The Environment Agency (EA) issued a stark alert to the UK Government ahead of COP26, asserting the need to bolster climate adaptation plans or risk deadly floods and a major economic crisis. The call to action was detailed in the organisation’s latest annual report on adaptation, submitted to the Government as part of the Climate Change Act.

The report, entitled ‘Living Better with a Changing Climate’, warns that the UK is perilously under-prepared for the physical impacts of climate change regardless of future emissions reductions needed for net-zero by 2050. It is predicted that there will be an increase in winter rainfall of 6%, and decrease in summer rainfall by 15%, by the 2050s. This would have overwhelming impacts for farmers and would intensify water scarcity challenges that are already causing issues in cities including London due to population increases and aging.

The report also details concerning predictions with regard to flooding, stating that London’s sea level is expected to rise by 23cm by the 2050s and river flows will be more extreme; as much as 27% higher in the 2050s than today. The report states that the flooding experienced by European nations this summer “will happen in this country sooner or later, however high we build our flood defences, unless we also make the places where we live, work and travel resilient to the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing” and will lead to deaths.

The UK Government has been urging other nations to update their climate adaptation plans ahead of COP26 but, as is the case with pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement, numerous countries are yet to produce them. Domestic plans for adaptation have also been widely criticised. The Government has launched a £5m research programme assessing the impacts that warming temperatures and changing weather patterns will have on infrastructure in the UK.

It is clear that much is to be done if the flood defence infrastructure is capable of protecting the UK inhabitants and this is needed alongside all measures that are needed if we are to achieve Net-Zero by 2050. Extreme weather impacts are here to stay so adaptation is required alongside decarbonisation to protect the population from the damage already done by climate change.

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