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Flooded Railway
Image: K W Gardner

Public services ill-prepared for climate change

New research from the Carbon Trust has found that public sector bodies are largely unprepared for the impact of climate change.

With climate scientists warning that the frequency of a broad range of high-impact weather events such as floods and droughts, public services may struggle to continue operating for prolonged periods unless plans are put in place now.  But the Carbon Trust research found that just a quarter of public sector bodies have plans of any kind in place; the remaining 75 percent simply hoping that it won’t happen to them.  This is in stark contrast to the 91 percent of public bodies that claim to be taking at least some action to curb their carbon emissions.

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

“This research suggests that 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.”

The problem is that most public services are currently struggling to adapt to the austerity environment imposed by central government.  Many, such as education and health, are engaged in crisis management on a day-to-day basis, and simply lack the resources to prepare to meet future emergencies.  As with government itself, most of the public sector will fail to respond appropriately until they are overwhelmed by a crisis.

In the current political climate, asking cash-starved public services to set resources aside to prepare for future emergencies is akin to suggesting that a homeless man might want to invest in a private pension.

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