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UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022: potential vulnerabilities for the transport system

The five-year assessment is delivered under the Climate Change Act 2008 and notes that The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently drafting an internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy

Juliana O'Rourke
19 January 2022
CCRA3 says: `The government accepts that the decarbonisation of transport and the associated reliance on electricity needs to be considered. An internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy is currently being drafted` (Image courtesy Alexander Dennis / BYD)
CCRA3 says: `The government accepts that the decarbonisation of transport and the associated reliance on electricity needs to be considered. An internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy is currently being drafted` (Image courtesy Alexander Dennis / BYD)

 

The Government has published the UK’s Third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3), recognising the unprecedented challenge of ensuring the UK is resilient to climate change and setting out the work already underway to meet that challenge.

The five-year assessment, delivered under the Climate Change Act 2008 and following close work with the Climate Change Committee (CCC), identifies the risks that climate change poses to multiple parts of our society and economy.

The report says: "Climate change is happening now. It is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and has already begun to cause irreversible damage to our planet and way of life."

The Valuation Report for the CCRA3 estimates that, for eight of the key risks identified by the CCC, economic damages by 2050 under 2°C could exceed £1 billion p.a. For 36 of the risks, damages could be at least £10 million p.a. Other sources of evidence suggest that, by 2045, the cost of climate change to the UK could be at least 1% of GDP. 

The main areas of focus for CCRA3 appear to be energy, food, clean growth, water and housing, although the need for protection of transport assets is mentioned throughout. 

Transport risks

In Priority Risk Area 6 (Risks to people and the economy from climate-related failure of the power system), transport decarbonisation is mentioned: "The government accepts that the decarbonisation of transport and the associated reliance on electricity needs to be considered. An internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy is currently being drafted and more information can be found under risk area 5."

In Priority Risk Area 5 (Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate-related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks), the report says: "The government accepts that climate hazards will cause increasing threats to our supply chains through our infrastructure and transport routes. 

"Consideration will need to be given to the potential vulnerabilities for the transport system including rail, roads, ports and airports. The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently drafting an internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy. The strategy will explore potential action against all risks identified by the CCC, expectations, interdependencies, standards, and scenario planning across policy areas and with industry and operators."

The risk assessment also includes a review of costs and benefits of adaptation policies. A conclusion is that many early adaptation investments are highly effective and deliver high value for money with benefit-cost ratios typically range from 2:1 to 10:1 – i.e., every £1 invested in adaptation could result in £2 to £10 in net economic benefits.

The government accepts that the decarbonisation of transport and the associated reliance on electricity needs to be considered. An internal Climate Change Adaptation DfT strategy is currently being drafted and more information can be found under risk area 5 (Risks to supply of food, goods and vital services due to climate- related collapse of supply chains and distribution networks (Priority Risk Area 5).

The costs of climate change

The evidence cited by CCRA3 indicates that the costs of climate change to the UK are high and increasing. For eight of the sixty-one climate risks, UK-wide economic damages by 2050 under 2°C are estimated to exceed £1 billion per annum (up to 15-20 risks if we assume a higher warming scenario). 

The number of risks that fall into this ‘very high’ damage category has risen since a similar assessment in CCRA1 a decade ago, which found only three risks this large. For thirty-six of the risks, UK-wide damages will be at least £10 million per annum.

The ‘very high’ damage risk areas include risks to natural carbon stores and carbon sequestration due to the high costs of climate change; risks to infrastructure networks (water, energy, transport, ICT) from climate hazards which cause cascading failures across sectors, risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures particularly amongst the vulnerable; risks to productivity due to overheating in places of work; risks from flooding; risks to financial markets, and risks associated with climate change overseas.

The CCRA3 recognises the "unprecedented challenge" of ensuring the UK is resilient to climate change, and sets out the work already underway to meet that challenge. The CCRA also includes recognition of the further progress that the UK government will seek to deliver through National Adaptation Programme (NAP3), to be laid in Parliament in 2023.

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