For businesses in England and Wales, the regulatory tide is turning towards climate resilience. A new era of environmental accountability requires a Climate Change Risk Assessment [Climate Change RA] to be completed by the 1st April 2024.
Climate Risk Assessors [UK Environment Agency and Natural Resource Wales assessors] find that 1 in 10 sites will face a high risk of disruption from climate change in the next 15 years. The new mandate aims to prevent and tackle unpreparedness.
So what does this mean?
The new Climate Change RA requires companies to assess the impact of a 2°C rise in temperature by 2050 and a 4°C rise by 2100 on their operational sites. This risk assessment will form the foundation of the Climate Change Adaptation Plan, a 2026 Climate Change requirement for all companies in England and Wales.
Most companies that operate physical sites across England and Wales will have already experienced and therefore assessed flood risk, but this is no longer enough. We have found that flooding tends to become the focus at the expense of other risks, that can and likely will become a risk during the lifetime of their site. Few in England and Wales think beyond flood risks, to address those risks that aren't regularly affecting them yet, for example: increasing heat, soil movement and drought. These additional risks are all vital to consider in order to qualify for the environmental permit risk assessment.
The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales guidance point to standards ISO14090 “Climate Adaptation” and ISO14091 “Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment” as benchmarks that aligns with their Climate Risk Assessment requirements. Environment Agency inspectors are currently receiving training in the requirements of these standards as they prepare to assess companies for these additional permits.
What it means for your company:
Companies will need to actively identify and assess all climate-related risks and vulnerabilities across their site, including physical risks (floods, droughts, etc.)
Companies will also need to assess risks posed by impacts on the site to the neighbouring environment.
Companies operating in the nuclear and COMAH sectors will need to look at their additional regulatory requirements – you can read more about this on the dedicated government webpage.
Are there any benefits beyond compliance?
Cost savings: Investing in climate resilience upfront can lead to long-term efficiency gains, reduced downtime, and lower insurance premiums.
Market advantage: Consumers and investors are increasingly prioritising climate-conscious brands. Demonstrating preparedness can attract talent, secure funding, and boost your reputation.
Future-proofing your business: The shift towards a low-carbon economy is inevitable. Adapting now positions you for success in the future.
So, what should you do now?
Conduct a preliminary assessment: Take stock of your potential climate risks and vulnerabilities. This will help you understand your starting point and prioritise actions.
If high risks are identified conduct a more detailed risk assessment.
Seek expert guidance: Don't go it alone. Consultants and environmental specialists can help you navigate the complexities of the Climate Risk Assessment and develop effective mitigation strategies.
Use the risk assessment as a foundation for the climate adaptation plan required in 2026.
Opportunity for sustainable growth: The Environment Agency and NRW's Climate RA mandate may seem daunting, but it's also an opportunity. By embracing climate resilience, companies can not only comply with regulations but also build a more sustainable, profitable, and future-proof business.
Now is the time to take action!