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The future of Climate Change Risk Assessments

Posted: 20-Dec-2019

It’s now ten years since we prepared the first ever UK-wide Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) for the Government to meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008. Since then we have taken part in two more CCRAs for the Government’s Climate Change Committee and have gone on to help organisations in the private and public sectors to understand and manage the risks of climate change.

But the future of the CCRA is changing fast, so we spoke to our resident experts Helen Udale-Clarke and Eleanor Hall to find out about what may be on the horizon.

Q: As background, can you tell us how the UK-wide CCRA works?

Helen: The national CCRA is done every five years. The results are fed into National Adaptation Programmes (NAP), which set out the actions that each Government will take to adapt to the challenges of climate change across the UK.

The first national CCRA looked at 11 sectors with the aim of covering everything at risk from climate change. These were: flooding and coastal erosion; water resources; agriculture; biodiversity and ecosystem services; built environment; energy; transport; health; marine environment; business and industry; and forestry. These sectors are still covered in the later CCRAs, but they are broken down into broader categories.

Q: So, what is the future for the national CCRA?

Eleanor: The Government wants to move to a platform that enables it to evaluate climate-related risk and adaptation policy on a more continuous basis. We shall still have the CCRA but perhaps not as we’ve known it.

Helen: At the moment both the CCRA and NAP are undertaken every five years. What Eleanor is describing are perpetual updates to risk and adaptation.

Q: Do you think CCRAs will become compulsory in the private sector?

Helen: If anything was to become mandatory I suspect it would be adaptation planning.

Eleanor: To an extent, the Government already has this power under the Climate Change Act and the Adaptation Reporting Power. This means that the Government is allowed to ask any organisation that does something for the public good to disclose the risks they face from weather and climate and describe what they are doing to adapt to them. So the legal background is already there – it could be quite easy to make the change.

Helen: It’s also possible that climate adaptation could become a quality standard, just like ISO9001. British Standards aren’t going down that route yet, but it’s early days. In the future, companies could be certified as ‘climate resilient’. A new standard for climate change adaptation – BS EN ISO 14090:2019 – was published earlier this year.

Q: How will doing a voluntary CCRA help private-sector organisations?

Helen: Any organisation that undertakes a CCRA and then follows this up with an adaptation plan is likely to be better protected against current and future risks related to climate.

Eleanor: And, as with any other risk, if you mitigate that risk you’re more sustainable and hopefully more profitable.

Helen: Yes, and investors are likely to want their investments to be climate resilient. If you can’t show you are meeting resilience standards then investors may go elsewhere.

Q: If an organisation decides to undertake a CCRA, how much time and effort is involved?

Helen: Doing a CCRA can be a very involved process, so when I’m talking to organisations I encourage them to consider the purpose of the study first. Scoping is very important and the time it takes to scope a study properly shouldn’t be underestimated. Setting boundaries gives an understanding about what you are or are not taking into consideration.

A CCRA can range from a quick stakeholder engagement exercise (often as a workshop) to the sort of detailed numerical modelling that we are more well known for doing at HR Wallingford. But you need to understand where that fits into an organisation’s decision making processes and provide something appropriate.

Eleanor: It’s also important to understand that you don’t have to do it all at once. The idea is that it fits in with other risk management processes – you prioritise, monitor and review continuously.

Helen: Eleanor is absolutely right. It’s not something you do once, go away and forget about. It is an iterative process used to inform an organisation’s decision-making and ultimately its ability to adapt to a changing climate.

If you’d like to find out more about CCRAs , contact Helen on 01491 822325 or h.udale-clarke@hrwallingford.com or Eleanor on 01491 822255 or e.hall@hrwallingford.com.

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