Report on the Independent National Adaptation Programme for England

Written by Elena Collins on 11 April 2013

The government needs to ensure that public infrastructure is resilient against climate shocks and future-proofed against potential threats. These are recommendations made in a new report by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics, and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the University of Leeds.

The new policy brief by Professor Sam Fankhauser and co-authors, offers an independent national adaptation programme for England, and sets out 12 priorities for government action on climate change adaptation focusing on the resilience of the UK’s economy, its natural environment and society.

The report explains that private companies and households have already began to adapt to future-proof themselves however there are financial, behavioural and informational barriers, as well as a lack of capacity and skills. These barriers justify a role for government action to help ensure prosperity in the face of climate change. To illustrate the need for timely action, 12 priorities for government action have been identified. The list includes many measures that aim to prevent vulnerability from becoming greater. For example, ensuring that new long-lived infrastructure and buildings are suitable for the climate and do not negatively affect the resilience of the surrounding area. Similarly, land management decisions should aim to enhance natural capital, to protect ecosystem services and also to retain flexibility for adaptation in the long-term.

A key risk highlighted by NAP to infrastructure is flooding, 13 per cent of new homes built since 2000 are located on flood plains. While many are protected, it is impossible to eliminate all risks. For example, the Association of British Insurers estimates that the costs of an extreme flood event (0.1 per cent annual probability) across the Thames Gateway could increase by £4–5 billion, triple current likely damages, as a result of new developments.

The report explains that the challenges that face us are that climate risk can no longer be assumed to be constant. Policy must shift toward a forward-looking risk management paradigm based upon the best understanding of future risk. The second challenge is that, in some cases, action is needed now to cope with the scale, speed and potential irreversibility of climate change impacts. Dealing with this depth of uncertainty will require a new approach to making long-term decisions.

Key upcoming Government projects and private investment programmes provide an important opportunity to secure a more climate-resilient future for the UK, as well as to show leadership. The state should scrutinise strategic decisions which could 'lock-in' vulnerability to climate change. These include:

· Major road and rail improvements, such as the new High-Speed Two (HS2) rail network and major road improvements on the M1, M6 and M25 motorways.

· Expansion of airports, including major capital investment programmes at Heathrow and Gatwick and proposals for a new Thames Estuary airport.

· Investments in new energy infrastructure, including wind, nuclear and gas.

· Several major investments in water supply and waste systems, such as the Thames Water investment in the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a major new sewer for London, and the Essex and Suffolk Water enhancement of the Abberton Reservoir.

· Safety margins for measures and policies today to cope with a wider range of possible climate conditions.  easily and inexpensively adjusted later to cope with future climate conditions.

The report concludes that the role of the state is to provide an enabling framework that encourages and supports such decentralised climate change adaptation. The authors of the report also encourage support for pilot projects that trial new adaptation. Furthermore, there needs to be more debate between the Government, the public and stakeholders about adaptation objectives and the acceptability of climate risks. If all parites come together, this will lead to good decision-making.

To read the full report, click here.

Categories: Funding, Governance