Environmental Audit Committee

25 March 2010


REPORT PUBLICATION: Adapting to Climate Change

Chair of the Committee available for interview / Contact: Nicholas Davies 07917488141

Adapting to climate change needs to become as much of a priority as cutting emissions, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee argue in a report out today. Climate projections show that Britain can expect wetter winters, drier summers and a higher likelihood of flash-floods, heat waves and droughts. The report concludes that Government must do more to raise awareness of the need to prepare for a changing climate.

Tim Yeo, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said:

"For a long time the climate change debate has focused on reducing carbon emissions, but adapting to the inevitable impacts of rising global temperatures is equally critical.

"Even if all the world's power stations were switched off tomorrow past emissions mean that some climate change will still take place and we will face more floods, droughts and heat waves.

"We must act now to protect people, property and prosperity and safeguard the natural environment. Delay will only impose greater costs on future generations.

"The Government must be imaginative and establish new and sustainable sources of funding and support for adaptation."

Adapting infrastructure and homes will be expensive. More intense rainfall will make flash flooding more likely and the risk of coastal erosion will increase as climate change causes sea levels to rise. To maintain current levels of flood protection for homes, real terms spending on flood defences will need to increase from its current level of around £6oo million per annum to around £1 billion in 2035. Estimates in 2009 suggest that by the end of the century around £7 billion may be needed to improve the Thames flood barrier and tidal defences.

New homes being built now must be designed to cope with the inevitable changes in climate we will see over the next 50 - 80 years. The Government must make adaptation and mitigation more central to the planning system. New developments should only be permitted if they are suited to future climates.

Existing homes will also need to be adapted so that they are comfortable during hotter summers and better protected against the risk of flooding. The Government must help to kick start an integrated retro-fitting programme that covers adaptation, water efficiency and energy efficiency. Green infrastructure - such as water storage, greater tree cover and more open green spaces - must also be promoted.

Over the next twenty years 200 homes are likely to be made unsafe to live in due to coastal erosion and by then an additional 2,000 could be at risk. The Government must be clear on how it will help those worst affected by climate change - such as those who lose their homes from coastal erosion - as this will encourage others to address the risks they face.

The Committee is urging the Government to ensure that the country takes a coherent approach to adaptation - with all Whitehall departments addressing climate change risks and local communities helped to address the risks they face.


The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, HC 113. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/eacom

The text of the Report is available on the Committee's website from 00.01am approximately on 25 March: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmenvaud.htm

Copies of the Report can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons Numbers HC 113.