While it is up to individuals businesses, local authorities and community organisations to take responsibility for how climate change will affect them, the government’s actions are critical to successful adaptation.
The government is taking clear and firm action to ensure its processes and organisations are adapting to climate change.
The Government has published the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), the first assessment of its kind for the UK and the first in a 5 year cycle. The reports provide an evidence base which will help us better understand the risks, and will inform development of a National Adaptation Programme.
The Environment Agency has taken on a new role as the Climate Ready Support Service to help organisations adapt to climate change. This role will build on the work of the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), based at Oxford University. The Environment Agency will provide advice and support to key sectors to help them build resilience to climate change.
Visit the Environment Agency’s web pages for the current information sources and tools which are available to help you now. It is also your opportunity to inform how the programme develops. Take part in their survey to tell them your views about the information and support that would help your organisation to adapt.
The government’s role in adaptation
People and organisations who wish to adapt to the effects of the changing climate may encounter a number of barriers, for example:
- lack of information or awareness of climate impacts
- complexity of decisions required due to the long time horizons and uncertainties over exactly how the climate will change
- financial constraints
The government can play a role in supporting people and businesses to overcome some of these barriers and create an environment conducive to the appropriate adaptation decisions. Adapting to Climate Change: Analysing the Role of Government (PDF 646 KB) sets out in detail the barriers that may affect adaptation decisions and how government might respond to them.
In August 2010, the Coalition Government set out the principles of its approach to adaptation in a response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) enquiry on Adapting to Climate Change (published March 2010). The government response (PDF 315 KB) and the EAC’s original report (PDF 1.5 MB) are both available.
Climate Change Act
The Climate Change Act 2008 made the UK the first country in the world to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut carbon emissions. It also created a framework for building the UK’s ability to adapt to climate change, including:
- a UK wide climate change risk assessment that must take place every five years
- a national adaptation programme which must be put in place and reviewed every five years to address the most pressing climate change risks to England
- a mandate giving the government the power to require ‘bodies with functions of a public nature’ and ‘statutory undertakers’ (eg water and energy utilities) to report on what they are doing to address the risks posed by climate change to their work. Detailed information for these Reporting Authorities is available on our advice by sectors page.
The Act also introduced an Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the independent Committee on Climate Change. The role of the ASC is to provide advice, analysis, information and other assistance in relation to:
- requests from the national authorities (of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) for advice on adaptation
- the preparation of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment including methodology and conclusions
- the implementation of Her Majesty’s Government’s Adaptation Programme (for England and reserved matters)
UK Climate Change Risk Assessment
The Climate Change Act 2008 makes the UK the first country in the world to have a legally binding, long-term framework to cut carbon emissions and to build the UK’s ability to adapt to climate change.
The Government published the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) on 25 January 2012
- UK Climate Change Risk Assessment
This is the first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) that will be updated in 5 year cycles. We have undertaken this work to allow us to better understand what climate change means for the UK, and to inform the development of a programme of adaptation policies to address those risks.
Producing the CCRA will help to inform the kinds of actions and policies Government and UK as a whole could take to reduce risks, and seize the biggest opportunities, from a changing climate.
The National Adaptation Programme
In 2013 Government will publish a national programme of action for adapting to a changing climate. Government wants to work with business and public sector organisations to develop this plan.
Defra is responsible for developing a National Adaptation Programme (NAP) to address the risks set out in the first Climate Change Risk Assessment (published in January 2012). The focus of the programme is on helping UK businesses, local authorities and civil society become more resilient to climate change impacts. It will be built around 5 themes:-
- Business and services;
- Health and wellbeing;
- Built environment and infrastructure;
- Agriculture and forestry
- Natural environment
The National Adaptation Programme will reflect new and ongoing policies within Government which are being proofed against climate risks, but equally Defra want to encourage awareness and action beyond central government players and capture these activities in the document. Defra is working alongside businesses, local authorities and civil society to ‘co-create’ the National Adaptation Programme. Through co-creation, Defra hopes to stimulate innovative policymaking and to empower a wide variety of non-government organisations to take responsibility for finding the best solutions for their sector.
EU and International adaptation
Adaptation is an issue across the European Union, and in April 2009 the European Commission presented a policy paper known as a White Paper. This presented the framework for adaptation measures and policies to reduce the European Union’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. You can read more about what the EU is doing on the European Commission website.
The Department for International Development supports adaptation activities as part of wider development in developing and less developed countries.
A useful source of advice on what different countries are doing to tackle the challenge of climate change, including adaptation, is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Considering adaptation in spending, investment and policy decisions
The economic guidance used by government to assess spending, investment and policy decisions is set out in the Treasury’s “Green Book”.
New supplementary guidance (PDF 60 KB) and a summary and issues filter (PDF 110 KB) on adaptation have been produced for the Green Book. This includes the key factors that could indicate whether climate change is likely to be an important risk, and the type of options that could be used to adapt to these risks.
Ensuring public procurement takes account of adaptation
An important way to respond to climate change is ensuring that investment decisions through public procurement take account of adaptation.
To help, Defra and the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) have produced guidance to help all public procurement professionals and their organisations adapt their procurement. The full guidance (PDF 3 MB) and summary (PDF 300 KB) documents are available for download.
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