From a business perspective, adaptation and preparation for changes to our climate have never been more pressing. Floods, power outages and stability plus resource availability are among the big challenges ahead.
Successfully mitigating change where we can, while adapting to those changes we can’t avoid will help keep corporates profitable, while managing the natural world upon which they rely to do business at all.
The worry is that for now, reports suggest we are behind the curve on adapting as quickly as required.
The CCC position on UK climate adaptation
On 29 March 2023, The Climate Change Committee (CCC) wrote: ‘Climate change has arrived, yet the country is still strikingly unprepared.’
The comments came as it released its 2023 Adaptation Progress Report; a deep dive into the issues, of which there are many. Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee, said: “This has been a lost decade in preparing for and adapting to the known risks that we face from climate change.
“Each month that passes without action locks in more damaging impacts and threatens the delivery of other key government objectives, including net zero. We have laid out a clear path for government to improve the country’s climate resilience. They must step up.”
The current national adaptation programme, says CCC, fails to match the scale of the challenge now facing the UK.
‘It lacks a clear vision. It is not underpinned by tangible outcomes or targets. It has not driven policy and implementation across government. Wider policy priorities, including net zero and nature recovery, will fail if adaptation to climate change is not incorporated from the start.’ says CCC’s press release.
It’s important to remember that CCC is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and to report to Parliament on progress on elements like adaptation and the climate crisis.
This means that CCC’s words should be taken seriously, by both government and businesses alike. Thankfully, CCC puts forward plenty to look at in terms of positive recommendations for the future too. The problem with adaptation to date, it appears, often lies in the detail however.
The CCC Adaptation 2023 Report; the detail
The report explains that government has committed to a decarbonised, secure energy supply by 2035 and acknowledged the need for resilience. That is positive, and plainly good news, but there is as yet no defined standard for system level resilience on this and delivery challenges remain.
This is a big issue, because any successful adaptation to a changing climate will need to ensure a reliable power supply in a net zero economy, despite climate change, and standards are needed urgently to get us there.
CCC also notes that national policy is yet to create any legislation which enforces sustainable long-term plans for this more adaptive, resilient energy system, and we are still waiting for appropriate frameworks for regulation.
So, the positives are the concept exists for this well-adapted energy system, which might one day deliver an energy system compatible with future climate conditions. But the meat isn’t quite yet on the bones.
There are other examples of a similar nature in CCC’s report. Good thinking has started on adaptation, but the sense is more is needed on implementation.
The CCC recommendations
CCC’s recommendations run to some ten pages; plenty to digest. They include a need to set out, in the next adaptation plan (NAP3), better work on managing interdependency risks, including clear and consistent responsibilities for climate resilience across sectors and mechanisms for cross-government collaboration.
Further, CCC calls for a clear government vision on environmental and climate standards for trade in the upcoming 2030 Strategic Framework, setting out specific conditions that do more to ensure trade does not undermine our climate and environment objectives.
There are some very practical calls to action. CCC says government must ensure changes to transport systems, especially electrification of road and rail networks to deliver net zero, are resilient to climate impacts.
Further; planning policy should ensure that assessments for all type and size of built development include, at a minimum, an assessment of current and future flood, erosion, and heat risk under future climate scenarios.
This requires tighter controls on Functional Floodplain and Coastal Change Management Area designation, as well as statutory consultees with appropriate skills to assess future climate risks.
There are measures that would actively help grow certain UK businesses too. Among these are a call to make finance available to install proactive adaptation measures for overheating and flood resilience.
This should be via grant schemes or green finance for private owners, with public funding targeted at low-income or vulnerable households, alongside energy efficiency retrofit. Clearly, business could win from doing this vital work.
CCC’s summary explains that the second National Adaptation Programme has not adequately prepared the UK for climate change. Its assessment has found very limited evidence of the implementation of adaptation at the scale needed to fully prepare for climate risks facing the UK across cities, communities, infrastructure, economy and ecosystems.
A step change at pace and scale is needed. The logic is there to make adaptation happen, but it needs wings to truly fly.