Getting climate ready
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The consultation document points out that UK climate projections and the 2012 climate change risk assessment indicate that the climate trends observed over the last century in Scotland – which include the highest temperatures ever recorded and significant increases in rainfall – will continue and intensify over the coming decades.
“A rise in [average] temperatures of a few degrees would create conditions unlike anything experienced in Scotland today,” it states.
Fluctuating temperatures and more prolonged periods of high rainfall or drought, will lead to more extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and severe flooding. Such a change in climate will present a wide range of threats and opportunities to the Scottish environment, infrastructure, economy and people, says the devolved government.
Its adaptation programme, which should be finalised by the end of the year, will replace the climate change adaptation framework, which was published in 2009, plus the accompanying 12 sector action plans.
IEMA has made a series of contributions to the development of the national adaptation programme, reports Nick Blyth, policy and practice lead at the Institute. These include:
Making the business case
IEMA has published new guidance on making the business case for climate change adaptation. The content is based on the views of members attending workshops or taking part in webinars, as well as interviews. Members contributed by sharing best practice and helping to build an overview of key decision-making opportunities, reports Blyth.
“Climate change adaptation is starting to feature across multiple business processes, from risk registers and organisational management systems, supply chains and procurement, through to sales, service delivery and product design,” he says.
“Environment and sustainability professionals are instrumental in helping organisations to understand and address varied climate change risks and opportunities. Our guidance has been directly informed by practitioners and will be an essential guide to others as they develop approaches to build resilient and sustainable organisations.”
The guidance, which is supported by Defra, is available to download.
With more than 267,000 organisations certified already to ISO 14001, the current revision of the global standard for environment management systems is an opportunity to embed climate change adaptation into businesses, says Blyth.
IEMA is working to integrate climate change adaptation into 14001, seeking revisions that will clearly require organisations to address the impacts, risks and opportunities from a changing environment.
Environmental impact assessment
Although the revisions being made to the EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive are unlikely to come into force in the UK until 2016, IEMA has a programme of work that will ensure many of the UK’s assessments consider climate change adaptation well before then.
This work programme includes webinars on guidance from the European Commission on integrating climate change and biodiversity into EIAs and the strategic environmental assessment process, as well as publishing new climate change, biodiversity and EIA information pages and advice notes.
Adaptation and business resilience skills
IEMA is building adaptation and business resilience into the skills and competence requirements of environment and sustainability professionals. IEMA’s environmental skills map, for example, includes reference to such areas, and the Institute is also incorporating requirements for these skills into its professional standards (Associate and Full membership).
For Anglian Water, adaptation is about reducing the impact that changes in the climate will have on its business and the services it provides. The company states that adapting to a changing climate will involve altering its organisational systems and processes to take account of future risks and opportunities.
Anglian Water has assessed the climate risks highlighted in the 2012 UK climate change risk assessment against its investment priorities, including topics such as:
- fluvial, pluvial and coastal flooding resilience and coastal erosion;
- supply demand (including water resources, metering and efficiency);
- integrated catchment management; and
- wastewater and water monitoring.
To embed adaptation across its business decisions, Anglian Water is specifically targeting its asset management processes so that adaptation considerations can be made in the whole asset planning, creation and maintenance cycle.
In line with the NAP objectives on drainage and flood resilience, the company is working in partnership with local authorities on their growth plans, using tools such as water cycle studies (WCSs) and drainage plans to integrate water and spatial planning.
More than 90% of councils in areas supplied by Anglian Water have carried out a WCS with support from the firm. The utilities company has also carried out extensive and detailed sewer modelling to inform the development of policy on sustainable flood risk reduction for the redevelopment of the centre of Northampton.
Network Rail outlined a series of high, medium and low risks to its business and the rail network in its 2011 climate change adaptation report.
These included: possible electrical plant and equipment failure; increased likelihood of track buckling; and more frequent localised flooding leading to bridge scour – the erosion of river bed material and a major cause of bridge failure.
The report also considered opportunities from climate change, such as increased tourism leading to rising demand for rail.
Network Rail has embedded climate change adaptation into its operations in a variety of ways, including:
- allocating funds to protect tracks and bridges against floods and heatwaves;
- delivering analysis of impacts from projected climate change, both internally and as part of the “Tomorrow’s railway and climate change adaptation” (TRaCCA) research programme;
- supporting the new phase of TRaCCA to deliver step changes in the knowledge of railway asset vulnerabilities and system inter-dependencies by 2015; and
- developing decision support tools to drive increased resilience.
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.
In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.
Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.