughout the UK. The government has recognised the threat of climate change and has taken several steps to tackle the challenges of climate change. The significant action being Climate Change Act, 2008 which made the UK the first country to set longstanding legally binding targets to curb carbon emissions. The Act primary focus is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% before 2050. To ensure the success of the Act an independent body called Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was established to keep track of the progress and ensure emissions targets are evidence-based. Additionally, the Act even requires constant access to the risks of climate change in the UK and the steps to ensure the threats are dealt with correctly.
Committee on Climate Change (CCC)
CCC is an independent body established to provide independent advice to Government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change. The committee mainly collates with two departments in the UK government; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Environment and Royal Affairs (DEFRA). BEIS is responsible for mitigation strategy while Defra is accountable for adaption policies. CCC primary responsibilities include setting and meeting carbon budgets, monitor progress, conduct analysis and provide evidence. CCC also has a sub-branch called Adaption Sub-Committee (ASC) which is liable for strategies developed to achieve the adaptation goal. The committee is funded by BEIS, Defra, The Northern Ireland Executive, The Scottish Government and The Welsh Government.
CCC has achieved several milestones to achieve the goal set by Climate Change Act, 2008. Some crucial milestones achieved are exploring the compatibility of exploiting UK onshore petroleum, Carbon Budget advice and UK climate change risk Assessment (CCRA). Furthermore, the fact that adaptability is added to the act makes it different from all the Acts. To tackle the challenges of climate change ASC has set up National Adaption Programme (NAP) as a response to the UK CCRA which evaluated the possible effects of climate change.
UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA)
The UK CCRA is a five-yearly assessment of the significant risk and opportunities from climate change to the UK. The most recent being published by ASC in 2016 which highlighted six critical areas that the UK has risks from at present and future. The CCRA also analyses and provide evidence about current and future climate change for the UK. ASC must access each risk and opportunities in three steps to form the CCRA. The measures include understanding present-day and future vulnerabilities, current and future climate-related risks and opportunities, prioritising risks and opportunities depending on the urgency and finally, additional action needed to tackle the risks. Each risk and opportunity is assigned one of four ‘urgency category’ ranging from more urgent to less urgent as shown in Fig.1.
Figure 1: Urgent Categories used in the UK CCRA
The six key areas highlighted in the CCRA 2017 are as follows:
Natural environment and assets:
The UK's natural system has already witnessed the impact of climate change. The CCRA reports suggest that climate change has a substantial risk to the environment including natural flood alleviation, clean water, food and timber. If climate change is left unchecked the high-grade land in the UK could drop from 38% to 9%, the demand for water will exceed the available supply, and the UK coastline will become vulnerable to sea level rise by the 2050s. Even though several risks are arising from climate change, it has potential opportunities for extended growing seasons and improved productivity, however, if limiting factors are well managed. This field is further divided into 14 sub-categories which are classified based on urgency.
Infrastructure services are a crucial part of today’s society day to day functioning, but UK’s infrastructure functioning is already being impacted by climate change events of severe weather. The most significant risk to UK infrastructure is increased frequency and severity of flooding which already pose a considerable challenge during times of rainfall, but the areas exposed to flood risk could double by 2080s. The report provides evidence that significant adaption phases are already implemented, throughout most associated sectors. Based on urgency this industry has been divided into 14 subcategories to have a more conclusive result, but interdependencies between infrastructure sectors can amplify this.
People and the built environment:
Risks related to climate change have seen a drastic growth on people and the environment due to increased temperature, rising sea levels and increased rainfall. The report indicates that around 1.8 million people in the UK are living areas prone to flooding and these figures will be 2.6 million by the 2050s. The analysis additionally showed that approximately 200 km of England flood defences would be vulnerable to failure due to sea level rise. Furthermore, health services will be stricken due to increase in occurrence and intensity of extreme weather conditions. In last few years deaths related to cold and hot weather events have increased and will increase further due to growing ageing problem in the country. Rising average can even witness the expansion of certain disease due to the growth of insect vectors. Based on urgency this sector has been divided into 14 subcategories.
Business and industry:
Currently, 60% of UK’s population is employed by SMEs which face a massive challenge against climate change as they lack the funding to be prepared for climate change. The impact of climate change will vary depending on the exposure. The most affected sectors will be tourism, and water-intense industry as flooding will lead to loss of several coastal locations. Climate change will even impact businesses with international supply chains and networks.
International dimensions are one of the most crucial sectors in the CCRA as it considers the impact UK will have on climate change globally. Since the UK is dependent on other countries for export and import, it can increase pressure scarce natural resources. Furthermore, the price of food and other commodities and risks to overseas investments can be some of the setbacks of climate change events. Currently, seven sub-categories are depending on urgency.
Cross-cutting issues are an active part of adaption strategy, if not considered actions taken can be ineffective. The main factors related to climate change risk in the UK include interactions between climate change-related risks, Non-climate social and economic factors that compound risks, cross-cutting adaption and gaps between knowledge, data and information.
National Adaption Programme (NAP)
NAP was set up to tackle all the risks and opportunities stated in CCRA depending on the urgency and is also produced every five years with the last report published in 2013. The ASC reports to the parliament about the progress of implementation of the NAP. The critical areas of NAP include raising awareness, long-time measures, and addressing evidence gaps. ASC along with businesses, local government and other organisations develops the objectives, policies and proposals for the NAP.
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