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adaptation to changing world

Be prepared: the UK should act now to adapt to climate change

The independent body that advises government on climate adaptation (the Adaptation Sub-Committee) today published the first national assessment of how well prepared the UK is for climate change. The report concludes that, with the impacts of climate change already being felt in the UK, people must start preparing now.

Climate change is already having an impact in the UK. Since the 1970s, average annual temperatures have risen by 1?C, and Spring arrives 11 days earlier. These impacts are likely to increase as a result of future climate change, with the incidence of extreme weather events such as floods, heat-waves and droughts becoming more frequent. The UK needs to start taking action to prepare for these impacts, ensuring that we have the resilience to cope with climate change.

The Committee stressed that adaptation is not an alternative to mitigation but complements our continued and essential efforts to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050. Adaptation is about adjusting the way that we do things to ensure that we are prepared.

The Committee found that some progress has been made by government in raising awareness, but crucially, that very little tangible action has taken place on the ground. The emphasis should therefore now be on moving from talking about adaptation to taking action in 5 priority areas:

1. Land use planning – locating properties, infrastructure and green space strategically e.g. not building new homes on flood-plains, maximising use of green space in cities to help manage surface water drainage and to cope with rising temperatures and heat waves.
Embargoed until: 00.01 on Thursday 16 September 2010
Issue No: 27
2. Infrastructure – designing infrastructure (power stations, roads and railways, water treatment works and flood barriers) with climate change in mind, to ensure that it can cope with rising temperatures and is resilient to storms, floods and droughts, and changing patterns of consumer demand.
3. Buildings – designing and renovating homes and buildings so they can cope with rising temperatures and droughts/ floods.
4. Natural resources – managing natural resources sustainably by using water more efficiently, setting up ecological networks and habitat bridges so that species can adapt and move as the climate changes; and making space for water along rivers and the coast.
5. Emergency planning – planning and risk management so that emergency services can better cope with natural disasters e.g. floods. For example, using weather forecasts to anticipate extreme weather events, ensuring care is available for vulnerable people during floods or heat waves e.g. the elderly.

Recent research suggests that taking measures to adapt to climate change could halve costs of climate change, and that the costs of failing to adapt will outweigh the costs of acting in the short term.

In addition, the UK stands to benefit from new economic opportunities if it plans for these now. For example, lengthened growing seasons will make growing exotic crops like apricots, walnuts, champagne and wine more viable. UK businesses could benefit by developing products and services that will be required in the retrofit of old buildings and to improve the resilience of supply chains.
How well prepared is the UK for climate change?

The Adaptation Sub-Committee provides expert advice and scrutiny through the CCC to ensure that the Government's programme for adaptation enables the UK to prepare effectively for the impacts of climate change.

This report provides the first national assessment of how well prepared the UK is to cope with the impacts of climate change through adopting measures to adapt to climate change.