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Atkins calls for systems approach to resilience

Industry needs to adopt a more strategic systems thinking approach to asset planning for climate change, Atkins managing director of environmental and water management Mike Woolgar has said.

Speaking at the Critical National Infrastructure 2011 conference in London last week, Woolgar told senior decision makers about the threats climate change poses to UK critical national infrastructure.

On natural disasters such as flooding, he said: “These low probability but high impact events are stress-testing our systems, which have reducing slack.

“We are working much closer to the margins,” he argued. “If a road fails, there are all sorts of things that depend on that road.

“While the Thames Barrier protects a relatively small area, the impacts its failure would have on the UK – and the world economy – would be significant.”

Urging industry leaders to adopt a more strategic approach to asset planning and management, he said: “If you have a good systems approach to what you are doing and not be bound by sector, you can think about the things that could go wrong, draw those into your investment processes and look at how to improve your assets to adapt to changing circumstances.”

Woolgar said the UK is making good progress − making reference to efforts made by the Environment Agency, water companies, regulators and government such as the Sector Resilience Plans due out later this year − but warned that there is a way to go in terms of behaviour.

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