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United Kingdom Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017

January 19, 2017 |

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This report is a product of the Government of the United Kingdom

“Executive Summary: In December 2015, the UK joined 195 countries in signing an historic global deal to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement commits the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid some of the most severe impacts of climate change. Despite this, we know that some changes to the climate are already inescapable due to past emissions of greenhouse gases. These changes present challenges and opportunities to all aspects of our society, and we must act on these if we are to achieve our ambitions of creating a stronger, more resilient economy and a natural environment that benefits people and can provide the vital resources and services we need…

2.4 Risks to natural capital, including terrestrial, coastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems, soils and biodiversity (‘more action needed’)

The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report identifies significant threats to our natural capital and the goods and services it provides, from timber, food and clean water to pollination, carbon storage and the cultural benefits of landscapes and wildlife. The Evidence Report shows that direct impacts on the distribution of UK biodiversity and the composition of terrestrial, coastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems are already being observed. There is clear evidence of northwards shifts in species distributions and the timing of seasonal events due to climate change.

The Evidence Report highlights important links between climate change impacts on natural capital and the other risk areas. For example, the natural environment plays an integral role in the quality and availability of our water and on the magnitude of flood events. It provides the backdrop to the movement of pests and diseases, and can play a role in addressing overheating through urban trees and green spaces.

The report also identifies potential opportunities for agriculture and forestry in the form of extended growing seasons, increased productivity and new crop varieties that would have potential benefits for domestic food production. In order for these opportunities to be realised, however, action is needed to manage the negative impacts from reduced soil quality and water availability and the increase in flooding and pests and diseases.

The Evidence Report concludes that, while good progress is being made, strengthened action is needed over the next five years to reduce existing pressures on the environment. More flexible and integrated approaches to managing natural capital need to be adopted and priority research undertaken into the changing suitability of land for different uses and the climate risks to marine ecosystems.

The Government supports the Evidence Report’s conclusions. Various policies are already in place to address climate risks to natural capital. For example, increased efforts to restore the hydrology of wetland habitats are under way as part of Countryside Stewardship, and the Forestry Commission is working to protect, improve and expand woodlands on the Public Forest Estate. We also note potential areas for improvement, for example better use of policy levers such as the successor to the EU Common Agricultural Policy

The Government recognises that reducing other pressures is a priority for increasing the resilience of our natural capital to climate change. We have already made good progress in restoring Sites of Special Scientific Interest to ‘favourable’ or ‘recovering’ condition, in making land available for the creation of priority habitat and in establishing Marine Protected Areas. Alongside reducing pressures, we also recognise the other clear message of the report – that we need to accommodate change, such as through coastal realignment and ensuring sufficiently good habitat condition and connectivity to allow species to migrate with the climate.

Following the decision to leave the EU, we are undertaking a fundamental review of our whole environmental policy framework. This will support our 25 Year Environment Plan, which will have natural capital considerations at its heart and will be informed by the findings of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017. It will also be informed by the work of the Natural Capital Committee, which is working closely with the Adaptation Sub-Committee…”

Download the full report at GOV.UK

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