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Is the UK on track to adapt to climate change?

An online conference on UK climate change adaptation for policy-makers and the scientific community is being held on 13-14 October 2020.

The event, which will explore the UK’s readiness to adapt to higher levels of warming in the coming decades, is jointly hosted by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the UK Climate Resilience programme Champions and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The average annual UK temperature is already around 1.2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and the chances of experiencing hot summers like that of 2018 have doubled in recent decades.  Sea levels have risen by 16cm since 1900 and rainfall patterns are changing. Further change is inevitable, with at least another half a degree of warming by 2050 expected. But how much additional climate change the UK will experience beyond this is uncertain and depends on global emissions reductions. Based on current action to curb emissions and associated trajectories, global average temperature increases of 3°C or more above pre-industrial levels are possible by the end of the century. 

The two-day conference considers whether the UK is prepared for the impacts from these higher levels of warming, through an appraisal of the latest scientific evidence, research and adaptation policy. It seeks to identify and assess gaps in the evidence, policy shortcomings and what action could and should be taken to improve resilience to global temperature rises of 3°C or more. Reflections from the conference will be published in a short post-conference summary document.

Day 1 will be opened by Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency and UK Commissioner to the Global Commission on Adaptation. Day 2 will be opened by Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee. Attendees will also hear from the Rt Hon George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Panellists have been drawn from across the UK science and adaptation communities and will address through a series of panel discussions: global and UK climate; the state of UK climate impacts; progress in implementing adaptation actions in the UK, and the governance, awareness, data, cultural and political changes that need to be made to enable the UK to prepare for higher levels global warming if needed.

The conference theme is timely: 2021 sees the publication of a comprehensive new Evidence Report to underpin the UK’s next Climate Change Risk Assessment, which will go on to inform national adaptation programmes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Next year also sees the UK Government hosting the landmark UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Find the conference agenda and speakers online. Video presentations will go live when the conference opens on 13 October.

Follow tweets about the conference using #UKClimateAdapt.