Urgent action is required to protect the infrastructure which the UK national economy relies upon from the effects of climate change, warns British Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman. Planning and design will need to take into account the impact which more extreme weather will have on essential services such as transport networks and power supplies, otherwise the UK economy could suffer.
“Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies. But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals,” she points out. “£200 billion is expected to be invested in the UK’s infrastructure over the next five years. But if the facilities which support our society cannot cope with floods, droughts, or freezing winters then that money will have been wasted.”
The stark message coincides with the publication of ‘Climate Resilient Infrastructure’, a cross government report which outlines the challenges to the transport, energy, water and ICT sectors. The report also sets out what action needs to be taken by infrastructure owners and operators, regulators, insurers and Government.
Caroline Spelman continues: “Infrastructure assets often have lives of at least 50-100 years so they need to be designed to function long into the future when the climate is projected to be very different. This presents great opportunities for British businesses to develop new technologies and processes in engineering, planning and consultancy, ICT-based technologies, renewable energy, investment, and insurance.”
Actions identified in the report to prepare infrastructure for a changing climate include:
* Owners and operators of infrastructure should include measures to improve climate resilience in the maintenance schedules for their assets, and ensure climate impacts are considered in the design of new infrastructure;
* Potential infrastructure investors should demand more information from companies on the climate risks to their assets and measures taken to reduce them as part of their ‘due diligence’ processes;
* Professional bodies should consider if their members have the right skills to help prepare infrastructure for climate change; and
* Engineers should look to develop new materials, techniques and designs to improve the resilience of infrastructure projects to severe weather.