Making it happen: science to drive successful adaptation to climate change

14:00 Tuesday 28 May


Room S11


Matthew Charlton (United Kingdom) 1; Megan Gawith (United Kingdom) 1; Harriet Orr (United Kingdom) 1

1 - Environment Agency

Successful adaptation requires an understanding of the latest climate change science and impacts information, an ability to use and apply that science at multiple levels within an organisation, and the organisational drive to apply it. Research efforts need to produce robust assessments that are helpful to those who make decisions and be practicable and easily implemented on the ground. Despite years of effort to produce useful and user-relevant climate information to support adaptation decision-making, there remains a gap between the production of climate change information (CCI) and the successful implementation of climate change adaptation actions across a range of environmental sectors. There is also a substantial time-lag between the production of information, understanding what it means for environmental impacts, and informing regulation and management strategies. This is in part due to the requirement to translate and communicate useable information for a diverse range of end-users and decision-makers with different needs.

The Environment Agency is an established user of climate change information. We have applied several generations of UK climate change projections to assess impacts on water, coasts and the wider environment, and used that information to shape the decisions we take on how to manage the risks from a changing climate. As an environmental regulator we also provide advice and guidance to others, including water companies, planners and developers, to help them incorporate climate change into their decision-making.

In this paper we review and reflect on a range of case studies to identify drivers and enablers of successful adaptation. We also identify barriers and limitations to adaptation actions, and propose potential solutions to overcome these. We present our perspective on what has worked, and why, and where research has driven these successes. We also focus on how scientific information can be most usefully presented to support adaptation decision-making and consider the lessons for future information provision. For the UK, the release of the latest set of climate change projections (UKCP18) offers the opportunity to build on the experience of previous efforts to fast-track the incorporation of cutting-edge climate change information into climate risk management and adaptation planning. The 10th anniversary of the UK’s Climate Change Act in November 2018 makes such a review of adaptation successes and limitations timely to ensure CCI is used to best effect in planning.