Urgent action needed to protect communities from climate change
Stronger, more focused action is needed to protect communities in Wales from the risks of Climate Change, says Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
Climate change is already happening with 14 of the hottest summers on record occurring since the year 2000. A new report by the UK’s Adaptation Sub-Committee sets out the key risks to the UK – including periods of too much and too little water impacting on flooding and food production, rising sea levels and increasing average and extreme temperatures affecting health and wellbeing.
Responding to the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report, Ms Howe says:
“More than 60% of people in Wales live and work near the coast, including in all our major cities and many important towns. Already 222,000 homes are at risk of flooding and that figure is likely to increase together with the £200 million estimated cost of putting it right. Flooding and coastal change must be seen as a priority with agencies working together to protect communities. Our infrastructure must be fit-for-purpose and take account of future change including heat and severe weather events.
“This report can help to focus and strengthen action and I will be asking public bodies to use it to improve their understanding of the action needed.”
“The risks outlined in the report will have to be dealt with and it is far better that we are properly prepared – we must acknowledge and address the risks of climate change including the need to reduce carbon emissions. But the report also outlines some potential opportunities that climate change may bring, such as longer growing seasons and economic opportunities for businesses such as tourism, and I want Wales to be taking action now.”
Public bodies will need to show how they are supporting a more Prosperous Wales and Resilient Wales, developing a low carbon society, building both resilience and our capacity to adapt to climate change.
As part of the new Well-being of Future Generations Act, public bodies will need to take account of the impacts of climate change when developing their well-being objectives, and planning how they deliver services in the long-term in the face of the risks set out in the report. Public services boards will also need to show they are looking at how the changes will impact locally, as they assess the well-being of communities.
Global temperatures are breaking all records, and although there is international commitment to reduce emissions to limit temperature increase, action needs to be accelerated both to reduce emissions, in line with the new Environment Act, and to make sure that communities are protected from the impacts of flooding and severe weather.
Ms Howe says “Public bodies have a long way to go to understand the urgent steps they have to take to meet these targets. They should be leading the way by ensuring they are reducing emissions across public buildings and land, considering electric vehicles for essential car users and planning all services in a way which thinks about environmental impact now and in the future.”
The Health sector has already come together to publish a Plan for how it can adapt to climate impacts including overheating in buildings, public transport and risks to healthcare service delivery. Natural Resources Wales also has a key role to play in terms of dealing with individual incidents such as storms as well as tackling underlying trends such as changes in seasonal rainfall. Projects such as Greener Grangetown, being delivered in partnership with Dwr Cymru and City of Cardiff Council, will help to reduce surface water flooding in 575 properties providing 1600m2 of new green space. They also have a growing network of local Flood Wardens whose role is to support local communities across Wales.