Adaptation efforts ‘inadequate’, says Climate Change Committee

The UK’s Climate Change Committee has said that current government plans to adapt to the warming planet are falling ‘far short’ of what is needed.

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Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, a new NAP (National Adaptation Plan) must be produced every five years, with the CCC assessing progress every two years. Responding to the government’s Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3), published in July 2023, the CCC’s independent assessment claimed the document was an ‘inadequate response’ to the challenges the country is facing.

Against the backdrop of the warmest February on record, the CCC said NAP3 fails to provide a ‘credible vision’ of a future where the UK can adapt to the changes in climate already impacting British people and businesses. The committee said that the status of the NAP within government is too low and must be boosted to align with ‘the gravity of known climate risks in the UK’.

“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 Adaptation Committee.

“Defra [Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs] 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.”

According to the CCC, Defra has failed to make adaptation a top priority within the department or in other central government departments, despite the growing evidence of climate impacts. Other problems cited by the committee include poor coordination by Defra between central and local government, a shortfall of investment due to the lack of urgency on adaptation, and an absence of sufficient monitoring to measure the UK’s adaptation progress.  

“One only has to read the news stories about the warmest, wettest February on record, which has contributed to worrying flooding around the UK to understand how urgent this issue is,” said Chris Richards, director of policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers. “Acting quickly means the UK has the opportunity to develop world-leading infrastructure that is fit for the future. Delay, and the problems will become worse, and more expensive to solve.

“The CCC is right to identify governance, investment and monitoring as critical issues holding back the UK’s climate adaptation goals, and the ICE has previously made policy recommendations that align with these areas, like making the Adaptation Reporting Power of the UK Climate Change Act mandatory.”