UK government unveils third National Adaptation Programme

18th July 2023

A five-year plan to boost the UK’s resilience to flooding, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related risks was published by the government yesterday.

Specifically, the third National Adaptation Programme sets out a series of measures to protect infrastructure, promote a greener economy and ensure resilient food production in a warmer climate.

For example, schools will looks at sustainable drainage systems such as rain gardens and natural shading for outdoor spaces to prevent overheating, while NHS England will raise awareness of climate impacts and responses among staff.

New flood and coastal defences will receive £5.2bn of investment, and the number of government-funded projects, including nature-based solutions, will be doubled by 2027.

The government will also incorporate climate resilience into industrial and security strategies to protect the country’s energy sector, safeguarding the provision of goods and services from climate-related disruption.

Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey said that the “robust” plan will “secure a more resilient, sustainable future for future generations”.

She added: “By taking action now, through enhancing our infrastructure, promoting a greener economy, and ensuring resilient food production, we can protect our national security, economic stability, and overall resilience.”

The plan includes commitments to:

• Embed an “all-encompassing approach” to climate resilience in line with the government’s Resilience Framework, which sets out commitments to review standards, assurance and regulation of infrastructure sectors

• Extend support to vulnerable communities worldwide and tripling adaptation funding through official development assistance to £1.5bn by 2025

• Launch a new UK Health Security Agency Adverse Weather & Health Plan that builds on existing health alerting systems to extreme weather events

• Pilot a dedicated Local Authority Climate Service which will provide easy access to localised climate data

• Boost biodiversity and protect and restore peatlands, wetlands and rivers, and the wider natural environment

• Develop capacity and capability for Historic England to model long-term impacts of climate change on cultural heritage

• Establish a senior government officials Climate Resilience Board to oversee cross-cutting climate adaptation and resilience issues across government

However, various green groups have questioned the ambition of the plan, with the Aldersgate Group saying that “greater urgency” is required to ensure the UK is resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Interim executive director, Signe Norberg, said: “It will be imperative that we now focus on implementing adaptation measures across the whole economy.

“This should be supplemented by interim targets for adaptation so that there is a clear trajectory for government’s progress on building resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“Finally, to fully prepare for the impact of climate change, it will be vital to accelerate policy progress on areas that are also vital to the UK’s ability to decarbonise by 2050, such as housing, power and land use.”

This comes as extreme heatwaves sweep across Europe, North America and China, with wildfires raging in Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Greece.

IEMA CEO Sarah Mukherjee, said that the scorching temperatures underline the “urgent need for us to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible”.

“Although the UK is currently experiencing cooler and wetter conditions, no country can escape the impacts of climate change, which are having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture and water supplies,” she continued.

"Historic temperatures and extreme weather will become more frequent and deadly should we fail to shift away from fossil fuels in the rapidly closing window of time that we have left.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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