The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) assigns local government the responsibility for helping districts adapt to climate risk, with priorities being raising awareness, building capacity and promoting action on climate change. The Committee on Climate Change is monitoring NAP implementation and reporting to Parliament.

We were commissioned, in partnership with JBA Consulting, to find out how English local authorities were reflecting these priorities. We focused on areas with high climate risk (flooding, coastal erosion, water scarcity and overheating) and reviewed local authorities’ plans, strategies and development management decisions.

We found the focus tended to be on current rather than future risk. Flooding is most commonly addressed in policies and planning application decisions, doubtless a reaction to high-profile flooding events and recent legislation and national policy. Unsurprisingly, coastal authorities are best at identifying flooding and erosion risks and promoting adaptation. On the other hand, other climate risks such as water scarcity and overheating are rarely reflected in policy or decisions.

Our research provided the Committee with a snapshot of adaptation activity; work which will form the basis of the report to Parliament and may well shape future adaptation policy and practice.

The success of this project has led to commissions elsewhere in the UK, including Scotland.

For help in introducing NAP recommendations into your local authority planning considerations, please contact Nick James, Taran Livingston or Jeremy Owen.