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11.02.16

Public sector ‘unprepared’ for climate change risks – Carbon Trust

Public sector organisations across the UK are ‘largely unprepared’ for climate change risks, such as flooding, according to new research from the Carbon Trust. 

An online survey, conducted between January and February, revealed that only 25% of respondents from across the public sector said their organisation have undertaken an assessment of their potential climate change risks and put plans in place to adapt to them. 

The research also revealed that a further 15% of public sector organisations have undertaken a risk assessment, but have not made any plans to mitigate identified risks yet. 

It was noted that “positive progress” is being made on addressing climate change mitigation, with over half of respondents (56%) reporting an improvement in performance. 

However, respondents stated that finance remains one of the greatest current obstacles to action. In particular, they cited lack of budget (49%), lack of financing options (26%) and internal budget holders not signing off on invest-to-save projects (20%) as some of most significant barriers. 

Tim Pryce, head of public sector at the Carbon Trust, and a member of the PSE editorial board, said: “This research suggests that public sector organisations are making some progress on mitigating climate change – although not at the rate that scientists tell us is necessary to avoid the worst impacts. 

“However, they remain largely unprepared for taking action to reduce the risks of impacts such as flooding on public services, transport and healthcare.” 

Pryce added that this fits with the Carbon Trust’s experience of working with the public sector, “who are only now starting to get to grips with what will be need to be done to create stronger and more resilient communities in the UK”. 

Responding to the figures, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office and one of the keynote speakers at the Carbon Trust Public Sector Conference, said that in the future it is likely that in the UK there will be a broader range of “high-impact weather”. 

“We need to be prepared and make wise decisions regarding investment in adaptation,” she said. “For this we need to make use of the best available science.” 

The Carbon Trust’s statistics are based on 189 responses to the online survey, with respondents primarily coming from central government, local government, non-departmental public bodies, the NHS, public services and universities.

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