Changes to UK climate by 2050 now inevitable even if Paris agreement honoured, finds report

The Climate Change Committee has warned that net zero may be unachievable without new measures to make the UK more resilient to inevitable rising temperatures.

The report warned that net zero will be undermined if the UK doesn't adapt to rising temperatures by 2050.
The report warned that net zero will be undermined if the UK doesn't adapt to rising temperatures by 2050.

The UK will face “significant” changes to its climate up to 2050 and beyond even if the world honours the emissions targets laid out in the Paris Agreement, a stark new report from the Climate Change Committee has revealed.

Government measures to tackle the climate crisis are failing to keep up with the pace of change, says the report, which is the third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment produced by the committee as advice for the nation’s governments.

Looking at 61 climate risks and opportunities for the UK, it assessed that “risks to all aspects of life in the UK” have increased in the past five years, and laid out eight “risk areas” which require the most urgent attention from the government.

These eight risk areas include risks to habitat and animal species, soil health and carbon stores and sequestration

All eight risk areas will require decisive action from the government in the next two years, said the report.

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The committee warned that key goals - such as net zero emissions by 2050 - will be undermined by the changing climate if further action is not taken to adapt to rising temperatures.

This is because the net zero target relies on natural solutions like carbon sequestration which cannot take place if the trees, peat and wetlands relied on to store carbon are imperiled or killed by high temperatures.

By 2050, the report estimates, heatwaves of the kind observed during summer 2018 will become typical, with summer rainfall dropping by as much as 24% while winter rainfall could increase by as much as 16%.

These changes, say the committee, will have major impacts on our wellbeing, the natural environment and the economy.

While the committee acknowledged the UK’s “strong framework for emissions reduction and planning for climate risks,” they say that adaptive measures for inevitable change remain the “Cinderella of climate change...under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored.”

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated. These risks will not disappear as the world moves to Net Zero; many of them are already locked in.

“By better understanding and preparing for the coming changes, the UK can prosper, protecting its people, its economy, and its natural environment. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”