The effects of climate change on infrastructure and construction are being seen more and more, with increasingly extreme weather expected to continue. The recent launch of a UK Parliamentary report, ‘Critical National Infrastructure in the Age of Climate Change’, calls for more to be done to address the risk posed by the impacts of climate change on critical national infrastructure, such as power, water, transport and communications.
So, how is climate change affecting infrastructure and the construction sector, and is enough being done to mitigate the impacts? I recently shared my thoughts (below) on the important issue in a recent article by Construction Law.
“There is rising concern that existing critical infrastructure assets, which are designed to operate on a long-term basis, may not have the operational tolerance required to cope with the unprecedented extreme weather events that we are now regularly seeing in the UK and will most likely continue to see in the future. This recent report highlights the potential impact of extreme weather events and the urgent need for the government to take action to future proof national infrastructure such as electricity, gas distribution networks, roads and public transport networks against the physical impacts of the climate crisis.
The construction sector is particularly exposed to the effects of significant supply chain disruption, higher raw material costs, building delays and damage to assets resulting from more extreme weather conditions, such as higher temperatures, flooding and pollution. This has prompted the development of CIC guidance to help industry professionals increase the building and environmental resilience of new building and infrastructure projects. However, much of the work that has been done in the sector in terms of climate adaptation has been implemented on a voluntary, ad-hoc footing. The report calls for much needed formal collaboration and data sharing between critical infrastructure regulators on climate adaptation and resilience, as well as the creation of a statutory forum to address interdependencies; it also recommends the establishment of a dedicated Minister of State for critical national infrastructure resilience within the Cabinet Office.
These measures are likely to lead to more detailed mandatory requirements for adaptation and resilience planning to be imposed on those responsible for critical national infrastructure. This can only be a good thing given the worrying major “adaptation deficit” that the report identifies, which is set to worsen substantially if significant action is not taken urgently.”