In Brief

Extreme weather will cost UK billions by 2050, warns WWF

Some 2.5 million homes are at risk over the next three decades unless ministers take action, the charity says

Extreme weather could cost the UK billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next three decades, the WWF has warned as it urges the government to do more to “future-proof” the economy against environmental catastrophes.

A new report commissioned by the conservation charity based on a series of “natural capital” stress tests has found that floods could affect as many as 2.5 million homes by 2050 if current policies, such as building on flood plains, continue unabated.

The report suggests that a three-month drought in 2050 could result in the loss of 354,000 jobs and cost the economy about £35bn if reserves of water continued to be depleted.

Other “major environmental challenges” identified by the WWF include heatwaves, wildfires and disease outbreaks which could badly affect farming, causing the loss of some 347,000 jobs and cutting GDP by about 0.9 per cent.

Karen Ellis, chief advisor on economics and development at WWF, said that “our environment is changing quicker than people think”.

“This is bad for business, bad for our national economy, and bad for jobs,” she added, “but businesses and governments across the UK are giving it too little consideration when making decisions.”

The Independent reports that Coca-Cola has been working with the WWF and farmers in East Anglia to try to improve river water quality in the area where the soft-drink giant’s sugar beet is grown.

However, the WWF has called for a coordinated effort from ministers to deal with the threat posed by global warming and the significant increase in the numbers of roads, railway lines, care homes, schools, emergency services, hospitals and even mobile phone masts at risk because of flooding.

Earlier this year, Environment Secretary Michael Gove spoke of the need to ensure that the “insights of natural capital thinking and accounting” are used to inform policy.

However, a proposed 25-year environment plan, a draft version of which was leaked to the BBC earlier this year, has been criticised by campaigners for making “grand promises” but offering “zero detail”.

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