Government’s climate experts say ‘the country is strikingly unprepared’ for climate change

Record-breaking temperatures, drought, intense storms, frequent flooding – climate change is already affecting people and places in the UK. Predictions show that the impacts will only intensify in the coming years, leaving us increasingly vulnerable to the risks without appropriate planning by Government.

In their new report on England’s progress in adapting to climate change, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) conclude there is a striking lack of preparation for the impacts of climate change from Government.

CIWEM welcomes the report and its in-depth assessment of the current state of adaptation in England, and the clear set of policies and plans needed to deliver climate resilience.

Alarmingly, the CCC’s analysis shows that no sectors of the economy are yet well adapted to the risks of climate change. Whilst there has been some consideration of climate change, there has been no tangible progress on in reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience.

The report’s recommendations reflect the priorities for the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) that CIWEM has previously called for. The NAP is supposed to set out the actions that the government and others will take to adapt nature, infrastructure and society to the impacts of climate change in a five-yearly cycle. The first two NAPs failed to deliver strategic implementation of climate change adaptation, and a decade has been lost to inaction.

The next NAP, due to be published this summer, must be drastically different to the first two iterations. It must be more ambitious, have clear mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of progress, and be a driver of comprehensive policy change across sectors.

Whilst Defra has overall responsibility for the production of the NAP, a cross-Government approach is vital to actually deliver effective adaptation. NAP3 must embed adaptation across Government, driving policy priorities which prepare people and our environment for our changing climate. We can’t afford to lose another five years to yet another NAP which is not fit for purpose.

Heather Gardner, policy manager at CIWEM, said that “This report shines a light on the Government’s failure to get to grips with adaptation, putting the health of people and our environment at risk. The impacts of climate change are only going to get more serious. We don’t have time to wait – the Government must follow the clear advice from their own experts and step up action on adaptation urgently”.

It is a critical moment for the Government’s record on climate change, and it’s vital that they demonstrate leadership both in the UK and on the world stage, and act to drive adaptation which avoids more significant harm to society.

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