Future pandemic, energy supply disruption and extreme weather among key risks facing UK

A future pandemic, Russia’s potential to disrupt global energy supplies and extreme weather related to climate change are among the key risks facing the UK, according to a new Government list.

The Cabinet Office has published a register aimed at helping Britain prepare for “worst-case scenarios” of some of the most serious threats posed to the country. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will visit energy supplier SSE’s Able Seaton Port facility in Hartlepool on Thursday to launch the new list.

The impact of each risk has been assessed by factors such as the potential number of lives lost and financial cost, while the likelihood of each risk has been determined using extensive data modelling and expert analysis. The chance of a pandemic is now between 5% and 25% and would be “catastrophic”, while impact assessments for weather events such as heatwaves and storms range from “significant” to “moderate” with a likelihood of between 1% and 25%.

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Climate change has already altered the risk of certain types of extreme weather in the UK, with evidence suggesting that the frequency and intensity of storms is likely to increase in the future, the register says. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the potential threat of disruption to global energy supplies has also been included as one of the newly public risks in the 2023 list.

However, its likelihood and impact are relatively low, having been assessed at between 0.2% and 1% and “moderate” respectively. The latest register is the most transparent since its original publication in 2008, sharing some previously classified information.

The malicious use of drones is another potential threat to be made public in the list, though it has the same low likelihood and impact ratings. The register takes into account recent high-profile events in considering risks.

For example, it cites the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess in its assessment of the assassination of a public figure, for which it says there is a likelihood of more than 25%. The register measures likelihood on a scale of one to five with above 25% the highest score, but says this is because “all risks” considered “are relatively low likelihood events”.

Mr Dowden launched the list in Hartlepool as the first 260m-high wind turbines are installed at Dogger Bank Wind Farm, which renewables company SSE is overseeing. He said: “This is the most comprehensive risk assessment we’ve ever published, so that Government and our partners can put robust plans in place and be ready for anything.

“One of those rising risks is energy security. We’ve installed the first turbine at the future world’s largest offshore wind farm, which will provide secure, low-cost and clean energy for the British people – enabling us to stand up to (Russian president Vladimir) Putin’s energy ransom.”

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