Making Britain resilient to a changing climate will depend on the engineering sector’s response, according to environment secretary Hilary Benn.
Speaking at a joint Defra and Engineering the Future Conference, Benn called on the sector to lead the way in building Britain’s future infrastructure - from transport networks to nuclear power stations to withstand the changes to our climate.
“The floods of last month, and the collapse of bridges, show us how much a resilient infrastructure matters. Protecting ourselves against negative impacts, and also taking advantage of the benefits of a changing climate, is all part of building Britain’s future.
“The UK’s engineering sector is vital to tackling this challenge and is well-placed to design and engineer climate resilient and low carbon infrastructure for global markets, as well as the UK.”
Defra predicts warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, increased risk of coastal erosion and more severe weather events such as flooding and heat waves.
All 10 of the hottest years on record globally have been since 1990, and extreme weather appears to be on the rise, as last week’s floods in Cumbria show.
ICE President, Paul Jowitt, said: “In the past week we have seen the destruction that infrastructure failure can cause and how dependent we are on the whole infrastructure network. It is crucial that we adapt and develop this network to withstand the inevitable future threats facing it.
“Climate change is not only about reducing emissions – it is one of the biggest threats facing the UK’s infrastructure and will present some major challenges. These challenges will require innovative solutions from the engineering community and joined up thinking with Government. We are confident that by acting now and working together, we can adapt our infrastructure to improve its resilience and reduce our vulnerability to crisis,” he said.
Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Professor Robert Mair, said: “Resilience in the face of climate change is a challenge all engineers must rise to. In partnership with our customers, policy makers and the users of the infrastructure we provide, engineers can provide the solutions that will protect us from the worst effects of climate change.
“This is essential to maintaining and developing our modern way of life, as well as sharing the benefits of progress equitably across the world. The challenge has never been greater for engineering,” he said.