Agency to take on climate adaptation advisory role

Climate adaptation advice to councils and businesses will be handled by the Environment Agency from September.

Advice on climate adaptation to councils and business will be delivered by the Environment Agency from September. While the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), which currently provides the service, will lose £1m funding to the agency.

The shift will increase the reach of adaptation advice to businesses and local communities using the agency’s existing links, the environment department (DEFRA) says.

A network of 12 regional climate change partnerships also receive £0.5m funding for adaptation advice. This money will also be diverted to the agency. UKCIP’s role in the UK Climate Projections will transfer to government.

When UKCIP was formed in 1997, climate adaptation was only a modest concern for government . But it has now moved into the mainstream and “I’d like to think UKCIP has made a difference", said director Chris West in a statement.

The organisation is part of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University and will continue work on other projects. It has 20 staff and will consider potential transfers with the agency.

A recent UKCIP survey shows councils may do less to adapt to climate change after changes in policy made by the coalition government. The survey, carried out at the end of 2010, garnered 101 responses from staff at a quarter of English councils.

Apart from budget cuts, English councils’ system of national performance indicators has been scrapped (ENDS Report, October 2010). The indicator relating to climate change adaptation, NI 188, was the fourth most widely adopted environmental target and had become a driver of work in the area (ENDS Report, May 2010).

Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said that NI 188 had helped their council take more effective action on climate adaptation.

Two-fifths expected their council would stop adaptation work, or would reduce its efforts, now that NI 188 has gone. Reduced resources and a lack of interest from senior managers without external drivers were the most often cited reasons.

Some respondents suggested councils should become subject to the adaptation reporting power, under which public service providers must report to government on their climate change risks and adaptation plans (ENDS Report, June 2009).

The first tranche of plans were published earlier this year (ENDS Report, February 2011).

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