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‘Lost decade’: Experts say the UK government failed to prepare for the realities of climate change

Flooding in York, UK.
Flooding in York, UK. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Joshua Askew
Published on
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More than 3,000 early deaths and 25,000 wildfires due to extreme temperatures were recorded in Britain last year.

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Britain is “strikingly unprepared” for the climate crisis, according to the UK government’s official environmental advisor.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) pointed to a “lost decade” of Conservative Party leadership, which has failed to get the country ready for the unavoidable impacts of global warming.

Climate change is already taking a heavy toll on the UK. In 2022, more than 25,000 wildfires broke out amid extreme - and unprecedented - temperatures of 40C.

But the UK’s National Adaptation Programme, which should respond to the scale of this challenge, “falls well short,” according to the CCC. Only four or five fully credible solutions were found in the 45 different climate adaptation outcomes identified by the government.

The government said it would take the findings on board.

The CCC, an independent group of experts, has repeatedly warned of poor preparation in the past and urged the government to do more to protect people and their livelihoods.

It was set up in 2008 to provide officials with advice.

How vulnerable is the UK to climate change?

The CCC said last year’s heatwave was both an example and a warning of things to come.

More than 3,000 early deaths were recorded during its peak. Airport runways melted, rails buckled and farmers struggled against drought.

"The government's lack of urgency on climate resilience is in sharp contrast to the recent experience of this country," said Baroness Brown, Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee.

She claimed they were not taking the issue seriously enough.

The CCC says that action is needed on heat-proofing homes, strengthening water supply pipes, and preparing for flash floods and food shortages.

The UK imports nearly half of what it eats, meaning the country’s food supply is incredibly vulnerable to global weather patterns.

Earlier this year bad weather in North Africa forced supermarkets to place limits on fruit and vegetable sales, though some also pointed the finger at post-Brexit regulations.

‘Escalating hazards’ from climate change

A UK government spokesperson told the BBC: "We have taken decisive action to improve the UK's climate change resilience - including investing a record £5.2bn (€5.9 billion) into flood defences."

A recent IPCC report showed that climate damages are hitting harder and faster than anticipated.

Meanwhile, global temperatures will not stop rising until carbon emissions reach net zero, a target set for 2050 by many countries.

“We’ve got at least 30 more years of escalating hazards,” said Julia King, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, referring to the report. “Every month that passes locks in more damaging impacts.”

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Action is needed, and we need it now.”

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