Stop sidestepping the issue – we must adapt to climate change now

Climate change is real and the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 evidence report provides the solid evidence needed to refute accusations of doom-mongering. Risks from flooding, to health, soil structure, food production, water supply, ecosystems and biodiversity are just some of the issues outlined and each one is a cause for concern.

This welcome report illustrates why we can no longer afford to be complacent about what needs to be done to reduce the impacts of climate change. We can no longer afford to sidestep climate change adaptation.

While the emphasis on carbon reduction and mitigation priorities outlined in the Paris summit are vital, the failure to give equal importance to adaptation measures is a disappointing misstep and one that needs to be addressed. Even if we were successful in stopping carbon emissions right now, there would still be a period of stabilisation where we would continue to feel the very real impacts of climate change.

Effective climate adaptation measures are therefore essential. Resilient infrastructure, particularly transport and communications, is one of the fundamental pillars of a strong economy. We need to build resilient communities and businesses equipped to face the future. That is the role of ADEPT.

For ADEPT members, the risks outlined in the report present some very real challenges to the services they provide, beyond the obvious and well-catalogued impacts of flooding.

The government has repeatedly cut back on funding for adaptation support to the Environment Agency and Defra, in a short-term policy that we believe has been a false economy.

While we understand that the budget deficit needs to be plugged, we believe it has been wrong to reduce funding and resource in climate adaptation, including that for the climate ready support service.

It is too early to say how the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will respond to the challenges of climate change, but climate adaptation measures fall under the Defra remit. We welcome the opportunity to work with the new minister and her team to address the very real risks outlined in the evidence report.

We will advise caution when reviewing the impacts of Brexit, that we continue to meet or even surpass, the standards set by the EU on issues as important as water quality and emissions.

ADEPT members are ready to meet the challenges this new evidence presents, but local authorities cannot do this alone. The new prime minister must ensure adaptation is a priority across departments and is resourced appropriately. This is a long-term issue but we have a real opportunity to act now.

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Rupert Clubb

Rupert Clubb

President, Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT)

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