COP26: Committee on Climate Change Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk

COP26: Committee on Climate Change Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk


On 16 June 2021, the UK Committee on Climate Change ('CCC') issued its third report on the state of the UK's preparedness for the risks and opportunities of climate change impacts. "Climate change adaptation", changes that allow us to prepare for and live with the inevitable impacts of climate change, is recognised as, in some respects, as important as climate change mitigation, or actions to reduce the scale and speed of climate change itself.

Climate change adaptation has been given near equal precedence to climate change mitigation at the EU level – a strategy devoted to it was adopted in February 2021, and together with climate change mitigation, it is one of two environmental objectives being prioritised for action under the Taxonomy Regulation and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation.

In the UK on the other hand, focus has clearly been lacking. The CCC Report states that the UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to climate risks, yet it has not done so. It recommends that a good adaptation policy will adapt for 2˚ of warming above pre-industrial levels but assess the risks of an increase of 4˚, and that adaptation planning should be a mainstream consideration for Government and business alike.

The CCC report rings alarm bells, loud and clear:
  • Adaptation measures have failed to keep pace with the changes already occurring in the climate, widening the gap between the risks and the actions needed to mitigate against them;

  • Risks are accelerating faster than anticipated in 2012;

  • 56% of the risks and opportunities in the report are given the highest urgency, compared with 36% in the 2016 assessment;

  • 8 risk areas must be tackled in the next two years, including risks to soil health, supply chain risks, failure of the power supply and human harm from heat exposure; and

  • Though some opportunities are created, these do not offset the "substantial and pressing risks".

The report highlights that there are several imminent policies presenting an opportunity to integrate climate adaptation considerations, including the Net Zero Strategy and Green Finance Strategy, as well as implementation of already published policies, such as the National Infrastructure Strategy and Energy White Paper. It is also clear that "building back better" must include climate adaptation considerations, and not attempt to integrate these later when, given the trajectory, it may be too late. Finally, the report recognises that overseas climate change impacts will have a cascading effect on the UK, and therefore encourages the UK to increase its finance for adaptation actions at COP26 in November 2021.

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