The importance of taking action on adaptation

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their report on priorities for the forthcoming national adaptation plans and the need for faster and wider action to be taken to ensure the continued resilience of our infrastructure in June 2021.  

Whilst SWIP’s most recent work has focused on net zero (details of our new route map can be found here), adaptation is equally important and describes what we need to do to adapt our infrastructure to meet the consequences of global warming and the associated changes in our weather patterns, sea level rise and increased extremes of temperature.  

Examples of adaptation in practice include changing design standards for structures where thermal conditions are critical such as railway lines and bridges; modification of existing structures to provide protection against sea level rise and increased rainfall intensity; and new planning requirements to increase green infrastructure to cool cities and focus new development in areas not susceptible to increased flood risk.

The CCC’s Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk report provides their statutory advice to the UK and devolved governments. An extensive new evidence has been prepared in the accompanying Climate Change Risk Assessment Technical Report. This identified more than 60 risks and opportunities which are fundamental to our everyday lives, ranging from the infrastructure we rely on, through to our natural environment and including changes we need to make to our homes.  Failing to adapt means we shall impact our economy and our heath amongst other things.

Peter Kydd, SWIP Chair, commented:

“This report is equally as important as the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget which focused on pathways to reduce our carbon emissions.  Failure of the infrastructure we use every day during extreme weather events is something we have increasingly seen over the last decade, whether it is buckled rails, landslips or flooding.  Worryingly, the CCC’s new evidence shows that action on adaptation has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk even though the UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks. This seems to show a lack of strategic leadership and the CCC has stated that governments must take the lead.  SWIP agrees that strategic leadership is badly needed, particularly in facilitating the business case and associated funding, but that planning and delivery needs to take place at a local level for the fastest and most effective results. 

“We particularly welcome the Committee’s proposals for the ten principles for good adaptation planning which can underpin the next round of national adaptation plans, providing they are urgently brought into the everyday considerations of government (national and local), regulators, planners, developers, infrastructure owners and businesses.”