Skip to content

ICE Green Paper: how can the UK’s infrastructure be made more climate resilient?

30 November 2022

Climate-related disasters across the world have focused attention on the need for climate-adaptive and resilient infrastructure.

Civil engineers are used to designing infrastructure for extremes, not averages, but the definition of ‘extreme’ has shifted in recent years.

As the world increasingly faces unparalleled extremes of temperature, wetter winters, drier summers, and higher wind speeds resulting from climate change, is our infrastructure ready?

What has become clear is that we will need to adapt no matter what.

Even with progress towards net zero, climate change is happening and will continue to develop.

In the most optimistic scenario, with all COP26 pledges implemented, the world would be on a path to at least 1.5 degrees Celsius warming by the end of the century.

As a result, our infrastructure will need to be designed and operated in a way that copes better with today’s extremes and is resilient to the more ‘extreme extremes’ of the future.

Most infrastructure that supports national resilience already exists and will do so for many years, though not all of it is built to modern engineering standards.

Climate-related risks require changes to how our legacy infrastructure is monitored and maintained, as well as if and how it is retrofitted.

Otherwise, we risk increased repair bills, poorly performing infrastructure, and even a series of failures – with potentially devastating consequences.

In addition, new infrastructure – including infrastructure enabling the transition to net zero – will need to be constructed as climate adaptive.

The ICE green paper consultation

This ICE green paper focuses on how the climate resilience and adaptation of the UK’s critical economic infrastructure, including water, energy, transport and digital, can be improved.

This is particularly important as the UK government develops its third National Adaptation Strategy for climate change, due in 2023.

The paper also balances longer-term perspectives with realism about short- and medium- term policy and funding constraints.

We must ensure that we have the frameworks in place to create infrastructure that will not only reduce our impact on the environment, but also help us to cope with the changes in climate that we know are coming.

This ICE green paper consultation seeks to gather evidence and views from infrastructure professionals, civil engineers, civil society groups and other interested stakeholders across a short number of key questions on priorities for infrastructure climate resilience and adaptation.

The questions include:

Question 1: Do we understand the current condition of critical infrastructure assets, their structural integrity, and the maintenance and retrofit measures needed to improve their climate resilience and adaptation?

Question 2: What evidence is there that new infrastructure is being designed and constructed to be climate adaptive?

Question 3: How can we ensure that infrastructure climate resilience and adaptation are considered by asset owners and policymakers at a systems-wide level?

Question 4: How do we enable accountability within the governance system for climate resilience and adaptation?

Question 5: How do we encourage the development of the following to support resilience and climate-adaptive infrastructure, both new build and legacy? What other aspects in these areas do we need to consider?

  • Regulatory system
  • The planning system
  • Data-driven technologies
  • What works in terms of physical adaptations at ground level

Question 6: How can senior leaders in the public and private sectors build up investment in resilience and adaptation measures as well as focusing on new infrastructure?

Question 7: How can increased attention and funding for infrastructure climate resilience and adaptation beyond the water sector be encouraged?

Responses should be sent to the ICE policy team. The consultation will close on 27 January 2023.

The findings from responses to this paper, alongside further evidence gathering, will be formed into an ICE policy paper later in 2023 with a series of options and solutions for policymakers in relation to improving infrastructure climate resilience and adaptation.

ICE Green Paper: how can the UK’s infrastructure be made more climate resilient?

Content type: Policy

Last updated: 29/11/2022

Author: ICE policy team

  • David Hawkes, head of policy at ICE