EA report issues stark adapt or die warning to world leaders ahead of COP26

Energy & Climate Change, Flooding, Management & Regulation, Natural Environment, Processed Water, Water Resources

The Environnment Agency has warned world leaders that adaptation must be put at the top of efforts to tackle climate change, as part of its third adaptation report to Defra.

With only three weeks to go until COP26 the report argues that living with the costs of inaction is not option, as it predicts an increasing incidence of extreme weather leading to increased flooding and drought, sea level rises of up to 78cm by the 2080s, and public water supplies needing more than 3.4 billion extra litres of water per day by 2050.

EA chair Emma Howard Boyd emphasised that mitigation, while critical, is only part of the picture and it is in fact adaptation, preparing for climate shocks, "that will save millions of lives".

She went on to emphasise the importance of embedding adaptation measures at every level of policy-making, saying:

"The climate crisis is global, but its impacts are in your village, your shop, your home. Adaptation action needs to be integral to government, businesses and communities too and people will soon question why it isn’t – especially when it is much cheaper to invest early in climate resilience than to live with the costs of inaction."

Even with a 2°C temperature rise compared to pre-industrial levels, key projections within the report include:

  • Winter rainfall is expected to increase by approximately 6 per cent by the 2050s and by 8 per centby the 2080s, compared to a 1981-2000 baseline.
  • Summer rainfall is expected to decrease by approximately 15 per cent by the 2050s compared to a 1981-2000 baseline.
  • London’s sea level is expected to rise by between approximately 23cm by the 2050s and 45cm by the 2080s.
  • River flows will be more extreme. Peak flows are expected to be up to 27 per cent higher in the 2050s, while in the summer months river flows could be 82 per cent lower by as soon as 2050.

CCC Adaptation Committee chair Baroness Brown of Cambridge welcomed the EA's "roadmap", and urged government agencies, authorities, regulators and businesses big and small to get their adaptation plans together before the deadline on December 31st.

There are also a total of five 'climate reality checks' outlined in the report, two of which relate directly to water. They are:

  • That the EA alone cannot protect everyone from increasing flood and coastal risks: alongside constructing and maintaining defences, we must help communities learn to live with risk, minimise damage, and return to normal life quickly.
  • Climate change makes it harder to ensure clean and plentiful water: a strategic approach to water management and faster progress on improvements are needed.

More from Emma Howard Boyd:

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