Recent weather events, like last summer’s record-breaking heatwave, show that we are feeling the effects of climate change right now.
If carbon emissions continue to rise unabated, the world is on a path to warm by at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. Even
with global pledges to mitigate emissions in place, a warming world is inevitable.
Recently, parliamentary joint committee on the National Security Strategy chair Dame Beckett called for greater urgency in climate-proofing critical national infrastructure.
This comes as the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs prepares to publish the government’s third National Adaptation Programme.
This will set out the actions the government and others will take to adapt to the challenges of climate change over a five year period.
It is no coincidence then that the ICE will shortly launch a new policy position statement outlining what steps policymakers must take to make the UK’s infrastructure more climate resilient.
Too little is known about the condition of assets and the performance of the infrastructure system when it comes to climate resilience and adaptation.
One way to ensure infrastructure can cope is to make optimal use of data and information, using them to better understand the performance of systems and assets.
Infrastructure owners and operators need to get to grips with how other networks and systems are connected and dependent on each other – increasingly a failure in one sector will impact another, as was seen during Storm Arwen in 2021.
Policymakers can no longer keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to making our infrastructure system more resilient
Making the Adaptation Reporting Power (ARP) of the UK Climate Change Act mandatory for infrastructure owners and operators would go some way to ensuring the right information is gathered.
On top of this, mandating quantitative assessment within the ARP, including financial quantification of expected damages and losses in a “do nothing” scenario, would focus resilience efforts on the most material risks.
This would ensure a systems-thinking approach to infrastructure is embedded in policy development and infrastructure planning.
The economic benefits of climate change adaptation are likely to be considerably higher than its costs. It is therefore clear that decisions based on best value rather than lowest cost are needed when considering infrastructure resilience and adaptation.
To prioritise our approach, the government should undertake a nationwide review of the economics of adaptation.
One of the challenges with making infrastructure climate resilience and adaptation a priority is that it does not have a market value – it is not measured or rewarded.
An economic review of resilience and adaptation, which can feed into developing the resilience standards the government has already committed to in its National Resilience Framework, would provide a roadmap for what we need to address in the short and long term.
Policymakers can no longer keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to making our infrastructure system more resilient to the extremes we face now and in the future.
We must ensure that we have the frameworks in place to protect our infrastructure and create new infrastructure that will reduce our impact on the environment and help us to cope with the changes in climate that we know are coming.
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