Government sets out national adaptation programme to tackle climate impacts

The UK government has unveiled its third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) which sets out a strategic five-year plan to boost resilience and protect people, homes, businesses and our cultural heritage against climate change risks such as flooding, drought and heatwaves.

From helping homes, schools and hospitals prevent overheating to safeguarding our food and energy supply chains from disruption, the publication of the third National Adaptation Programme marks a step-change in the UK government’s approach to climate adaptation, setting out in one place the ambitious programme the government is undertaking to address the key climate risks facing the country.

The plan includes commitments to:

*       Embed an all-encompassing approach to climate resilience in line with the Government’s Resilience Framework, which sets out commitments to review standards, assurance and regulation of infrastructure sectors, improving the systems and capabilities that underpin our resilience planning.

*       Extend support to vulnerable communities worldwide and tripling adaptation funding through official development assistance to £1.5 billion by 2025. This is the first time ever a domestic programme of this type will have a dedicated response to overseas climate risks, including supporting climate vulnerable communities globally.

*       Protect lives and wellbeing across the UK, with a new UK Health Security Agency Adverse Weather & Health Plan that builds on existing health alerting systems which will bolster the health system to be better adapted to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

*       Pilot a dedicated Local Authority Climate Service which will provide easy access to localised climate data. This Met Office tool will help local authorities plan adaptation by informing them about hazards such as increased heavy rainfall patterns and extreme heat.

*       Ensure a healthy and thriving natural environment through the measures in our landmark Environment Act, Plan for Water and Environmental Land Management Schemes which will all boost biodiversity, protect and restore our peatlands, wetlands and rivers, and the wider natural environment, and improve air quality – helping to meet our Net Zero goals and build resilience.

*       Develop capacity and capability for Historic England to model long-term impacts of climate change on cultural heritage caused by increased temperatures, increased rainfall, sea level rise and extreme weather.

*       Establish a senior government officials Climate Resilience Board to oversee cross-cutting climate adaptation and resilience issues across government, including preparations for heatwaves, flooding and drought, driving further action to increase UK resilience to climate change.

The government is already investing billions on adaptation measures, including through £5.2 billion in flood and coastal schemes in England, over £750 million for the Nature for Climate Fund, which supports nature-based solutions for climate resilience, and £80 million for the Green Recovery Challenge Fund which creates jobs in nature recovery and conservation – all of which play a crucial role in enhancing the UK’s resilience to climate change.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:

“The UK has decarbonised faster than any other G7 country since 1990 – but the effects of a changing climate are becoming increasingly evident in the UK, as well as on a global scale, through a surge in the frequency and severity of heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires.

“By taking action now, through enhancing our infrastructure, promoting a greener economy, and ensuring resilient food production, we can protect our national security, economic stability, and overall resilience in the face of these climate challenges. This robust five-year plan will secure a more resilient, sustainable future for future generations.”

To stay ahead of future threats, a new £15 million joint research initiative led by Defra and UKRI will equip researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners with vital data, skills, and incentives they need to ensure proactive adaptation is happening across all areas of government policy.

The plan also outlines how schools and hospitals will develop plans to adapt to a warmer climate, including the prevention of overheating. Schools will look to use nature-based solutions, including sustainable drainage systems such as rain gardens and natural shading for outdoor spaces.

The Government will also incorporate climate resilience into industrial and security strategies to protect the country’s energy sector, safeguarding the provision of goods and services from climate-related disruption.

£5.2 billion is also being invested in new flood and coastal defences – and the number of government funded projects, including nature-based solutions, will be doubled by 2027. Through the National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, it has been identified that more focus is needed on encouraging property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood. It also contains a number of actions for working in collaboration with the insurance sector, professional bodies and suppliers to mainstream property flood resilience.

Environment Agency Chief Executive Philip Duffy said:

“The unfolding scale of climate change presents a huge challenge for our environment, society and economy. The Environment Agency’s work on flood risk reduction, water management and nature plays an important role in our national climate resilience. We look forward to working with Government and our partners to deliver the new National Adaptation Programme.”

To ensure a more robust natural environment, Local Nature Recovery Strategies and the Environmental Land Management schemes will support farmers and land managers to prioritise adaptation and help ensure food supply chains respond to climate and other emerging risks, while safeguarding their role as food producers.

The Climate Change Act 2008 (CCA) requires the government to complete a Climate Change Risk Assessment (the CCRA) every five years, followed by a NAP setting out how the government will address the risks identified in the Climate Change Risk Assessment. The government is currently in its third statutory cycle of national risk assessment and adaptation planning under the CCA 2008.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean said:

“The climate is already changing so adaptation is crucial. While we continue to work towards net zero, we must also implement plans to ensure our society is resilient to current and future changes in climate.”

Professor Stephen Belcher, Met Office’s Chief Scientist said:

“The publication of the latest National Adaptation Programme is a vital reminder that climate change impacts are increasingly becoming a feature of all of our lives.

“Even with attempts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, Met Office science informs us that wildfires, rainfall events, rising sea levels, drought and temperature extremes are going to have more serious consequences in years to come. The NAP establishes a pathway to the best resilient future. We need to follow that journey.”

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