The government has responded to the climate change criticisms of the CCC. Photograph: Andrew Hasson/Getty Images The government has responded to the climate change criticisms of the CCC. Photograph: Andrew Hasson/Getty Images

10 ways the government must step up on climate adaptation, according to its own advisers

The Committee on Climate Change has criticised the government over its failure to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change, recommending it step up action on land and water management. Here’s what you need to know about the committee’s concerns and Whitehall’s response

1 Farmland species and habitats adaptation action needs improving

Since the publication of the government’s second National Adaptation Programme (NAP) in July 2018, the CCC has criticised the government for demonstrating “little progress” in planning for and addressing climate change risk for farmland species and habitats. 

According to the CCC, “effective plans, actions and evidence of risk reduction for adaptation are needed over the rest of this NAP and beyond,” to deal with this issue. 

Bird populations in the UK are in freefall with farmland birds one of the worst groups affected – declining 7% over the past five years. But responding to the criticism,  the government said it was investing in agri-environment initiatives such as the simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme and that it is working in partnership with conservation organisations to recover farmland species. 

2 Adaptation must be integrated into Environmental Land Management schemes and  the 25-Year Environment Plan

By 2022 adaptation must be “integrated systematically” into the government’s 25-Year Environment Plan goals and Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, according to the CCC.

ELMs is anticipated to supplant the EU’s Common Agricultural policy post-Brexit and shift public payments away from rewarding farmers on the amount of land available to produce crops, towards the provision of public goods such as improving water quality and carbon sequestration.

In its response, the government said that mitigating and adapting to climate change was one of the ten goals in 25 Year Environment plan. It added that the “cornerstone” of future agricultural policy will pay public money for public goods under the ELM scheme and that DEFRA was working closely with stakeholders to determine the climate change adaptation measures that ELM should pay for. 

3 Priority indicators for adaptation should be developed

To guide the actions and impacts of stakeholders needing to adapt to climate change, the CCC has urged the government to bring together the data it has on the natural environment to underpin performance indicators such as soil carbon, erosion, flood risk and climate sensitive species. 

The government’s advisory Natural Capital Committee has previously criticised the government’s own progress report on implementing the 25-year plan, saying it is  “riddled with inaccuracies”.

In its formal response to the CCC, the government accepted that “many indicators require further development”.

4 Better water resource management is required 

According to the CCC, additional action and coordination is required to ensure water continues to be available to people, industry, agriculture and the environment. This includes reducing water use by households and businesses and reducing the amount of water lost to leakage.

Critics of the government’s new Environment Bill expressed disappointment that the bill did not include any water efficiency commitments and that new enforcement powers relating to abstraction would not be made available to the Environment Agency until 2028, even though England’s water supplies are under pressure.

But in its response, the government said that work on abstraction reform was progressing well, as detailed in its abstraction reform report, published earlier this year.

5 Flooding and coastal erosion risk management is improving

The Environment Agency’s draft Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) strategy, which seeks to improve resilience to flooding and coastal change long-term, was commended by the CCC as a “significant improvement” over its last iteration.

However, the CCC has urged DEFRA to approve the strategy and align its upcoming FCERM Policy Statement with it.

In its response, the government said that by the end of this year, it would set out its policies to “better prepare the country for flooding and coastal erosion in a government policy statement on flooding and coastal erosion, and in the national infrastructure strategy”. 

6 Future flood insurance needs clarifying

Last year, the head of adaptation at the CCC, Kathryn Brown, expressed her concerns at the impending withdrawal of Flood Rea government-funded scheme which is intended to help people who live in flood risk areas get affordable home insurance.

In July of this year, the scheme’s organisers called on the government for more powers to help it encourage the uptake of flood resilience and resistance in homes, aiding the transition to  risk-reflective insurance pricing. 

In its response, the government said Flood Re had a duty to ensure, that by 2039, the UK had transitioned to a risk reflective flood insurance market. It added that it was carefully considering Flood Re’s recommendations. 

7 Encourage Sustainable Drainage Systems in new developments

In its response to the CCC’s recommendation to integrate natural flood management approaches, such as sustainable drainage systems (SuDS), into the national planning framework (NPPF), the government said the updated NPPF does now give SuDS priority in new developments in flood risk areas.

It said it would shortly publish the revised planning practice guidance clarifying how SuDS can be part of a “comprehensive drainage approach” that can present opportunities for net reductions in the causes and impacts of flooding and deliver additional benefits. This will include how using SuDS can contribute to the delivery of biodiversity net gain, a mandatory requirement included in the government’s latest Environment Bill. 

8  Health impacts from heat and cold need considering

The CCC has previously attacked the government for making little progress in addressing climate change risk in relation to the health impacts from extreme variations in temperature brought about by exacerbated climate change. 

But in its response, the government said its forthcoming “adverse weather and health plan,” which will be developed by 2022, will focus efforts on “reducing the burden of mortality and morbidity from cold.”

It added that Public Health England was also updating its five-year research strategy on climate change and health based on the CCC’s second appraisal of the risks from climate change known as the Climate Change Risk Assessment, which informs the government's NAP. 

9 A plan to reduce overheating in buildings should be formed

Last year, the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee recommended that the government publish an integrated plan to reduce overheating risk in existing and new homes, alongside decarbonising domestic heating, and planning for at least a 2°C increase in global temperature, with consideration of 4°C.

The government has said that its recently launched consultation on carbon reduction targets and thefuture homes standardalso includes provisions to assess Part F of the Building Regulations, which sets minimum ventilation standards for buildings.

It added that it was “undertaking research to understand the prevalence and magnitude of overheating in existing homes in England”. 

10 The Adaptation Reporting Power must be made mandatory

The 2008 Climate Change Act established an adaptation reporting power (ARP) that gives the government the power to direct bodies with a public function to prepare a report containing an assessment of climate change risk and policies.

The CCC has argued for mandatory participation to increase submissions but the government has not acted on this instead choosing to keep participation voluntary.

While the first reporting round for public bodies to report on their adaptation measures was mandatory with 105 participating, the second round in 2013 was voluntary with only 86 organisations taking part. 

The government said that the third cycle of reporting runs until January 2021. It added that more than 90 organisations have confirmed their participation so far, including, for the first time, all four financial regulators.

To read the government’s consultation response to the CCC in full click here

Compliance Search

Discover all ENDS content in one place, including legislation summaries to keep up to date with compliance deadlines

Compliance Deadlines

Plan ahead with our Calendar feature highlighting upcoming compliance deadlines

News from ENDS Europe

News from ENDS Waste & Bioenergy