UK government underprepared for extreme weather events – watchdog

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government is underprepared for extreme weather events which could cause significant disruption, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in a report published on Wednesday. 

NAO, the independent public spending watchdog, said it had assessed resilience against four extreme weather risks – droughts, surface water flooding, storms and high temperatures – to determine how well prepared Britain is for the projected increasing frequency and intensity of such events.

It said that while the government was working to strengthen the arrangements in place and to mitigate the risks, it needed to do more, and sooner, to prepare for and develop resilience to extreme weather.

“Extreme weather is becoming more frequent and severe. Government needs to increase its focus on reducing these risks and making the system more resilient to the worsening impacts of extreme weather,” the report said.

“The challenge for government now is how it places sufficient emphasis on prevention and preparedness, making informed decisions about prioritisation to ensure efficient and effective investment in the long-term.”

NAO said government departments should accelerate a coordinated, prioritised approach to investment in climate and wider resilience, developing it by 2025 and implementing it by 2028, ahead of its existing target of 2030.

The absence of an effective strategy and targets makes it difficult for government to make informed decisions on investment, NAO said, adding that spending on extreme weather is not currently tracked or evaluated.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Susan Fenton)