Changing climate, changing infrastructure

Posted: Friday 25th March 2011

Roads, railways, energy and water supply networks and other infrastructure all need to be able to cope with the effects of a changing climate. The first batch in a series of reports produced by organisations which maintain national infrastructure and published by Defra today set out potential risks and solutions.

Reports from seven organisations including Network Rail, National Grid and the Highways Agency were carried out at the request of Defra under the Climate Change Act to ensure that organisations with a crucial role in running the country’s infrastructure are preparing for the threats and opportunities which climate change will pose.

Speaking at a visit to sea defences which protect the arterial South West railway line at Dawlish in Devon, Environment Minister Lord Henley said:

“It is crucial that major organisations with key roles in keeping the country running are alive to the risks that a changing climate will have on their business, because they need to start planning for how they’re going to adapt. Defra commissioned these reports so that we could understand how prepared the providers of key services are, and focus their minds on taking action.

“Business as usual is not an option, and planning now will prevent a lot of expense down the line when the projections of climate change become a reality. Businesses of all sizes need to assess how climate change could affect them.”

John Dora, Principal Engineer on Climate Change, Network Rail said:

“Britain’s railway today is resilient to adverse weather but to safeguard its future we must continue to stay prepared in managing the impact from a changing climate. At Network Rail, we are ahead of the game with a clear climate change adaptation strategy. We are currently working with RSSB in pioneering an impact analysis study and a modelling tool to understand the impact of climate change on the railway. This also means that we are able to start early dialogues and debates with key stakeholders, including the Environment Agency and the Department for Transport, to influence changes that are vital to protect our railway.”

In total 91 organisations will be asked to submit reports to Defra over the next year. Risks identified in the reports and measures planned to address them include:

Over the next 12 months Defra will be publishing the remaining reports from sectors including water utilities, rail companies, major airports, harbour authorities and economic regulators.

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