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Re-visiting the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Framework

In late January 2012, the UK released its Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) Government Report. ACT offers a summary of the report here. The release of the CCRA is a bold move, marking the first assessment of its kind for the UK. Given the cyclical nature of the adaptation process, the CCRA will be updated every 5 years, which allows for monitoring, adjustment, and implementation of new information – the crux of good adaptation planning.

The report, authored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) demonstrates how a national government can play a role in adaptation, not least through undertaking a systematic analysis of climate risks, but committing funding and resources to ensure adaptation is made possible.

This report has direct relevance to ACT and the research we do. The report identifies a number of climate risks — including floods, droughts and hotter summers — that are on the horizon for the UK. The ramifications of these impacts are detailed in the report and are accompanied by a set of recommendations, much like the ACT Climate Change and Water Governance Report (PDF)

The evidence from CCRA will be used to develop the National Adaptation Programme (NAP) which calls for “a society which makes timely, far-sighted and well-informed decisions to address the risks and opportunities posed by a changing climate.”

The ACT report recommends a similar role calling for a non-statutory National Water Commission that would help advance policy reform and champion a new Canadian water ethic. Much like the NAP, such a commission could advance national issues of concern and harness the support of various organizations, governments and stakeholders.

On the surface, the National Water Commission sounds good, but it is only theoretical at this stage. The NAP, conversely, has stated that the national framework can only be developed through harmonized actions by various social actors including local government, businesses and civil society. Inputs from various actors not only lead to buy-in, but demonstrate the collective nature of adaptation planning. Using a collaborative approach, NAP will advance the urgent issues identified in their report, and operate on 5-year cycles.

The UK’s CCRA and its development of the NAP offer valuable lessons for Canada. For instance, undertaking such a comprehensive analysis of potential climate impacts for the entire nation has fomented an interest to move forward. This required leadership and commitment at the national level (DEFRA) to spearhead the process.  Canada’s climate impacts are regionalized due to our vast geography and thus it may be more challenging for the national government to coordinate a unified approach. However, as the CCRA experience demonstrates, by identifying the issues of concern, this may act as a platform to generate policy reform to act now, as opposed to later.

Please read the full CCRA report for more details.

article written by ACT researcher Timothy Shah

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