The UK has a lot of work to do and a limited time to do it
Despite overwhelming scientific consensus As the climate crisis is already wreaking havoc, most discussions on the subject still focus on reducing the emissions that lead to it rather than on the now equally pressing question: how do we respond to the crisis itself ?
The work to prepare us all for such a worrying array of extreme weather events brought on by climate change – including floods, heatwaves, droughts and cyclones – is known as ‘adaptation’ and , according to a number of experts, it is far from being given the attention or the money it deserves. A recent report from the UK’s Climate Change Committee, the statutory body established in 2008 to report on the climate crisis and the government’s response, states: “Adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags near the stove, under-resources, under-funded and often overlooked.
Adaptation is a different problem than understanding and reducing what we put into the atmosphere. Since we are all sensitive to extreme weather events, this requires national and international coordination to ensure that sufficient resources are provided but not duplicated or poorly spent, and it also requires local implementation, as each location is affected in different ways. Coastal areas require quite different protection than high-rise buildings in a mega-city, for example.
In the UK, those working in adaptation and with local government say national government needs to help the many agencies, groups and councils involved in three areas in particular: coordination of response, sufficient funding and well directed and consistent and powerful communication.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) said: “Long-term sustainable funding and a national framework for dealing with the climate emergency are essential. The framework should clearly define the responsibilities of government at national and local levels, with a commitment to work with local public sector bodies.
Kristen Guida, director of the London Climate Change Partnership, a group of organizations interested in or responsible for climate resilience in London, agrees with the adaptation assessment made by the Climate Change Committee. “I think so is Cinderella, ”she said. The first step to changing this is national coordination, which means that “central government must step up and really require” organizations to take adaptation seriously.
“We need a strategically coherent and ambitious national adaptation program. He needs the resources attached to him.
“The fact that climate change is being addressed by different ministries is not particularly helpful, but it is not necessarily the end. You need someone who coordinates the activities, ”she says, like“ a team within DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] or the Cabinet Office or BEIS [Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] which actually looks at these different areas, because climate change adaptation should actually be linked to climate change mitigation. “
The AGL agrees with Guida’s assessment, stating: “Investing in adaptation can have far-reaching co-benefits that can be harnessed by all public and private sectors, if they are supported and mobilized by government in the right way. Benefits could be realized not only in the environment, but also in health and the NHS, housing and inequality, employment, business and industry, infrastructure and safety.
Adaptation of funding
When asked what is preventing UK local government from tackling adaptation, Alison Ring OBE, FCA, Director of Public Sector at ICAEW is unequivocal. “I don’t think he has any resources. He experienced austerity for 10 years, and then had to deal with the pandemic.
“A lot of local authorities have declared climate emergencies, and it could be in terms of flooding or something similar, which is obviously locally relevant. But I think they don’t have the capacity or the capacity to respond to this climate emergency that they have declared. “
In particular, she explains, local authorities do not even have the resources to ensure that they get whatever funding is available. “Say, for example, there were grants to adapt your house, to make it heat resistant. Who is responsible for providing these grants locally? Is it the local authority?
It’s very fuzzy, she said.
Ring spoke to a board who created a post dedicated to understanding and claiming all of the different grants available. These grants were mostly for sustainability issues, but then, she says, “It could be for other things, because there are all these different pots – upgrading, upgrading the main streets, and so on. No money is paid out automatically. Each council must apply for individual grants. This can cause big problems, as councils that have the money to spend to apply for these grants will then get the money to do the job, but for those who don’t have the funds or time to apply, they will lose, and it can turn into a vicious cycle.
As with any type of risk management, top-down funding and advice can’t go any further. It is crucial that everyone involved in making day-to-day decisions on countless issues, from approving building permits to education policy, understands why adaptation is so important and how to take it into account.
Guida says that so far many people working in climate roles do not appreciate the importance of communication in adaptation, and that the Climate Change Committee has called for “someone to take the lead. responsibility to communicate this risk to people. They have been saying this in their reports for a very long time. And everyone continues to ignore the advice.
She adds that, because adaptation work is so specific at the local level, “you can only necessarily take people that far… because every situation will be different.
“You have to talk to people about the right methods to understand the risks [they face]. You can provide people with good frameworks to figure out, for example, what the potential costs of extreme weather events are. You can build capacity that way and help people get to where they can begin to figure out what the solutions are for themselves. “
She also says that if she were to prioritize where to place limited communications funds – targeting the general public or people in decision-making positions (in companies or non-commercial organizations) – she would choose decision-makers, especially those in teams. of management.
“If I had to choose one, I would go for management teams. And that’s why we’ve been working with accountants for many years, because the financial mechanisms within the organization need to get that, you know, and if they get it, then they can actually say : “Okay, that actually affects the bottom line. It affects our ability to keep delivering whatever we’re supposed to do.
It is high time that we all understood what we need to do to adapt to a new climate, especially chartered accountants.