The meeting in Copenhagen next month is our chance to make a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous climate change. But even if we secure a new global deal, some change is inescapable because of historic and projected emissions, and we need to take action to adapt to it or the consequences could be severe. The earlier we start adapting, the better equipped we will be to cope with the risks to our society, our environment and our economy. Homes and buildings, transport infrastructure and hospitals all need to be resilient to the impacts we face.
The UK climate projections that I launched earlier this year showed many of the likely impacts of climate change for the UK which include warmer, wetter winters, hotter, drier summers, sea level rise and more severe weather including storms, floods, heat waves and droughts. Climate change will affect almost every aspect of our lives and means that we will need some new infrastructure to cope. Action now will reduce costs for individuals, businesses and the public purse later.
The Government are taking the lead. Government Departments will be producing adaptation plans by spring 2010, setting out how they are assessing and managing the risks from climate change across their programmes and estates. The Government are also identifying, assessing, and where possible calculating the cost of climate change risks and opportunities at UK, national and regional level through the UK climate change risk assessment which will be produced by 2012.
In addition to this, the Climate Change Act 2008 gave the Government the power to require certain public bodies and statutory undertakers to assess and report on current risks from climate change and their plans for dealing with these risks.
The Act requires me to lay before Parliament a report on how the Government propose to exercise this power within one year of Royal Assent (by 26 November 2009), setting out the circumstances in which directions are likely to be given (the strategy for using the power) and the kinds of organisation which I consider should be directed as a matter of priority.
Following public consultation on our proposals over the summer, and in accordance with the requirements of the Act, I am today laying this report before Parliament. It focuses on those organisations that are responsible for key public services; energy, water, transport and health. It also ensures that adapting to climate change is embedded into the work of organisations such as the NHS, local authorities, police and fire services by factoring climate change into relevant public sector regulation. Other organisations with functions to protect our natural environment, or which we consider to be of critical importance but do not fit the statutory criteria for direction are being invited to report.
These organisations will have to report to me from summer until the end of 2011 outlining their assessment of the risks climate change poses and the steps they are going to take in response. This information will be used to inform the national adaptation programme which must be laid before Parliament in response to the risk assessment.
Copies of this report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy of the report is also on the DEFRA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/adaptation.
The Government have also published their response to the consultation on the draft strategy for using the reporting power, and have today produced the statutory guidance to reporting organisations. Copies of these documents are also available.