UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 Published

Water efficiency - H2O Building Services


The UK’s third climate change risk assessment has just been published, laying bare the irreversible damage that is being done to both the planet and our way of life as a result of rising temperatures – and noting that the extent of climate change will depend on how successful we are in controlling global emissions over the coming decades.


Since pre-industrial times, the average surface temperature here in the UK has climbed by 1.2 degrees C and further warming has been predicted under all the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s decarbonisation pathways.


The aim is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C – but evidence is mounting that now shows we have to prepare for warming up to four degrees C.


This newly published five-year assessment of the climate change risks in the UK presents strong evidence that even in low warming scenarios, the country will be subjected to a range of impacts, unless significant action is taken… and urgently. These impacts include deterioration in soil health, a drop in agricultural productivity, issues with water availability and ensuing problems for our alternative energy supply, and so on.


Using flooding as an example, unless further action is taken now, it has been predicted that a two degree C rise by 2100 scenario would see annual damages from flooding for non-residential properties rise by 27 per cent by 2050 and 40 per cent by 2080.


Because of the economic toll that this is expected to take, the report argues that more must be done to put climate change at the heart of any decisions that have long-term effects, such as those involving infrastructure or new housing, to avoid costly remedial work in the future.


Adaptation & mitigation


While undertaking work to mitigate the risks of climate change is, of course, essential, it is now just as important to make adaptations to prepare for the inevitable pressures of a warming world – and mitigation and adaptation need to work together symbiotically.


Adaptation needs to be integrated into mitigation efforts and successful mitigation work will ensure that adaptation remains achievable. This includes ensuring that low-carbon infrastructure, nature-based solutions and our electrified power system are resilient to climate impacts in the future.


Even if the Paris Agreement goals are realised and net zero is achieved, the economic costs of climate change in this country over the coming 20 years can only be reduced with adaptation, the risk assessment emphasises.


It goes on to say that there is a strong case for taking action right now rather than later. If, for example, action isn’t taken the country is committed and locked in to large future impacts of climate change, particularly in areas where decisions or investments that are hard to reverse are involved, such as with infrastructure and housing developments.


Low-cost preparatory action can be taken now to improve future decisions, such as developing adaptive management plans for decisions with long lead times.


Priority risk areas


There have been numerous priority risk areas that have been identified that need to see the most urgent action around the UK over the next two years.


For example, The risks to the viability and diversity of terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species from multiple hazards, for example, are high. Key policy areas here include biodiversity soil and water protection and restoration, environmental land management, sustainable farming and forestry, green finance and net zero.


Risks to soil health from increased flooding and drought currently have a medium magnitude of risk but this is expected to be high come the year 2050.


How to mitigate flood risk & protect water resources


A warming world means that we’ll start seeing more intense rainfall and other such extreme weather events, which can only mean one thing… more extreme flooding around the country.


This is going to become increasingly problematic as time goes on and urbanisation increases – which means that effective adaptation strategies are now required that combine nature-based solutions, flood protection infrastructure and risk financing schemes to help buffer the impact that flooding has on the economy.


Nature-based solutions are many and varied. For example, beavers are being reintroduced in some parts of the UK to help mitigate the risks, with the animals found in places like the Holnicote estate in Somerset, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and along the River Otter in Devon.


Beavers are able to thin out trees, which brings in more light and encourages more local biodiversity in plants and wildlife, and their dams can also slow water flow, reducing the risk of flooding downstream.


Wetlands are another nature-based solution that can develop natural flood management and boost diversity, as well as reducing chemical and surface water runoff from farmland.


Wetlands serve as giant sponges, soaking up water when it’s wet and releasing it slowly when it’s dry – and with more extreme weather events heading our way in the relatively near future, this kind of flood storage solution is only going to become more important as time goes on.


What can businesses do?


There’s a lot that businesses can do to reduce their own risks of flooding – and a good place to begin is to create a flood plan, particularly if you’re in a flood risk area. This will ensure that you’re prepared to take action and can deploy resistance measures efficiently if required, protecting the property and its contents from the impacts of flooding.


Property flood resilience measures can also be implemented, such as reducing the amount of stock stored on the premises, installing racking for equipment and stock to keep it off the ground and placing IT equipment in a suitable location, either upstairs or on raised desks or shelves so floodwater can’t reach it.


If you’d like to find out more about how you can become more water efficient as a business, get in touch with the H2o Building Services team today.