Climate change could damage West Midlands transport infrastructure, new report finds
The effects of climate change in the West Midlands could damage local transport networks, the water supply and disrupt business supply chains, according to a new report.
A new research study has set out the potential impacts of climate change on businesses, infrastructure and people’s health in the region.
‘A Summary of Climate Change Impacts in the West Midlands Combined Authority Area‘, uses the latest data to chart the predicted impact of increased cases of severe flooding, water scarcity and more intense and prolonged heatwaves in the decades ahead.
But the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) report also highlights the opportunities that adapting to, and ramping up the fight against, climate change could offer the West Midlands.
These include local businesses coming forward to meet an increased demand for innovation to develop more climate resilient infrastructure and low carbon, fuel saving technology and products.
“Climate change is affecting us now and we need to prepare for it, to prevent significant consequences across society, infrastructure and the natural environment,” the report states.
“Adaptation will be more successful if action is taken within the next decade, especially if this is underpinned by supporting action taken on decarbonisation measures.
“Adaptation investment also has the opportunity to not only protect us from climate impacts, but to provide multiple benefits across society, for our health, economy and environment. This is especially true where we use nature-based solutions to minimise risks from overheating, flooding and droughts.”
The new study found that people living in parts of north Wolverhampton, east Walsall, north-east Sandwell and the inner-city areas of west and north Birmingham could be hit hardest due to their existing high levels of deprivation, high risk of flooding and relatively high proportion of residents who are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.
The report, which has been commissioned by the WMCA, also warns of the economic impact to the region and how the infrastructure sector will need to adapt to deal with the physical damage likely to be inflicted by a changing climate, helping to reduce the knock-on impact to businesses and industry.
These could include disruption to local energy supplies, with the failure of just five electricity substations potentially estimated to cost the local economy £27m a day.
There could also be damage to local transport infrastructure disrupting people’s ability to get to work and requiring expensive repairs, disruption to the aviation industry, disruption to supply chains, affecting business costs and productivity, damage to infrastructure belonging to local businesses, and disruptions to water supply – businesses in England alone use an estimated 1bn litres of water a day.
In 2019, the West Midlands declared a climate emergency, agreeing an ambitious #WM2041 target to reach net zero within the next two decades.
According to the WMCA, “the need for more powers and funding to fight climate change at a local level are a key part of on-going discussions between the West Midlands and Government on a new ‘Trailblazing Devolution Deal’ for the region.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “As we seek to tackle the climate emergency, a recent UN report has warned that current global policies are not sufficient to keep us on track for the 1.5°C target signed up to at the Paris Agreement in 2015.
“We have all seen the alarming frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in recent years which only serves to confirm the importance of adapting to the changing climate.
“Our #WM2041 net zero commitment demonstrates our level of ambition when it comes to mitigating the impact of climate change. As part of our devolution deal discussions with Government, we’re seeking more funding and responsibility in order to establish a regional framework that will help to coordinate climate adaptation activity – working with local communities to co-create the solutions we need”
The climate change impact report supports actions set out in the West Midlands Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2021-2026, published last year to help ensure the region’s natural environment, people, infrastructure, buildings and businesses are prepared for the impacts of climate change.
The report also notes that “2021 was warmer than all but one year between 1884 and 1990” and that “all the top 10 warmest years for the UK since 1884 have occurred this century.” It also projects the West Midlands weather events “will become more extreme.”
The report uses evidence and information from the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, the Met Offices UK Climate Change Projections 2018 and the West Midlands Climate Change Adaptation Plan. You can view the report here.