Press release

Infrastructure must adapt to protect economic growth from the threat of climate change

Planning and design will need to consider the impact of more extreme weather on essential services such as transport and power supplies.

Urgent action is required to protect the infrastructure which the national economy relies upon from the effects of climate change, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman warned today.

Planning and design will need to take into account the impact which more extreme weather will have on essential services such as transport networks and power supplies, otherwise the economy could suffer.

Speaking at Blackfriars Station in London, which is under-going extensive reconstruction work, Mrs. Spelman said:

“Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies. But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals.

“£200bn is expected to be invested in the UK’s infrastructure over the next five years. But if the facilities which support our society cannot cope with floods, droughts, or freezing winters then that money will have been wasted.”

The stark message was delivered at the publication of “Climate Resilient Infrastructure”, a cross government report which outlines the challenges to the transport, energy, water and ICT sectors. The report also sets out what action needs to be taken by infrastructure owners and operators, regulators, insurers and Government.

Caroline Spelman continued:

“Infrastructure assets often have lives of at least 50-100 years so they need to be designed to function long into the future when the climate is projected to be very different.

“This presents great opportunities for British businesses to develop new technologies and processes in engineering, planning and consultancy, ICT-based technologies, renewable energy, investment, and insurance.”

The £550m redevelopment of London Blackfriars Station has given significant consideration to the long term implications of climate change. The new station will be fitted with sustainability technology such as sun pipes, rain harvesting systems, thermal insulation, and Photovoltaic (PV) cell solar panels to decrease its reliance on other infrastructure such as water and electricity networks.

Network Rail Director of Investment Projects, Simon Kirby, said:

“As a business we recognise the challenges of climate change and have a responsibility to consider this in the planning, construction and delivery of significant rail projects.

“The use of PV cells on the landmark London Blackfriars redevelopment is a major step that underlines our commitment to meeting this challenge. Not only will it help reduce our overall carbon footprint, but it is also an important benchmarking exercise which will allow us to better understand and measure over time the benefits of this technology and its future application.”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers also attended the launch of the report, highlighting the importance of the UK’s transport network planning for climate change.

Theresa Villiers said:

“Despite the need to cut the deficit, the Government is committed to investing in our transport infrastructure through vital projects such as the Thameslink upgrade, Crossrail, the proposed High Speed Rail Network and more electrification of the rail network.

“Once completed, these projects will serve the country for many years, increasing connectivity and helping boost economic growth, so making them fit for the climate of future has been a vital part of their planning.”

Actions identified in the report to prepare infrastructure for a changing climate include:

  • Owners and operators of infrastructure should include measures to improve climate resilience in the maintenance schedules for their assets, and ensure climate impacts are considered in the design of new infrastructure;
  • Potential infrastructure investors should demand more information from companies on the climate risks to their assets and measures taken to reduce them as part of their ‘due diligence’ processes;
  • Professional bodies should consider if their members have the right skills to help prepare infrastructure for climate change; and
  • Engineers should look to develop new materials, techniques and designs to improve the resilience of infrastructure projects to severe weather.

 Notes to Editors

  1. “Climate Resilient Infrastructure: Preparing for a Changing Climate” can be seen at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/sectors/infrastructure-companies/.
  2. The Government’s National Infrastructure Plan 2010 identified the impacts of climate change as one of five long-term challenges for infrastructure. “Climate Resilient Infrastructure” has been produced as a commitment from the National Infrastructure Plan.
  3. The report is the culmination of the two-year Infrastructure and Adaptation project, which has involved the key infrastructure departments Cabinet Office, BIS, CLG, DECC, DfT and Defra.
  4. This report will feed into the next updates of the National Infrastructure Plan and National Security Strategy, plus the UK Government’s first Adaptation Programme which will set out the actions needed to prepare the entire country for climate change.

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