Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: climate change adaptation

Updated 4 October 2016

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/adapting-to-climate-change. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


The world’s climate and weather patterns are changing. Global temperatures are rising, causing more extreme weather events, like flooding and heatwaves.

‘Adaptation’ involves changing the way we do things to prepare for the potential effects of climate change. This means we will be better protected against consequences like flooding. It also means we’ll be better prepared for new opportunities, like the chance to grow different crops.

The earlier we plan for adaptation, the less it will cost and the better equipped we will be to cope with potential changes.


Understanding the risks: the UK climate change risk assessment

To better understand the specific risks that climate change poses to the UK, we completed the first ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment’ (CCRA) in 2012. The assessment gives a detailed analysis of 100 potential effects of climate change.

We’ll update this assessment every 5 years, and publish the next assessment in 2017. The Adaptation Sub Committee of the Committee on Climate Change started collecting evidence to support this in February 2014.

Preparing for climate change – National Adaptation Programme

The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) sets out what government, businesses and society are doing to adapt better to the changing climate.

The NAP report was published on 1 July 2013 and will be reviewed every 5 years.

The Adaptation Sub Committee will assess how well the NAP report has been implemented so far by July 2015.

Adapting essential services and infrastructure – adaptation reporting power

We need to make sure that essential services and infrastructure – whether that’s energy supplies or railways – are ready to cope with potential changes.

Under the adaptation reporting power, we’ve invited the organisations responsible to report on risks to them from climate change and how they plan to respond.


The UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) gave projections of future changes to the climate in the UK to the end of this century. It identified a number of possible risks and impacts, such as a risk of increased flooding and high temperatures causing buildings to overheat in summer.

Alongside the Climate Change Risk Assessment, we asked the 9 Climate Change Partnerships, part of Climate UK in England to produce information packs to set out the main risks and opportunities from climate change for different sectors locally.

Bills and legislation

The Climate Change Act 2008 makes legal arrangements about climate change mitigation and adaption. It sets the requirements for the Climate Change Risk Assessment, the National Adaptation Programme and the adaptation reporting power.

Who we’re working with

Adapting to climate change is a government wide issue and should be considered in all relevant policies. To support this, Defra works with a wide range of government departments and other partners to prepare the country for climate change. Business, local government, civil society and communities also have important roles to play in ensuring we are ready for a changing climate.

Adaptation Sub Committee

The Adaptation Sub Committee has a statutory role under the Climate Change Act 2008 to advise government on the preparation of the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), and assess progress on the implementation of the NAP. The committee is made up of experts from the fields of climate change, science and economics.

The Climate Ready Support Service for England

The Climate Ready Support Service, led by the Environment Agency, provides advice and support to the public, private and voluntary sectors to enable them to adapt to the changing climate.

Working closely with the Met Office, the support service provides access to information on how the climate of the UK may change, including the UK Climate Projections 2009.

Local support for adapting to climate change

Climate UK and their network of Climate Change Partnerships (CCPs) provide local support to help businesses, councils, communities and other organisations adapt to a changing climate. Climate UK also hosts a range of useful online tools and resources.

The Local Government Association’s Climate Local initiative provides advice and tools to help build capacity on adaptation among councils.

The Local Adaptation Advisory Panel for England provides advice to central government from a local perspective. It consists of a range of councils and partners from across England, and works to identify and share best practice. The NAP report also contains a ‘Cities Commitment’ from the 9 largest cities across England.

Adaptation at European Union and international level

The EU Adaptation Strategy was adopted in April 2013 and includes guidance outlining actions to strengthen Europe’s ability to adapt to the effects of climate change. The European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT) provides useful supporting material including information on adaptation action across Member States.

The recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports make an important contribution to our understanding of climate change. The Working Group Two report is directly relevant to climate change adaptation.

As part of the UK’s national communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) we include a chapter setting out the main climate change impacts and adaptation activity in the UK. The latest report was submitted in December 2013.

Appendix 1: adaptation reporting power

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Climate Change Act 2008 gives government the power to ask certain organisations to produce reports on:

  • the current and future predicted impacts of climate change on their organisation
  • their proposals for adapting to climate change

This applies to organisations that are responsible for essential services and infrastructure, like energy or transport companies. We need to know that these organisations are planning to respond to climate change, as part of their risk management processes.

We’ve published guidance for infrastructure companies on adapting to climate change.

Second round of reporting

On 1 July 2013 the government published its strategy for exercising the adaptation reporting power alongside the National Adaptation Programme report.

As part of this strategy, we invited first round reporting organisations to provide progress updates. We also invited a small group of new organisations to report for the first time.

We expect to receive these reports by 2016. They will help inform the next Climate Change Risk Assessment due in 2017 and the National Adaptation Programme expected to be published in 2018.

The Environment Agency’s Climate Ready Support Service will offer help and guidance to reporting organisations.

The second round of reporting is supported by an impact assessment. It determines the costs to organisations of reporting and provides an illustrative insight into the potential benefits.

First round of reporting

In the first round of reporting (December 2010 to December 2011), over 100 organisations, primarily from the energy, transport and water sectors, provided reports.

Cranfield University produced an analysis of the first round of reports.

Appendix 2: the UK Climate Projections 2009

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) are projections of future changes to the climate in the UK to the end of this century. These are based on the strongest climate science to date.

The projections are intended to give government and other organisations evidence to help them take informed, cost-effective and timely decisions to prepare for the changing climate.

They were created to be used by people working in all sorts of organisations in the UK and the information is provided free of charge.

Detailed information about how the projections were created, the results and how to interpret the projections are available on the UKCP09 website.

How the climate might change: main findings

Average UK summer temperature is likely to rise by 3 to 4°C by the 2080s

In general, greater warming is expected in the southeast than the northwest of the UK, and there may be more warming in the summer and autumn than winter and spring.

Average summer rainfall across the UK may decrease by between 11% and 27% by the 2080s

While this is the average, there will be a big change in rainfall between the seasons, with winters becoming wetter and summers drier.

Sea levels are expected to rise

The mean sea level estimate for around the UK is a rise of 93 to 190 centimetres, but the top of the range is very unlikely to occur in the 21st century.

Extreme weather events are likely to become more common

Research such as that published by the Met Office Hadley Centre suggests that we should expect more extreme weather in the future as our climate changes. Wet and mild winters like the extremely wet weather we experienced over the winter of 2013 to 14 could become more common in the future. However, we must also continue to be prepared for cold, due to the natural variability in the UK’s weather.

What might this mean for the UK?

Just as the weather and the effect it has on society varies across the country, the effect of climate change on our economy, infrastructure, society and environment will vary from place to place. These will depend on how well we all plan for and adapt to climate changes. For example, health risks during heatwaves can be reduced through effective planning and responses by health and social services.

The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) has undertaken a series of regional studies for sectors of the UK economy.

Defra’s Future Worlds images illustrate some of the actions we can take to adapt our buildings, services and other settings.

Appendix 3: National Adaptation Programme

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) sets out what government, businesses, and society are doing to become more climate ready.

We’ve developed the NAP as a response to the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, which analysed the potential effects of climate change and the risks and opportunities for the UK.

The NAP report is supported by an economic annex. The ‘Economics of the NAP’ outlines the role of society in adaptation efforts, the challenges of uncertainty, the costs and benefits of climate change and the impacts of climate change on economic activity. It also provides recommendations on where future work should focus attention.

We have worked with businesses, local councils and community groups to develop the National Adaptation Programme. Action in the NAP is divided into the following broad categories:

  • raising awareness of the need for climate change adaptation
  • increasing resilience to current climate extremes
  • taking timely action for long-lead time measures
  • addressing major evidence gaps.

In developing the NAP report we ran a series of workshops with around 700 organisations and held 2 informal consultations. These helped us identify the most important areas for action. It allowed stakeholders from across the sectors concerned to comment on the draft objectives of the NAP report.

Get involved

If you have ideas and ways to help build the UK’s resilience to climate change, or to support the implementation of the NAP, please contact us: climate.ready@defra.gsi.gov.uk

To sign up to receive the Climate Ready monthly e-bulletin, please contact: climatechange@environment-agency.gov.uk

Climate change adaptation in government

The NAP report includes government policies which help to prepare for climate change . For more details on what some individual departments are doing, please look at their web pages using the links below:

Department for Transport

Department of Health

Government has also carried out a number of pieces of research which have contributed to the evidence base for the NAP. Details of the most recent and relevant reports can be found on Defra’s research pages.