UK’s climate adaptation plans falling ‘far short’, CCC warns

13th March 2024


The UK government’s climate adaptation plans are ‘inadequate’ and falling ‘far short’ of what is required, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned today.

In a damning assessment of the Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3), the independent climate advisers warn that the plans lack a "credible vision for a well-adapted UK".

Only around 40% of the short-term actions identified in the government’s latest Climate Change Risk Assessment have progressed, and evidence of the country’s “inadequate response” to worsening climate impacts “continues to mount”.

The analysis also reveals that the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) has failed to make adaptation a top priority across government departments, and that the NAP3 is not “sufficiently well-understood or resourced”.

This is despite last month being the fourth-wettest February ever recorded in the UK, and 2023 being the second-warmest year on record.

“The evidence of the damage from climate change has never been clearer, but the UK’s current approach to adaptation is not working,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee.

“Defra needs to deliver an immediate strengthening of the government’s programme, with an overhaul of its integration with other government priorities such as net zero and nature restoration.”

“We cannot wait another five years for only incremental improvement."

The CCC also found that the NAP3 does not tackle barriers to investment effectively, such as low perceived urgency of adaptation and a lack of clear targets.

Furthermore, there remains a “limited understanding” on the role of spending on adaptation from the private and public sector.

However, with long-term decisions now being taken on the Environmental Land Management Scheme, and new price control periods for energy, water and rail, there is currently “a window to build more effective climate resilience”.

The CCC said that a system of comprehensive indicators and data collection is vital, and that it cannot fully assess progress without better monitoring and evaluation.

Commenting on the assessment, IEMA's director of policy, Ben Goodwin, said: "The Committee’s assessment of the government’s climate adaptation plans is clear. They are currently not fit for purpose.

"Progress on this front is not optional and regardless of what success we have on climate change mitigation, it remains the case that we will need to adapt to the future effects that are already baked in.

“Fortunately, organisations do not have to wait for government direction on this. There are practical steps that organisations can take now to ensure that their asset bases, operating models and supply chains are ready for a more unpredictable world.

“Key in all this is that there is a strategic approach to developing and investing in the skills required to deliver”.

You can read an IEMA guide on climate change adaptation here: IEMA - IEMA publishes guidance on climate change adaptation – November 2022

Image credit: Shutterstock

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