Adapting for a warmer UK is essential risk management, and we need both the public sector and the private sector to invest in adaptation. But we won't achieve the scale of investment without good regulation, good risk management tools and standards, and good governance. This was the message in my speech to Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum this morning (8 December 2020) as part of an excellent debate on the subject of "climate change adaptation - priorities, the strategic pathway to net zero emissions and ambitions for COP26".
I was asked to address the opportunities arising from the UK's hosting of COP26 for global adaptation, from a legal perspective. I suggested that, although the UK is a long way from having all of the answers, there are some valuable lessons to share from the UK's work on understanding, mapping and managing the risks arising from a warming climate. However, this is only part of the story: transparency on how the risks are being managed is essential to enable stakeholders to hold both those in the public sector and those in the private sector to account.
In the public sector, the UK can use COP26 to promote the the successes of the mechanisms within the Climate Change Act 2008 and its creation of the Climate Change Committee - a structure that is now over a decade old but still a strong blueprint for public accountability. There is real value in an independent statutory body with the expertise to scrutinise the government's progress on adaptation and communicate its views clearly, which then allows stakeholders - parliament, the electorate and the business community - to understand this complex area. There are obvious parallels with the future Office for Environmental Protection (and equivalents in the devolved administrations) and I discussed this as well in my presentation (for those who are interested in this, look out for the report from WEET or get in touch).
A similar drive towards transparency can be seen in the private sector too. The Chancellor's announcement on 9 November that the UK will become the first country in the world to make Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) aligned disclosures fully mandatory across the economy by 2025 will ensure that steps to manage the physical risks of climate change on UK businesses and their international supply chains will be visible to investors, customers and employees, which again enables effective scrutiny (and prudent investment decisions) by stakeholders.
Given the global nature of capital and the global nature of climate change, the UK government will no doubt want to promote global action on public and private transparency during its leadership of COP26.
UK climate change adaptation - priorities, the strategic pathway to net zero emissions, and ambitions for COP26