A ‘striking lack of climate preparation from Government’, and ‘fully credible’ planning for climate change apparent in just five of the 45 adaptation outcomes examined in the publication, are highlighted by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) as its publishes its latest report on England’s adaptation progress today.
Progress in adapting to climate change: 2023: Report to Parliament includes ‘a new appraisal of the outcomes needed to build climate resilience across the economy – and the extent of policies and delivery to meet them’. In addition to ‘a lack of credible planning’ for climate change – where the CCC says ‘nearly all required policy milestones are in place’, the report says that in none of the 45 adaptation outcomes is there ‘sufficient evidence that reductions in climate exposure and vulnerability are happening at the rates required to manage risks appropriately’. The CCC said: “For around one-quarter of outcomes, available indicators show insufficient evidence of progress.”
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee (pictured), said: “The Government’s lack of urgency on climate resilience is in sharp contrast to the recent experience of people in this country. People, nature, and infrastructure, face damaging impacts as climate change takes hold. These impacts will only intensify in the coming decades. This has been a lost decade in preparing for, and adapting to, the known risks 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.”
In 2022, the Government’s own Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) identified 61 separate risks and opportunities for the UK from the changing climate – spanning the natural environment, infrastructure, the economy, and society. The Committee’s report assesses progress in preparing for these. According to the CCC, the current National Adaptation Programme ‘fails to match the scale of the challenge now facing the country’. ‘It lacks a clear vision, is not underpinned by tangible outcomes or targets, and has not driven policy and implementation across Government’. The Climate Change Committee says wider policy priorities, including Net Zero and nature recovery, will fail ‘if adaptation to climate change is not incorporated from the start’.
The absence of robust monitoring and evaluation are also key barriers, with no current key datasets to evaluate resilience, while an adaptation monitoring and evaluation programme are now ‘an urgent priority’.
The Government is due to publish the third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) this summer, and the CCC’s report makes several recommendations for it. The Committee said: “This is a make-or-break moment to avoid a further five years of lacklustre planning and preparation for the changing climate by Defra. A strong programme is also a key element of the UK’s contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change, and an essential part of the UK’s international leadership on climate change.”
The Committee plans a further appraisal of the third National Adaptation Programme following its publication later this year.
In the section in on ‘Health’, the new report points out that heat-related mortality was ‘estimated to be at an all-time high in 2022’, driven by the record-breaking heatwave experienced in the UK. It says: “Incidences of overheating are monitored within hospitals, but there is no regular recording of temperatures in other healthcare settings such as care homes, domiciliary care, or GP surgeries. There is a lack of policy and funding to address climate risks in existing health and social care buildings. Adaptation planning across NHS Trusts, Integrated Care Systems and social care providers is needed.”
The CCC acknowledges, however, that a new Centre for Climate and Health Security within the UK’s Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has been created to lead efforts to protect health in the context of a changing climate. UKHSA has also recently introduced enhanced testing and surveillance of invasive mosquitos and ticks, important climate-sensitive vectors for infectious disease.
On ‘Buildings’, the report says that while the update to the Building Regulations is ‘a significant step forward to address overheating in new homes’, there remains ‘a lack of policy to address overheating in existing homes and buildings, and a lack of understanding of the scale of efforts needed to mitigate the risk today’. There is also ‘a lack of data tracking the overall scale of property flood resilience implementation across the country’.
The Climate Change Committee warned as it released the new report: “The UK’s first 40° C day, in summer 2022, was the clearest indication that climate change has arrived in this country. Last year’s record-breaking temperatures brought unprecedented heat-related deaths, wildfire incidents and significant infrastructure disruption. The impacts of climate change will intensify over coming decades, leaving the UK vulnerable without better resilience planning and preparation.”