Britain has decarbonised faster than prosperous economies like the United States, Australia, Japan, France and Germany.
It has shut down its coal power plants, which has allowed it to slash its carbon emission faster than any wealthy country since 1990, which is down to 44%, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), during a period while its economy by over 75%. The government will follow this strategy to meet the goal of zero emissions by 2050.
The government published, in October 2021, its Net Zero Strategy. The 360+ page document laid out the country’s long-term plan to end its domestic contribution to climate change, including removing carbon from its power, retiring the ICE cars, phasing out gas boilers from homes, and achieving a net zero GHG economy by 2050.
Climate change in the UK and the need for climate adaptation
The United Kingdom is already seeing the effects of climate change. In the most recent decades, between 2012 and 2021, the country’s average temperatures have risen by 1.0°C warmer than the 1961 to 1990 average. All 10 of the warmest years in the UK have occurred since 2003. The year 2022 was the UK’s hottest year on record, with an average year-round temperature above 10°C seen for the first time.
Climate models project that if GHG emissions continue to increase, in 2070, the UK will have warmer (up to 3.8°C) and wetter (up to 39%) winters compared to its 1990 climate. UK summers will also become hotter, with temperatures rising between 1.3 and 5.1°C depending on the region. Hotter summers can cause more heat waves and increase the health risks to vulnerable people.
In July 2022, the country’s temperatures surpassed 40°C, setting a new record. The chance of the UK seeing 40°C days could be ten times more likely in the current climate than in the past. Hot summers also increase wildfire risk, as seen in the summer of 2022. According to the BBC, last year’s intense heatwave, the worst the country has ever seen, brought 25,000 wildfires as hospitals struggled to cope with 3,000 more deaths in the over-65 than usual. Alongside flooding, overheating is one of climate change’s most significant risks to the UK’s population.
The scale of the climate impacts that the UK is witnessing, intense heatwaves, record wildfires and floods, make it clear that the government should treat climate adaptation and resilience as its national priority.
On 17 July 2023, the government released its third and latest climate change adaptation plan. “From helping homes, schools, and hospitals prevent overheating to safeguarding our food and energy supply chains from disruption, the publication of the third National Adaptation Programme marks a step-change in the UK government’s approach to climate adaptation, setting out in one place the ambitious programme the government is undertaking to address the key climate risks facing the country.”
UK’s government is already investing billions in adaptation, including £5.2 billion in flood and coastal schemes in England, over £750 million for the Nature for Climate Fund, which supports nature-based solutions for climate resilience, and £80 million for the Green Recovery Challenge Fund which creates jobs in nature recovery and conservation – all of which play a crucial role in enhancing the country’s resilience to climate change. £5.2 billion is also being invested in new flood and coastal defences – and the number of government-funded projects, including nature-based solutions, will be doubled by 2027.
NAP3 provides a comprehensive and forward-looking plan for the UK in adapting to the risks and opportunities of climate change.
Secretary of State for Environment Therese Coffey describes the plan as a “step change in our approach to managing the risks of climate change, moving us from planning to action. It represents the beginning of a 5-year programme of work across government to build our resilience to climate change.”
Read the full document by clicking this link: The Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) and the Fourth Strategy for Climate Adaptation Reporting.
Government sets out adaptation programme to tackle climate impact. (2023 July 17). Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-adaptation-programme-to-tackle-climate-impact
How Britain decarbonised faster than any other rich country. (2021, February 15). The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/britain/2021/02/15/how-britain-decarbonised-faster-than-any-other-rich-country
Record excess deaths in UK’s heatwave summer. (2022, October 7). BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-63171417