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  • Writer's pictureDoogie Black

The ticking clock on Climate Adaptation

Photo Credit: Lucas Santos

The European Environment Agency's first climate risk assessment, published on Sunday, makes for a harrowing read - from wildfires burning down homes to violent weather straining public finances. Well researched and well presented, the authors should be congratulated for their powerful representation of the facts. 

Similar messages have this week also been reinforced by the UK Climate Change Committee March 2024 assessment on the UK Government National Adaptation Plan, it found that “the UK’s [government] current approach to adaptation is not sufficient for the risks”, and that “its key failure remains the absence of a credible vision for a well-adapted UK, resilient to the climate risks now facing British people and businesses”. It would be easy to despair and run. But instead, I found several reasons for optimism in this recognition of the challenges we face. 

 As an adaptation practitioner (It’s my 21st year in this field – is there a party for that?!) it has often felt like we operate in a world so focussed upon measuring risk characteristics at the expense of doing something about that risk. Measuring risk is not adaptation. It is of course critical to adaptation, but is not itself adaptation. I therefore found it refreshing to read that the EEA fully recognises this and points the European risk assessment towards priorities for action. Likewise, the CCC.


Those of you who already know Climate Sense and what we do will know we focus on accelerating climate action, at both an organisational and systemic level, that embeds climate adaptation and resilience through action. 

The EEA Risk report states that “A systems-approach to adaptation and resilience-building must be prioritised on both EU and Member State level”. I couldn’t agree more, as I'm sure all other climate adaptation practitioners will. 


Adaptation to our changing climate however requires multiple competencies that cannot be found in one person, one organisation, and usually not even within one system of organisations. It’s been a long time coming, but I am beginning to witness those critical competencies come together to co-design real pragmatic and transformative action, at both organisational and systemic levels. I see it in the ambition of tenders that generate consortia that combine financial, science, technical, decision-support, and governance expertise, as well as in examples like industry level Roadmaps designed to be regularly updated as learning from experience evolves (e.g. The climate adaptation capacity in the GB Rail Sector Roadmap). 


At Climate Sense, we have been honing our skills for this EEA and CCC calling for decades. Each project we deliver, usually growing in importance and scale, is preparation for the next. The learning and insights from one industry or company’s adaptation action informs and enhances better adaptation for the next project, even between different sectors. 


That said, the EEA report hits a timely mark, “effective policies and action at European and national levels can help reduce these risks”, but in an era where European wide policy is lagging sluggishly far behind, it is on us, adaptation practitioners to talk louder about our successes and share our adaptation learning. 


There remains a window for the UK and Europe to take effective adaptation action, but it is narrowing. We, adaptation practitioners and the companies and industries we serve can make a tangible difference and we should not wait for governments to lead the way. 


As both reports set out, when the consequences of inaction are this severe, it’s not a first past the post-game, it's an everyone past the post-game. 


We look forward to continuing to work in collaboration with all you other beautiful adaptation practitioners, and our clients (at whatever stage of your adaptation journey you find yourselves). The world is recognising adaptation practitioner expertise as a desperately needed superpower.

Let’s get stuck in!! 

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