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Government must grasp climate change adaptation challenge

11 March 2015

Environmental Audit Committee publish report calling for flood resistant measures for new housing estates.

Despite the Government’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP) putting the UK ahead of many countries in preparing for the impacts of climate change, it has not identified proactive adaptation policies and there is no sense that we are tackling the priority climate risks, the Environmental Audit Committee warn.

Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said:

"With the effects of climate change likely to persist for centuries to come, the need to adapt is unavoidable. Flooding poses the biggest adaptation risk here in the UK, yet the Adaptation Programme gives you no sense of this. To bring about real climate resilience, the Government needs to provide a more top-down strategic direction to identify the priority risks."

She added:

"In preparing the next NAP, the Government should appoint a person whose sole job it is to champion and raise awareness for the adaptation measures that need to be taken."

Floodplain development and sustainable drainage

Despite the clear risks of building on floodplains, this continues. While the Environment Agency’s advice against doing so is largely followed by planning authorities, the Agency does not consider smaller developments —fewer than 10 homes—which can still in aggregate have a significant flood risk: About 12,000 new homes a year are being built without Environment Agency advice on flood risk. 

The Government’s recently announced changes to the planning system do not require Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) to be delivered for these homes. The Flood and Water Management Act already gives the Government the power to require SuDS in all development, but it is reluctant to use it. This is allowing development to go ahead which is adding to flood risk, the Environmental Audit Committee warn.

Joan Walley MP said:

"Continuing to build houses on floodplains at high risk of flooding is foolhardy as this is merely storing up risk and costs for the future. With flooding likely to increase the Government should enforce existing powers to require Sustainable drainage systems in all development."


The Committee report scrutinises the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent report, Managing climate risks to well-being and the economy, and the actions that Government now need to take to be able to produce an effective and revised National Adaptation programme. In addition, the Committee examines the progress being made to adapt on:

  • emergency response
  • flooding
  • the role of the development
  • planning system national infrastructure

Continued emissions are forecast to alter future patterns, frequency and severity of extreme weather. The 2013-14 winter floods was stark reminder of the costs, damage and disruption that extreme weather can cause. With the effects of climate change likely to persist for centuries to come, the need to adapt is unavoidable.

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