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  • Writer's pictureDaneen Cowling

The Third National Adaption Programme: Climate Change Adaption Data

Third National Adaption Programme

The UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the third National Adaption Programme (NAP3) on the 18th July 2023 as required by section 58 of the Climate Change Act (2008). The report outlines the context of key climate change vulnerabilities and risks as outlined in the third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) published in 2022. NAP3 addresses the 61 risks identified in the CCRA3, detailed in 5 chapters: 1. Infrastructure 2. Natural environment 3. Health, communities and the built environment 4. Business and industry 5. International dimensions. Each section contextualises the key issues as well as the actions that have been/that will be undertaken to address the climate change risk.


The report has arguably been another underwhelming output from Defra. Actions are still out of reach and many commitments lack meaningful substance. Nonetheless, the NAP3 still provides a useful foundation to inform of the risks that are prevalent across all sectors of society, as well as actions that are crucial to progress in the right direction. Although significantly more ambition is required from the commitments outlined, the report does set a standard the government should to achieving, which is usefully laid out in a what the govt will achieve, followed by the how the govt will achieve it, in Annex 1: Climate risks and opportunities.


Below summarises the ambition presented for Climate Change adaption for the Natural Environment, and the promised commitments embedded in this report section.

 

Natural Environment

At the core of climate change adaption is ensuring the literal soil and roots of which our society is built from is just as resilient as built infrastructure. The last few years has seen a flurry of publications coming out of Defra and Arms Lengths Bodies, laying out the foundation to which nature will be recovered, expanded and made more resilient. The mother strategy that all subsequent strategies hook into is the 25 Year Environment Plan (2018), and work towards the legal targets in the Environment Act (2021).


Although celebrated as an important legislation for the health and survival of our natural environment, subsequent publications are noticeably diluted in ambition. In the context of recent record-breaking heatwaves sweeping across Europe and the US, at the same time as floods devastate other parts of the world, climate change is now more than before giving an abrupt wake-up call that worst-case scenario predictions might not be as far fetched as we'd liked to have hoped. Yet, urgency of these impacts and the desperate actions are barely conveyed in the NAP3.


Reassuringly, there is an acknowledgement for the need to approach climate change adaption with systems thinking; to view and address the risks with a system-approach that captures knock-on impacts and feedbacks that can cascade across ecosystems and networks. The NAP3 describes 'Interdependencies' as the cascading feedbacks and interactions that, if not accounted for, can lead to adaption efforts significantly insufficient. A systems-approach and accounting for interdependencies unfortunately does not thread through the report as strongly, with interactions between component parts of ecosystems barely addressed.

 

Data for Climate Change Adaption

Central to enabling action for adaption is data. This is expressed in the NAP3, with references to existing datasets as well as promise of new data products to be published soon. The role of data is positioned as an essential tool for all areas of society to be able to work towards the climate resilience. Yet, despite the universal urgency and demand for climate adaption, navigating such public data is not straightforward or necessarily accessible. As outlined in the UK Geospatial Strategy 2030, there is a strong drive to unlock the power of data, particularly geospatial, to inform location-based decision making. The promise of future datasets to support climate change adaption decisions will hopefully align with those aspirations and transform the public data ecosystem.


The NAP3 makes reference to the following datasets and resources as important tools to support climate change adaption:

The report also mentions a number of other resources that are relevant to climate change adaptation, but these are not explicitly listed. These include:

Additionally, the NAP3 also outlines data that will be published in the future:

  • A national climate change risk assessment map, which will show the areas of the UK that are most at risk from climate change.

  • A national adaptation evidence library, which will compile information on how the UK is adapting to climate change. This information will come from a variety of sources, including government reports, academic papers, and case studies.

  • A national adaptation finance tracker, which will track the flow of money to climate change adaptation projects in the UK. This information will be used to identify which projects are receiving the most funding and to ensure that funding is being used effectively.

  • A national adaptation data portal, which will provide access to a range of climate change adaptation data. This data will be used by researchers, policymakers, and the general public to understand the impacts of climate change and to develop adaptation strategies.

  • Climate Risk Data which will be published in he fourth Climate Change Risk Assessment, due in 2027

  • Local Authority Climate Services, which through a pilot with the Met Office will provide more localised climate change products to support local authorities

  • An England Wildfire Risk Map commissioned through research in collaboration with ALB's

  • an updated Long-Term Investment Scenarios to improve the information around the costs, benefits, and potential for natural flood management to provide ecosystem services

  • Evidence of climate change impacts on landscape character and emotional connections to landscapes to inform decision-making and raise awareness

  • Assessments of the impact of agri-environment schemes on climate adaption to help improve policy

  • Climate Change vulnerability of protected sites, working with Natural England to assess impacts on site conditions, management and designation

  • Enhance the Evidence of climate change impacts on Natural Character Area Profiles (by 2026)

  • Explore potential to incorporate Projected Climate Data for Spatial Prioritisation, into ELMs, LNRS, the Nature Recovery Network and the Plan for Water

  • Peatland Restoration register which will catalogue data from restoration status of sites, to greenhouse gas emissions

  • England Peat Map which will be published in 2024


Other important data and outputs will be available to support other areas of society adaption to climate change:

  • Air Quality and Health Information Government Web Services will be available to public and vulnerable groups by 2024

  • Assessments will be undertaken for building and infrastructure vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as actions required to adapt and retrofit existing stock

  • The Department for Education (DfE) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will undertake assessments of the health safety implications to students, prisoners and staff by: conducting climate change risk assessments by 2023 and prioritising Nature Based Solutions (NbS) by 2025 (DfE), and research interdependencies between climate, behaviour, nature and wellbeing by 2027 (MoJ)

  • DfE will have access to and be Abel to share data and best practice on the National Education Nature Park Platform

  • NHS England to develop tool by 2025 for Trusts and Integrated care Boards to identify local climate risks to NHS sites and inform adaption

  • Historic England to model long-term impacts of climate change on cultural heritage by 2025

  • Cabinet Office to support development of the UK Resilience Academy to support training to businesses on resilience - which will include resilience to climate change

  • Accessible Climate Risk Data for Businesses by end of 2023, provided by DBT and The Met Office

 

Environmental Policies for Climate Adaption

In addition to the data products that are in the pipeline, there will also be a suite of new and updated policies that aim to support the resilience and recovery of the natural environment. Below are expected publications that have been pulled out of the Nature Environment Chapter of the NAP3:

Section

Expected Publications

Natural Environment Overview

  • Land Use Framework (to be published in 2023) - Focuses on developing land use that is suitable for future climate conditions and contributes to adaptation.

  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) - Flagship measures set out in the Environment Act (2021) that involve spatial strategies to prioritise nature's recovery and implement locally specific adaptation actions. These strategies will be reviewed at least every 10 years, allowing for climate impacts to be monitored and actions adapted to further reduce climate risks.

  • Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) - Government support for farmers and land managers to take adaptation actions, with climate adaptation being a priority integrated into all Farming and Countryside Programme policy design.

  • Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment - A data collection initiative that will gather information on the extent, condition, and change over time of England's ecosystems and natural capital. This will help integrate data, address evidence gaps, and improve decision-making, including supporting habitat restoration in areas vulnerable to climate impacts.

Terrestrial and freshwater habitats and species

  • Wildfire Research and England Wildfire Risk Map - Defra, along with relevant agencies, will commission wildfire research, including an England wildfire risk map and defining effective wildfire risk reduction measures.

  • Long-Term Investment Scenarios Update - Defra will update Long-Term Investment Scenarios to improve the national understanding of the costs, benefits, and potential for natural flood management to provide ecosystem services.

  • Evidence on Climate Change Impacts on Landscape Character - Defra will commission evidence to understand the impacts of climate change on landscape character, as well as people's emotional connection to the outdoors and their reactions to future change to their landscapes. This information will inform decision-making and raise awareness of managing climate change impacts on landscape character.

  • Improved Natural Character Area Profiles - Defra aims to enhance information on climate change impacts in all Natural England's Natural Character Area Profiles by 2026.

  • Governance Arrangements for Environment Act Biodiversity Targets - Defra will explore options to establish appropriate governance arrangements to ensure that the Environment Act biodiversity targets are delivered in a way that considers a changing climate.

  • Climate Adaptation Management Plans for NPA and AONB Partnerships - Defra, along with Natural England, will work with all National Park Authority (NPA) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnerships to facilitate the production of Climate Adaptation Management Plans, which will be embedded in or linked with their management plans by 2028. These plans will include specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely actions and objectives designed to adapt to climate change.

Coastal and marine habitats and species

  • Research on Blue Carbon Habitats - Defra will fund research to understand how to address climate risks to blue carbon habitats.

  • Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries and Fish Stocks - Defra will fund research to understand the climate change impacts on fisheries and fish stocks and integrate the findings into future Fisheries Management Plans to support climate adaptive management across English and Welsh fisheries.

  • Risks to the Aquaculture Industry from Pathogens - Defra will fund research to assess the risks to the aquaculture industry from pathogens that are likely to establish, spread, or increase in impact as a result of climate change.

  • Risks from INNS under Different Global Warming Scenarios - Defra will fund research to assess the risks from invasive non-native species (INNS) under 2°C and 4°C degree global warming scenarios.

  • Marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment - The marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment program (2022 to 2025) will provide improved understanding of climate change impacts on marine ecosystems.

  • Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership Reports - The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership will publish evidence reports by the end of 2023, providing insights into climate change impacts on marine ecosystems.

  • Local Authorities Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategies - Working with local authorities to facilitate natural processes and prioritize nature-based solutions through updates to Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) and the National Coastal Erosion Risk Map.

  • Fisheries and Aquaculture Investment - Support investment in skills, equipment, and data collection to help commercial fisheries and aquaculture take advantage of opportunities created by climate change through the UK Seafood Scheme and England's Fisheries and Seafood Scheme.

  • Cross-Government Marine Spatial Prioritization Program - The government will lead a cross-government marine spatial prioritization program to understand future demands on the marine environment, optimize sea usage, and maximize opportunities for coexistence.

Forests and peatlands

  • Wildfire Research and England Wildfire Risk Map - Defra, along with relevant agencies, will commission wildfire research, including an England wildfire risk map and defining effective wildfire risk reduction measures.

  • Long-Term Investment Scenarios Update - Defra will update Long-Term Investment Scenarios to improve the national understanding of the costs, benefits, and potential for natural flood management to provide ecosystem services.

  • Evidence on Climate Change Impacts on Landscape Character - Defra will commission evidence to understand the impacts of climate change on landscape character, as well as people's emotional connection to the outdoors and their reactions to future change to their landscapes. This information will inform decision-making and raise awareness of managing climate change impacts on landscape character.

  • Improved Natural Character Area Profiles - Defra aims to enhance information on climate change impacts in all Natural England's Natural Character Area Profiles by 2026.

  • Governance Arrangements for Environment Act Biodiversity Targets - Defra will explore options to establish appropriate governance arrangements to ensure that the Environment Act biodiversity targets are delivered in a way that considers a changing climate.

  • Climate Adaptation Management Plans for NPA and AONB Partnerships - Defra, along with Natural England, will work with all National Park Authority (NPA) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnerships to facilitate the production of Climate Adaptation Management Plans, which will be embedded in or linked with their management plans by 2028. These plans will include specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely actions and objectives designed to adapt to climate change.

Agriculture and Soils

  • Integrated Pest Management Standard - Defra will introduce the integrated pest management standard, as part of the SFI 2023, to manage INNS in a way that reduces the need for expensive chemicals, which can have detrimental consequences for soil health and water quality.

  • Crop Health Pest Risk Analyses Method - Defra will establish a method for incorporating the impact of climate change into crop health pest risk analyses by 2025 to project the influence of climate change on plant pests.

  • Outcome Indicator Framework - Defra will establish an Outcome Indicator Framework under the 25 Year Environment Plan to assess the impact of extreme weather events and the influence of climate change on non-native species and pathogens.

  • Climate Projections and Crop Breeding - Defra will further develop links between the Met Office Hadley Centre's agri-food resilience service and Defra's major crop breeding research program, the Genetic Improvement Networks (GINs), to explore the use of climate projections to better target crop breeding in response to climate pressures.

  • Precision Breeding Research - Defra announced up to around £30 million investment in breeding research following royal assent of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act on 23 March 2023. This research will unlock the potential of precision breeding technologies and enhance climate resilience in crops.

  • Research on New or Less Used Crops - Defra will explore the potential for new or less used crops that may become easier to grow in the future as the UK's climate continues to change.

  • Soil Health Monitoring and Innovations - Defra will provide a methodology and tools to collect consistent information about the health of the soil under all land uses and continue to research new technologies and innovations that could help improve the climate resilience of all soil and prevent future soil contamination.

  • Farmer and Grower-Led Innovation Projects - Defra will support farmer- and grower-led innovation projects that promote sustainable and resilient productivity through the £270 million Farming Innovation Programme spending over the Agricultural Transition to 2028/29.

  • Support for Business Adaptation - Defra will provide free advice to help farmers adapt their businesses to rising temperatures and support farmers to protect animal health and welfare. Additionally, grants will be provided to fund high health and welfare infrastructure projects and equipment.

  • Water Supply Planning with Water Companies - Defra will work with water companies to have comprehensive planning to mitigate the risk to water supply in the event of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

  • Adaptation Reporting Power (ARP) - Defra will explore inviting public bodies in the agriculture and horticulture sector to report under ARP to drive action on adaptation and increase the government's understanding of the agri-food sector's preparedness for climate impacts.


 

Other policies important for other sectors of society

There are also policies on the horizon that are useful to be aware of, as they will be important for supporting other areas of society prepare and adapt to climate change:


Risks to Infrastructure and Land Use:

  • Updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) following from the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill to maximise contribution to climate change mitigation and adaption

  • Identify actions that will build resilience to flooding and coastal change through the National FCERM Strategy Roadmap by 2026

  • help reduce surface water flooding risk by standardising sustainable drainage systems in new developments through the Implementation of Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to standardise sustainable drainage systems to reduce surface water floods

  • Update Shoreline Management Plans by the end of 2024


Risks to business and economy:









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