UK must plug ‘data gap’ before it can make meaningful progress on resilience, says body

The owners of the UK’s infrastructure should be required to report on the costs of adapting their assets to a changing climate, the Institution of Civil Engineers has said. 

In a report published today, the group highlighted the two biggest challenges faced in preparing the country’s infrastructure for the coming changes to the climate. 

ICE said there was insufficient funding for resiliency measures and that, even if such funding were to materialise, nobody has collected enough information about the state of UK infrastructure to begin producing a strategic plan to address its vulnerabilities. 


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The ICE wants to know how much it will cost to make existing infrastructure resilient to climate change

To plug this data gap, the organisation has called for mandatory reporting for all infrastructure owners and operators, requiring them to assess the likely current and future impacts of climate change on their assets and their plans for adapting them. 

This, the report states, will give policymakers the ability to prioritise the elements of UK infrastructure in greatest need of upgrading. 

David Smith, chair of ICE’s sustainable resilient infrastructure community advisory board, said infrastructure needs to be adapted “as soon as possible” before conditions “become more extreme”. 

“To plan how to do that, we need a clear picture of what our vulnerabilities are,” he said. 

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Smith, who is also a senior vice president at Stantec, added: “Once we understand the true condition of all of our infrastructure system, industry, government, and regulators can work together to prioritise adaptation measures. 

“However, the public needs to know it won’t all be a quick fix. Government and infrastructure owners need to communicate clearly about why we need to adapt our most at-risk infrastructure first, and how this could potentially impact overall service levels.” 

The paper also recommended a national review on the economics of adaptation measures and including additional climate hazards and clearer protection standards in National Policy Statements. 

Several high-level reports on climate adaptation are expected before the end of March, with a progress report from the National Infrastructure Commission and another report from the Climate Change Committee expected next week.  

Later this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will publish its third National Adaptation Programme, which will set out the government’s plan of action for climate adaptation over the next five years.