An Independent National Adaptation Programme for England


The Climate Change Act requires the Government to put in place a National Adaptation Programme (NAP) to address the risks faced by the UK from climate change. The Independent National Adaptation Programme has been produced to inform its preparation by providing independent analysis of UK climate change risks and the role of the Government in addressing them.

Key findings

  • Dealing with climate risk is not new. But climate change poses several new challenges:
    • Climate risks in the future are likely to be different from today’s
    • There are areas where action is needed now to cope with the scale, speed and potential irreversibility of climate impacts
    • It is impossible to know what future climate we need to adapt to.
  • The NAP is an initial milestone in an ongoing, iterative process rather than a self-contained strategy. It should: highlight key areas of risk; establish principles for good adaptation over the long term; and define a set of time-sensitive priorities for action.
  • Most adaptation will be undertaken by households, businesses and civil society, and their actions cannot be planned centrally. Therefore, the Government’s role is to provide an enabling framework that encourages action.
  • The public sector – Government departments, local authorities and public agencies – should:
    • Provide adaptation services directly where they are a public good
    • Enable private adaptation through regulation and price incentives
    • Assist vulnerable committees to adapt to climate change
    • Provide information about climate risks.
  • There are some adaptation actions that it would be sensible to initiate now. There are three key areas where early adaptation efforts should focus:
    • Adaptations with early, robust benefits, such as water efficiency and better environmental management
    • Strategic decisions that could lock-in vulnerability profiles for a long time, such as the location of new infrastructure (airports, roads, rail, energy infrastructure)
    • ‘Low-regrets’ adaptation measures with long lead times, such as research and development.
  • 12 priorities for Government action can be identified. These actions have strong cost-benefit ratios and, in many cases, can be achieved by refining existing regulation and policies (see table 1 overleaf).

Sam Fankhauser, Nicola Ranger, Jonathan Colmer, Susannah Fisher, Swenja Surminski, David Stainforth and Andrew Williamson