Why the UK needs to build greater resilience against climate risks today

How can the UK take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts? Fiona Franklin from Earthwatch Europe considers the importance of building resilience against the risks of climate change.

The risks associated with climate change are real and they're happening now. As Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 states, urgent action is needed to combat the impacts of climate change, if we are to protect the planet for future generations.

Our research in the UKSSD’s Measuring up report shows that lives are at risk due to climate change in the UK, bringing home the urgency of acting now. By 2050 heat related deaths are due to rise in the UK by 250% and increased flooding could affect 3.3 million people.

We can be reassured as the UK takes its responsibilities on climate action seriously. It's a key party within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change delivering both its own obligations and supporting others to fulfil theirs.

However, our research in the report reveals where we are lagging behind on climate targets, and the UK’s Climate Change Act requires us to strengthen resilience against climate risks.

How can we build resilience?

Many intricate connections create the astoundingly complex natural world, and dependencies on water, food and ecosystems impact our survival. Likewise, many connections exist between the 17 SDGs.  

Climate change impacts food (SDG2), shelter (SDG11) and water (SDG6), as well as industry (SDG9) and the natural world (SDG14 and SDG15).

Joined-up work to consider the impacts of goals on each other can help plan effective actions to tackle more than one goal at a time. The power of a joined-up approach means more people pooling their expertise to plug the gaps. So how can collective action be brought to life?   

We make seven recommended actions for climate change starting with strategic direction from the top: the first action is to re-establish a high-level dedicated body to drive progress on reducing UK emissions – this is a prerequisite for any government serious about meeting its obligations.

With ministers raising the question of a new Clean Air Act as part of the preparation on leaving the EU, this is a timely opportunity for the Government to ensure effective strategic frameworks and benchmarking are in place, and that policies are up-to-date and joined up.

While we suggest several urgent actions for national government, the importance of local action cannot be emphasised enough. In the area of public services, this includes local councils also adopting and implementing local disaster plans in line with a national plan, ideally using the Sendai Framework. This framework is a voluntary way to manage disaster risk reduction. There are questions around its measurements, however implementing it would help ensure ongoing UK commitment.

UK employers need to engage staff with the issues of climate change as well as embed sustainable practices across their operations. Businesses can create opportunities to link up with like-minded partners on projects that have direct impact, and invest in environmental programmes. Our work with corporate partners helps them minimise their impact on the natural world and inspire employees to take action.

Our new video on climate action explores why we care about climate change and some actions we can all take. We hold a monthly ‘SDG challenge’ for employees with activities based on a chosen goal. It encourages people to share ideas and helps inspire some positive actions so we can live more sustainably at home and at work.

The effectiveness of actions made by industry and individuals to combat the effects of climate change will be strengthened by the UK Government taking the opportunity now to set the strategy.

Fiona Franklin is Senior Corporate Development Manager at Earthwatch Europe who led the Goal 13 chapter of Measuring up.