Adaptation to Climate Change
Adaptation is understanding these impacts of climate change, and altering our behaviour to respond. It means not only protecting against negative impacts, but also making us better able to take advantage of any benefits. The earlier we start adapting, the less it will cost and the better equipped we will be to cope with these and other potential changes – environmental, societal and economic. Successful forward planning – not just responding to emergency situations – will save lives and money
National Picture The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Adaptation Sub-committee published in Sept 2010 the first UK wide assessment on how the well prepared the
country is for the already unavoidable impacts of climate change,
including preparing for health and infrastructure impacts of changes in
temperature, weather and resource availability and developing resilience. The report has been described as a 'wake up call' - for more information visit the report's website.
What are the adaptation responsibilities for the NHS? The Climate Change Act 2008 introduced a new power for the Secretary of State to direct “reporting authorities” (companies with functions of a public nature such as water and energy utilities) to prepare reports on how they are assessing and acting on the risks and opportunities from a changing climate. Monitor is the reporting body for health and social care and will send its first report in September 2011, which will report collectively for all Foundation Trusts. However, it is still yet to be decided if it will include adaptation in annual reporting for individual Foundation Trusts. In the meantime, all government departments (inlcuding the Dept of Health) have produced a climate change adaptation plan (see box on right). For more information about adaptation visit the Defra website.
It is essential that the organisations responsible for vital services and infrastructure are making the necessary plans to prepare for the risks from a changing climate. This will include undertaking a climate change risk assessment and developing an appropriate adaptation plan, as well as including adaptation in other relevant plans and policies (for instance, emergency and heatwave planning and responses to the Civil Contingencies Act).
The NHS Sustainable Development Unit has produced a guidance document for NHS Trusts on Adapting to climate change (see 'key information' box right or click here). It states that, ‘NHS organisations should focus on impacts on operational delivery, for example, disruption in the supply chain of food (quality and quantity), energy, clean air and drinking water, flooding events, effect and impact on staffing, etc. This should be analysed through a comprehensive risk assessment that demonstrates an organisation’s commitment and delivery.
In addition to a comprehensive risk assessment, a progressive statement set could be adopted and evaluated for compliance, for example:
- Climate change risk assessment is a clear component of corporate risk appraisal
- Risk assessment enables the Trust to make evidence based decisions
- Demonstrable use of relevant and appropriate data/knowledge/tools
- Explicit consideration of uncertainty and response
- Risk assessment generates priorities for action
- Risk assessment identifies opportunities
- Clear demonstration of an adaptive management approach
- Monitoring and evaluation of adaptation effectiveness
Tools and support: There are many tools to help organisations assess risks and develop plans for action:
- The UK Climate Impact Programme’s (UKCIP) website provides information on projected climate impacts
- Defra's Adapting to Climate Change pages includes links to additional support and guidance on the Reporting Power
- The Environment Agency’s adaptation guidance for Local Authorities (good information for NHS Trusts as well)
- “Future Worlds” is a set of images showing potential ways to adapt to climate change in both urban and natural environments, based on our understanding of what the climate will be like in 2030.