Evening Standard Comment: Action is needed now to tackle climate threat

·2-min read
Cars drive through standing water in Stoke Newington, east London (Ian Hinchcliffe/PA) (PA Wire)
Cars drive through standing water in Stoke Newington, east London (Ian Hinchcliffe/PA) (PA Wire)

Warmer, wetter, sunnier. Britain’s climate is changing. The trend is unmistakable, as evidenced in a sobering report — the State of UK Climate 2020.

Last year was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record in the UK. No other year has fallen in the Top 20 for all three variables. Globally, the six hottest years on record were also the six most recent.

Climate change is with us, and it is a danger to our prosperity, health and way of life. We need to prepare for a warmer, wetter and sunnier climate in this country.

That requires preparations for flooding, droughts and forest fires on an island which for centuries has enjoyed relatively mild weather.

The latest idea to protect London from catastrophic flooding is a giant wall built along a stretch of the Thames, paced on top of existing walls to guard against floods caused by rising sea levels. Many other walls, embankments and smaller barriers will need raising and refurbishment by 2050.

Adaptation is a vital challenge for the Government, yet a report published last month by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) noted that the UK is not keeping up with increasing risk and is “less prepared for the changing climate now” than it was five years ago.

Adaptation must be embedded throughout government — from our industrial strategy to planning, energy, housing and health policy. It will also require what the CCC calls a “whole-of-society endeavour”.

That means public engagement, co-ordination with banks on lending practices and businesses on developing skills and investing in climate-resilient choices.

Adaptation will help limit some of the impacts of climate change already factored in, reduce the costs of a warmer planet to our economy and improve our health and well-being.

The Government must urgently act to boost our resilience.

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