Adaptation reporting should be mandatory, MPs say

11th March 2015

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Rebecca Butler

The government should reverse its decision to make reporting on climate change adaptation voluntary, a cross-party group of MPs recommends.

The environmental audit committee (EAC) scrutinised the UK’s progress on adaptation ahead of the first report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the issue, which is due in July.

The EAC’s report highlights that the Defra secretary has the power to require organisations providing public services to produce reports detailing the action they are taking to adapt to climate change. Reporting was mandatory in the first round, which took place between December 2010 and December 2011.

Over 100 organisations, mostly in the energy, transport and water sectors, provided reports. However, the government has made the second round of reporting voluntary. Environment minister Dan Rogerson defended this decision, saying that voluntary reporting would make organisations think about the issues for themselves.

“If we instruct them to do it in a particular way they will do what they have to do in a fairly cursory fashion and it has to be a lot more than that,” he said.

However, several organisations that reported in the first round have said they are not going to do so again, Lord John Krebs, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, told MPs.

“The evidence from the first round is that it did in some organisations help to raise awareness about adaptation at board level for the first time. I think there was a bit of disappointment that there was not a lot of follow-through, so the documents were submitted and it wasn’t clear what the consequences were,” Krebs said.

The reporting power should be made mandatory again, he said.

The EAC says the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) puts the UK ahead internationally in preparing for the impacts of climate change. However, it warns that the government has failed to drive action on adaptation in a coordinated way .

The government should assign explicit responsibility for the actions needed to deliver climate resilience to specific organisations and groups, and should consider appointing a body or individual to be in charge of raising awareness on the risks of climate change, the report recommends.

On building in the flood plain, the MPs heard evidence from the Environment Agency that 97% of local authorities heeded its advice on planning applications in 2013/14. However, the agency has no remit to comment on housing developments comprising less than 10 homes, unless the planning authority requests it.

This means that many small developments that could be adding to flood risk, the cumulative effect of which could be significant, it warned.

The agency should be required to provide advice on all sizes of development, including those that are currently exempted, the MPs recommend.

They also criticised the government for not using its powers to require sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) such as ponds and soakaway systems on all developments. Recent changes to the planning system still have not implemented this, it said.

Meanwhile, the government published its response to a consultation on changing statutory consultees in relation to flooding and development. It says it will examine further whether unitary and county councils that are designated lead local flood authorities should be consulted on development in their areas.

Respondents to the consultation overwhelmingly supported this idea, but raised concerns about resources and knowledge.

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