LONDON – The UK Environment Agency on Wednesday issued a stern warning to world leaders about the need for decisive action to tackle climate change, ahead of a United Nations summit in Glasgow this month, in which delegates from almost every country will discuss strategies to combat global warming.
“It’s adapt or die,” Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the government agency, said in a report to the UK government.
The recommendations follow a summer of extreme weather in Europe, from deadly fires in Greece to severe flooding in Belgium and Germany which experts say have been fueled by climate change. With Britain and other countries in the region having experienced more frequent droughts, heatwaves and flash floods in recent years, disasters have made it clear that a warmer world is affecting rich countries and countries alike. poor countries and it will only get worse.
Deadly floods like the one in Germany this summer will happen sooner or later in Britain, no matter how high the country’s flood defenses, Ms Boyd warned, urging global adaptations of homes, communities and places. working to make them more resistant to increasingly severe weather conditions. .
“If mitigation can save the planet, it is adaptation, preparedness for climate shocks, that will save millions of lives,” she said. The report warned that environmental regulations have yet to catch up with climate change.
Even if countries manage to meet the goal of limiting the average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement – the report says winter precipitation is expected a further 6 percent increase and summer precipitation down 15 percent in the 2050s compared to the last two decades of the previous millennium.
In Britain, around four million people and some £ 200 billion, or $ 272 billion, in assets are at risk from flooding caused by global warming if no action is taken, the report warned.
In some cases, access to safe drinking water will become more difficult in England. Without further action, demand for England’s public water supply will exceed supply by the 2050s, according to the report, exacerbated by droughts and other effects of climate change.
The environment agency said it was working with government, businesses and communities to prepare and had invested £ 5.2bn, or around $ 7bn, to strengthen flood defenses and the coasts over the next six years. He said he had also developed a national framework for managing water supply and established an $ 870 million environmental restoration fund.
But with the number of properties being built in England’s floodplains set to double by 2065, the agency said it alone could not protect everyone from increasing flood risk. Instead, he called on communities and businesses to invest in finding ways to live with risk and minimize potential damage, such as funding “flood resilience” instead of prevention and mitigation. restoration of fauna and ecosystems.
Experts said the report was a reminder that more urgent preparations were needed.
“There remains a void in the implementation of measures on the ground. We still don’t see enough effort, ”said Lorraine Whitmarsh, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Bath. The inevitability of extreme weather conditions means adaptation measures are just as important as mitigation, she added.
The need for adaptation had already been felt by the poorest countries, including some island countries vulnerable to sea level rise.
Bernard Aryeetey, Director of International Affairs at WaterAid, an international charity that provides safe drinking water to several countries, said the warning to adapt or die is a reality millions of the world’s poorest people have faced for decades.
“The alarming news that these devastating impacts will reach our shores must be a rallying call for G-20 leaders to provide the money for the adaptation they have been promising for many years,” Aryeetey said. , calling on Britain to lead the charge.
Dr Rick Lupton, a senior lecturer at the University of Bath who has conducted research on climate change mitigation, said reducing emissions remained a top priority.
“The faster we can reduce emissions now, the more we can avoid the worst climate events in the future,” he said.