Aug 19, 2022

Adapting to heatwaves, water stress and flooding – a cunning plan

In a summer when all three of the issues in this blog title have occurred, it’s good to know that Government is preparing for the third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) [1].  It follows on from the national risk assessment [2] that identified, amongst other items, the following risks to the UK built environment:

  • Flood risk
  • Heatwaves
  • Water stress

No surprises there!

To distinguish this work from carbon reduction measures, the preparation documents for NAP3 stress that the point of adaptation is “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities”.

NAP3 will look at all sectors in the UK and the built environment is identified as one of those sectors.  There are a few interesting directions in their approach:

“Ensuring adaptation is evidence-based, including by adapting to 2 degrees of warming, and assessing the risks for 4 degrees of warming” – Met Office central projections are for 2 degrees warming, so being prepared for 4 degrees is a valuable insight.

Levelling up an inclusive response to the impacts of climate change on different communities and locations.” – hopefully this is good news because this is starting to make a clearer link between climate change and our actual long-term wellbeing.  This is something we’ve suggested should be more prominent [3] to get more public “buy-in”.

“Ensuring adaptation action is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable and agreed, relevant, and time-bound)” – this is also good news because at the moment there is a paucity of useful data about the built environment and exposure to the adverse effects of climate change.

Defra, which is leading on NAP3, is also interested in a couple of other questions:

  1. How do we mobilise private finance to help fund the implementation of climate change adaptation?

    For owner-occupied buildings possibly investment pays for adaptation measures and payback is via occupier savings (e.g. reduced insurance premiums, a comfortable and hence productive workforce). Our thoughts, for social housing at least, are something along the lines of:

    1. RSL raises ESG finance
    2. RSL implements retrofit works to make homes safe from the worst effects of climate change
    3. Government then makes annual payments to RSL, based on the number of “adapted” homes
  2. How can Government work better with stakeholders moving forward – up to and beyond NAP3? What are the key principles of co-creation that we should consider? We’ve identified several barriers around access to Government data that, if resolved, would really help producing initial assessments on flood risk and overheating risk.

NAP3 is due to be published next summer.  In the meantime, if you need a baseline assessment on your flood risk, overheating risk or contribution to water stress, please get in touch.




Image by Nicolas Houdayer on Unsplash


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