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Establishing UK climate adaptation regulation

Establishing standardised approaches to climate adaptation regulation for UK Environment Agencies.

Establishing standardised approaches to climate adaptation regulation for UK Environment Agencies.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA) wanted to examine the value of using the ISO14090:2019 Adaptation to climate change Standard to regulate businesses’ response and planning to adapt to climate change.  

The agencies, aware that climate change will impact every business, needed to understand how operators of regulated sites will assess how climate change will impact their business and whether climate change and a company’s management of it could result in a failure to comply with statutory duties, and what adaptations are required to protect the operation and maintain appropriate regulatory compliance. ISO 14090 is the standard that will assist operators in those preparations.  

Climate Sense approach

The Climate Sense team helped lead the development of the International standard, ISO 14090. This regulatory expertise, alongside our proprietary adaptive capacity mapping tool [CaDD] enable the Climate Sense team to analyse an organisations’ capacity and capability to deliver climate adaptation solutions that are in line with ISO 14090, in particular, its ‘preplanning’ requirements. Our tools permit rapid, efficient analyses of often complex matters. 

We worked with SEPA and the EA to analyse 9 companies, across the waste, water and coastal management sectors to understand their performance related to ISO 14090 Clause 5 which sets out how an organisation should assess, and where necessary establish the capability of the organisation to undertake a climate adaptation plan.  Using both the CaDD and RAPA tools, alongside human interview we:


  1. Provided a rapid initial insight into how aligned the current practice of regulated organisations is to the requirements of the standard using our unique CaDD tool;  

  1. Established areas of a regulated organisation’s practice that the standard would support improvement;  

  1. Brought about the first formal step in implementing the standard (Clause 5-Pre-Planning); and,  

  1. Identified next step actions for the development of adaptive capacity (the ability of the organisations to make better climate-informed decisions). 


This study also explored the value of using the ISO14090 standard to initiate organisational adaptation plans and strategies, specifically whether the standard is sufficiently focused and flexible (and not too burdensome) for business to use in a manner that is proportionate to the risks.  

As a result, Climate Sense were also able to confirm the Standard’s value as a facilitation tool to support already established Climate Regulation and the objectives of the two environment agencies. The project found that the ISO 14090 standard is a particularly useful tool to encourage good practice.  Discussions with the two environment agencies highlighted that the ISO14090 adaptation work needs to continue, and a number of next steps were proposed to progress this work.  Importantly, this exercise increased the awareness in the candidate organisations of the need to promote climate resilience. Many had been more focussed on greenhouse gas mitigation efforts and the drive to ‘net zero’ 

Climate Sense’s expertise brought rapid, cost-effective analysis from across a diverse set of businesses and proved the worth of using ISO 14090 in the field of regulation. The project established a proven correlationbetween measurable progress of compliance and efficiently focusing on regulation.

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