Science & Environment

Climate change plans require urgent action, government warned

More UK homes will be at flood risk in the future Image copyright SPL
Image caption More UK homes will be at flood risk in the future

The UK must take urgent action to prepare for the impact of climate change, the government has been warned.

Ministers should focus on the future risks of heatwaves and flooding, says the Committee on Climate Change.

Its report said more needed to be done to keep emissions on track, although the government said it was committed to meeting its climate change target.

It also warned a decision to stop onshore wind farm subsidies early could potentially add £1bn a year to bills.

The report by the Committee on Climate Change looked at progress towards meeting carbon emission targets and how the UK is preparing for climate change risks.

Chairmen Lord Deben and Lord Krebs said measures were needed to address increased flood risk to homes and to protect farmland from declines in productivity.

Lord Krebs said: "By the 2050s the sort of heatwaves we might experience in the next few days will be the norm, a typical summer."

The committee also called for action to make homes and buildings safer during heatwaves.

"Just as we've been encouraging on the mitigation side retrofit of loft insulation and so on, we need to think how to develop passive cooling measures maybe tinted glass, shading, again as is common in other countries," Lord Krebs said.

Lord Deben added that decisions on carbon-cutting policies needed to be made "urgently" to give companies time to invest.

The committee is also advising the government to:

• Extend funding for low-carbon electricity generation to 2025

• Continue support for efficient, low-emission vehicles

• Develop new infrastructure that is resilient to the impacts of climate change

• Act to counter the decline in productive farmland.

The committee said the government has a duty to explain to the public how it intends to replace the energy from wind turbines in the countryside.

'Coherent policies'

Onshore wind is the cheapest option but the government announced it would end subsidies from April 2016, a year early, after protests from countryside residents.

The committee's calculation of the additional £1bn a year on bills would be the result of ministers deciding to replace the lost output from onshore wind by increasing the supply of electricity for offshore wind.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said the government was committed to meetings its climate change target of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Onshore wind farm subsidies will end in April 2016

Analysis - Roger Harrabin, Environment Analyst

The government's decision to stop future subsidies for onshore wind will cost the public around an extra £1bn a year if the lost energy is replaced by offshore wind, according to the committee.

The government recently responded to complaints about wind farms in the countryside by announcing an early end to the onshore wind subsidy programme.

The committee said the government now has a duty under the Climate Change Act to explain to the public how it intends to replace the energy from wind turbines on land - and to tell people how much it will cost.

The committee says onshore wind is the cheapest option for bill-payers. The government says it is still committed to its climate targets but hasn't offered any explanation as to how it will fill the gap created by the end to new onshore wind.


"We have already made great strides to that goal, with emissions down 30% since 1990," said a spokesperson. "There's still much work to do and we will continue to power our move to a low-carbon economy at best value to consumers."

Commenting on the report, former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool said the government needed to bring forward decarbonisation policies quickly to retain its moral authority on climate change.

"Ministers need to come forward very soon with coherent policies on energy efficiency, low-carbon transport, renewable heat and renewable electricity, otherwise the UK will fall behind other nations and lose its moral authority on the international stage," he said.

And Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: "The government must follow its advice and agree an action plan for energy efficiency which results in homes that are cheaper to heat and that are shielded from the worst effects of climate change."

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