UK’s climate change readiness has made ‘significant progress’
by Renee Karunungan on May 4, 2022
There is significant progress in the UK for reporting and implementing climate change adaptation, according to a new study led by Tyndall UEA’s Katie Jenkins. Katie has created an Adaptation Inventory of adaptation actions happening based on official records of adaptation projects being implemented by both public and private sector, accompanied by a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature of adaptation case studies.
Adapting to climate change means taking action to prepare for and adjust to current and predicted effects of climate change. Adaptation plays an important role in managing past, present and future climate risk and impacts. However, there is an “adaptation gap” where the distance between existing adaptation efforts versus adaptation needs is widening, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report. Tracking national adaptation plans is deemed critical to support future decision-making and drive future actions.
Studies of adaptation consider the UK at the forefront of adaptation planning, setting an early example with the Climate Change Act 2008 which contains a five-year cycle of adaptation planning, published as the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. Evidence from the UK Climate Change Committee shows that adaptation action has failed to keep pace with increasing climate risks.
According to the Committee’s assessment, adaptation planning for 2C and 4C global warming is not happening, and that the gap between future risks and planned adaptation has widened, delivering the minimum level of resilience.
Katie’s new Adaptation Inventory provides insight on what is currently being implemented, which helps policymakers and practitioners learn from existing knowledge and practical case studies.
“The Adaptation Inventory provides a consistent and easily searchable database which will continue to evolve. It can provide evidence on the specific types of adaptation implemented on the ground as well as provide more detailed insight into the specific examples of action being implemented. This has the potential to help and inform UK-based decision-making,” Katie said.
The Adaptation Inventory identifies and documents current and planned adaptation in the UK, and how it is being implemented through adaptation actions, the sectors where adaptation is occurring, and where the gaps remain. There were 360 adaptation actions identified in the Inventory, comprising 134 adaptation types. Out of these 360 adaptation actions, 80% have already been implemented.
The private sector accounts for 74% of the actions with water companies dominating. Regulatory frameworks, standards, and reporting requirements are key drivers required by water companies by the Regulator. For example, water companies are already required to plan their resilience to drought.
The most common types of adaptation actions are flood protection (12%), leakage reduction (4%), water metering (3%), property level flood protection (3%), operational improvements (3%), and back-up generators (3%). Most actions were categorized as structural and physical interventions. Other interventions were categorized as technological and ecosystem based.
An example of a structural adaptation action is raising boat landings to address higher tides because of rising sea levels. For an example of technology, London Transport has installed air cooling units and mechanical chillers at two key busy tube stations to address heat stress. An ecosystem-based example introduces barley straw to reservoirs to control blue green algae, more common with warmer summers.
The Adaptation Inventory also looks at the types of climate hazards being addressed. It found that 76% of the actions were in response to drought, 26% for extreme rainfall, 13% for flooding, and 11% for higher temperatures. One example of adaptation for drought is rainwater recovery using storage facilities available on the site, reducing the demand for fresh water during drought. For alleviating flooding, a water company is using afforestation. The London Underground has doubled the capacity of ventilation shafts on the Victoria line, which provide more air flow on hot days.