Public sector ‘unprepared’ for the risks of climate change

Public sector organisations across the UK are not adequately prepared to deal with the likely impacts of climate change, according to new Carbon Trust research.

An online survey, conducted over the first two months of 2016, has revealed that only 25 per cent of public sector respondents said that their organisation had the necessary plans in place to adapt services and operations to the impacts of climate change, such as the frequent flooding experienced over the winter months.

A further 15 per cent of those organisations have undertaken a risk assessment but, as of yet, have not made any plans to mitigate identified risks.

The research did however showcase positive progress being made on addressing overall climate change mitigation, with 56 per cent of respondents reporting an improvement in performance, and 44 per cent claiming increased levels of commitment to action.

Nonetheless, the research suggested that finance remains the greatest obstacle to action, with lack of budget (49 per cent), lack of financing options (26 per cent) and internal budget holders not signing off on invest-to-save projects (20 per cent) expressed as barriers to change.

This led to 72 per cent of respondents claiming further support from central government as the primary option to enhance progress. More budget or available finance (64 per cent) and stronger internal resources or expertise (35 per cent) were also highlighted.

Tim Pryce, Head of Public Sector at the Carbon Trust, said: “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.

“This fits with our own experience 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. Practically this means undertaking a full risk assessment, then intelligently using their powers as planners and service providers to minimise future disruption and costs, while showing leadership in their local areas.”

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