Climate Change – time for action!

This year has been characterised by a flurry of activity regarding policies and plans related to climate change and the natural environment. The long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan was launched in January with an overall goal of protecting and enhancing our natural landscapes and habitats for the next generation.

The second National Adaptation Programme was published in July as was the country’s first National Infrastructure Assessment that included reference to infrastructure climate resilience.

Government is due to follow up with the first National Infrastructure Strategy next summer along with the Defra Policy Statement on flooding and the new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy. Plus, the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has started preparing for the UK’s third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) due to be published in 2022.

Implementing the National Adaptation Programme

Recently, Rachel Brisley, Head of Policy, Strategy and Research, attended a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Seminar titled ‘Implementing the National Adaptation Programme, and priorities for climate change policy and practice in the UK’.

A packed programme featured 11 speakers covering a range of topics including:

  • Climate change challenges
  • Food security (NFU)
  • Infrastructure resilience (Wales and West Utilities, and Network Rail),
  • Adapting to climate change in coastal regions (Waveney District Council)
  • Investors’ Perspective on Climate Resilience (DWS).

The theme of the day was the need to move from research and policy to action, reinforcing a key message following the publication of the recent Special Report from the IPCC. The report evidences how the climate is already shifting and the far-reaching changes that would be required throughout society to minimise future global warming.

“This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and [it’s] hope[d] it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

The report recognises that whilst there is still a lot to be done, action is starting to happen on the ground. From initiatives led by local authorities to the effective engagement achieved by Adaptation Scotland and the steps that big business, investors and infrastructure providers are taking to improve their resilience.

The role of land use

The seminar corresponded with the launch of the ASC’s latest report ‘Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change’. This report identifies areas where changes can enable land-owners to deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation objectives, among the other priorities for land use.

It concludes that the current approach to land use is not sustainable. If land continues to be used as it has been in the past and present, it will not be able to support future demand for settlements or maintain current per capita food production; nor will we be prepared for the warming climate.

Key recommendations include the need for new policy that promotes transformational land uses and rewards landowners for public goods that deliver climate mitigation and adaptation objectives. Support should also be provided to help land managers transition to alternative land uses.

For this report JBA conducted one of the key supporting research projects, Economics of Land Use Change. It focused on investigating the benefits of taking a long-term approach to plausible extreme events from climate change.

Research considered these and anticipated land use changes to manage the risk to deliver net benefits in terms of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides. We looked at four case study locations:

  • Moor House and Upper Teesdale
  • Norfolk and Suffulk Broads
  • The Petteril catchment in Cumbria
  • Somerset and the Levels.

Key results demonstrated that where a climate hazard is often exacerbated by climate change and a threat to current land use, the use of adaptation pathways that consider land use change in advance of the climate hazard event occurring, delivers higher net benefits in comparison to waiting until after the hazard has occurred.

These higher net benefits in the anticipatory scenario are often a result of avoiding escalating costs, maximising benefits, and reducing the risk of irreversible change. This final report reinforces the ASC’s and will be published shortly.

Climate Action in Glasgow

Climate Ready Clyde is leading the way in moving from research to action with the recent launch of its Climate Change Risk Assessment. The study, thought to be the most in-depth carried out for any city region in the UK, states that by 2050 the area will be hit by far more powerful storms, regular heatwaves and heavy winter flooding, affecting up to 1.8 million people.

Some of the key areas highlighted for further action in the next five years include:

  • Developing plans to climate proof key rail and road infrastructure along the Clyde from storms, heat and coastal erosion
  • Supporting businesses to adapt
  • Building the resilience of hospitals to high temperatures and flooding
  • Developing new finance options to accelerate action and offset the impact of exiting the European Union.

The study collated a wealth of existing research and evidence including flood risk assessments undertaken by JBA for NHS Scotland to support our work in helping to improve the climate resilience of the NHS estate.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment provides the evidence base for the development of an Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan for Glasgow City Region, due to be produced in 2020.

Want to know more?

Email Rachel Brisley for more information on our policy, strategy and research service. You can also find out more about our work in this area on our climate resilience web page. For information on the ASC Economic of Land Use Change project, please email Steve Maslen.

Leave a Reply