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Adapting to a warmer UK

In the 2019 Progress Report, the Adaptation Committee found a substantial gap between current plans and current requirements for adaptation and an even greater shortfall in action. The Government has not increased adaptation policy ambition and implementation through its latest National Adaptation Programme despite the increasing urgency of addressing the risks from climate change.

We are now seeing the impacts of a global temperature rise of just 1°C above pre-industrial levels.  The Paris Agreement targets a global temperature rise threshold of well below 2°C, ideally 1.5°C, but current global plans give only a 50% chance of meeting 3°C. In these circumstances, although the UK is committed to working for global action to parallel our own adoption of a net-zero statutory target, it is prudent to plan adaptation strategies for a scenario of 4°C, but there is little evidence of adaptation planning for even 2°C.  Adaptation planning takes time, especially for infrastructure, buildings and the natural environment, which means actions need to start now to avoid ‘lock-in’ to high levels of risk in 2050 and beyond.

Current progress

Planning for climate change adaptation is a statutory obligation but the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) is incomplete in that is does not address all of the risks set out in the UK climate change risk assessment. In the most recent 2021 Progress Report:

  • Only five of 34 sectors assessed have shown notable progress in the past two years, and no sector is yet scoring highly in lowering its level of risk. We provide 50 recommendations, including:
    • Restore 100% of upland peat by 2045, including through a ban on rotational burning.
    • Bring forward proposed plans to address overheating risk in homes through Building Regulations.
    • Make the Government’s next round of Adaptation Reporting mandatory for all infrastructure sectors.
    • Build a strong emergency resilience capability for the UK against climate shocks, learning from the COVID-19 response.
    • Implement a public engagement programme on climate change adaptation.