Making justice work in a +3 degree world

Karl Limbert
Jul 8, 2024

Climate change is already having a major impact on the UK’s climate, demanding a rethink in the way we manage our buildings and infrastructure.

During my recent seminar at the Modernising Criminal Justice conference, I highlighted that current global emissions pathways suggest we are likely to experience global warming of more than 3 degrees by the end of this century. Even under a best-case scenario, analysis by the Met Office and other independent forecasters indicates that the UK’s climate is already changing and will continue to do so in ways that could be disruptive for public service providers.


More extreme weather will not only adversely impact the operation and resilience of public service buildings, it will impact the wellbeing and behaviour of service users and the wellbeing of public sector workers. This will be exaggerated across an ageing and dilapidated estate that is operating at capacity.  

One of the more common risks is overheating. Justice infrastructure, including courts, prisons, and probation sites (including Approved Premises) and police stations are often located in dense urban environments where urban heat island effects can exacerbate hot days and heatwaves, making these buildings particularly vulnerable. The tragic death of a man in 2017 in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court starkly illustrates the dangers of overheating in public sector buildings.

Justice infrastructure is also vulnerable to flash flooding, where hard, impermeable surfaces, inadequate, ageing drainage systems, and a lack of building level flood defences mean that public services are often at high risk of disruption and damage.

In leading the way to adapt the justice system to the effects of climate change through its updated Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the MoJ has set a clear direction of what is required of the department, including its agencies and public bodies, to adapt to the changing climate and build its adaptive capacity.

The answers to climate adaptation are multifaceted and must be tailored to the MoJ’s infrastructure and business operations. In the overheating example, a solution to managing climate risk must take account of the MoJ’s decarbonisation programme and operational capacity and resilience.

Equans has developed a ‘Climate Risk, Adaptation and Resilience’ product that provides insights on when, where, and how climate risks such as overheating, flooding, storm damage, water scarcity, and wildfire – will impact buildings and infrastructure. By combining geospatial climate risk analysis with expertise in adaptation projects, we partner with the public sector to enhance their climate resilience, enabling business risk and financial based priority decisions to be made. Contact Equans on climate change adaptation here.