Accelerating Climate Adaptation (30.11.23)
From our founder on the launch of AdaptationUK
Our response to climate change can be put into 2 buckets: (1) mitigation or emissions reduction and (2) adaptation. My almost 20 years of efforts as an environmental entrepreneur have been focused on reducing emissions, whether from human transport miles, from heating residential buildings or from powering our electricity grid. Although I have always been mindful of adaptation, along with many other sustainability professionals I have stayed away from this climate “Cinderella,” firstly in the hope it would never be needed, secondly due to the concern that it can be (and often is) used as an excuse not to reduce emissions and thirdly because it was always something that could be done at some point in the future.
Regrettably, we have arrived at that future. Despite much progress in reducing emissions, and with any luck these will emerge from COP28 with an even greater urgency, global average temperature has increased by 1.1 degree C (arguably more) and the destruction of our natural world has been devastating. The impacts of this temperature rise are already upon us, whether in the form of melting glaciers and ice caps, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, prolonged droughts, ocean acidification, or changes to growing seasons and the range of agricultural pests; to name but a few. Whilst we must by no means reduce our mitigation efforts – indeed, we have to double, triple, quadruple them – we must also now start taking adaptation seriously.
It would be wrong to say that nothing is happening in climate change adaptation, but what is happening is too little and too slow. The Climate Change Committee, which is responsible for reporting on the UK’s progress in preparing for the risks (and opportunities) that will arise from a warming climate, was clear in its latest assessment that we are falling well short and that the UK is in fact less well prepared than it was 5 years ago: “Alarmingly, this new evidence shows that the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk.” At about the same time as reading this, I was shocked to read in a PhD thesis about East Anglian agriculture, the UK’s breadbasket that “the sector [farming] remains without an adaptation strategy in England.” Further digging validated the fact that, aside from the work of the Climate Change Committee, the Met Office, some hard-pressed officials within Defra and a handful of interested individuals and organisations in specific sectors, there is an overall lack of political attention, strategy, knowledge-sharing or stakeholder cohesion in respect of adaptation in the UK.
This is why I decided to launch AdaptationUK, an organisation whose mission is to accelerate climate change adaptation action. Our activities will raise awareness of the need to urgently increase the country’s adaptation response, bring together government, business, NGOs and civic society and catalyse action whether by increasing the flow of funding or helping government in formulating its regulatory regime.
We released our first monthly news digest this week and are busy planning an inaugural adaptation conference in 2024. But it is early days and as our aim is to be as helpful and constructive as possible. So we are open to any and all feedback as to how we can fulfil this aim. Please get in touch.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
If any of this resonates and you’d like to support or get involved, here are some ways you can do so:
- Sign up for our monthly digest and updates via our website – www.adaptationuk.com – and encourage others to do the same.
- Get in touch if you are a subject matter expert and would like to join our panel of experts to share information and help formulate strategies and responses to events as they occur. Email contact@adaptationuk
- Join the team – get in touch via [email protected]