Government is failing to lead on climate change adaptation, says its key adviser

The government is yet to show the leadership necessary to ensure that the UK safely adapts to climate change before 2050, one of its key advisers on the issue said.

Chair of the climate adaptation committee Baroness Brown, told the audience at the National Infrastructure Planning Association dinner in London on 17 November that adaptation “takes vision, commitment, communication and investment, and the government has to lead.”

Brown, who is also the former deputy chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), of which the adaptation committee forms part, followed this by saying “We aren’t seeing that yet”.

She added that even if the UK does achieve its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, then “every decade between now and 2050 is likely to be the hottest on record”.

Brown warned that as a result, there is likely to be a 50% rise by 2050 in the number of people in the UK at the risk of flooding, yet, she added: “Action is not keeping up with the pace of change”.

A peer-reviewed report published by researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre, suggested that sea level rise will see 200,000 coastal properties in England at risk of abandonment.

Winter rainfall is expected to increase by approximately 6% by the 2050s, Summer rainfall is expected to decrease by approximately 15%, and river flows will be more extreme, according to the Environment Agency’s third adaptation report.

“We urgently need the government to outline its adaptation goals, to provide a vision of a well-adapted UK based around resilience standards, making clear what the government will do, so people and organisations can plan the actions and investments they need to make,” she said.

Under the Climate Change Act, the government is required to present a climate change risk assessment (CCRA) to Parliament every five years. The most recent plan was presented in January, and is due to be followed by a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) next year, which will set  out the policies and actions to reduce the risk over the next five years.

Brown’s adaptation committee monitors the implementation of the NAP. She said: “I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hopefully the glass slipper will fit and Cinders will get to come to the ball.”

A version of this story was first published by ENDS Report’s sister title Planning magazine.