Adaptation governance

With the increasing importance of adapting to accommodate future changes in our climate, governments are developing approaches and guidelines to help businesses and organisations manage those risks.


The UK and its individual countries have legislation in place to help address climate change.


The Climate Change Act 2008 legislates for climate change mitigation and adaptation. It sets the requirements for the Climate Change Risk Assessment, the National Adaptation Programme and the Adaptation Reporting Power. Part 4 of the Act deals with adaptation.

The Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. They advise the UK government and devolved administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) is part of the CCC, and was established to support the CCC in advising and reporting on progress in adaptation. It is jointly sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

The ASC’s reports on adaptation are useful guides to how well prepared the UK is for climate change impacts, and the issues that need to be addressed.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is prioritising the risks of climate change and identifying appropriate actions. A Northern Ireland Adaptation Plan will be produced in 2013. Support for adaptation measures in NI is provided by Climate Northern Ireland.


The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires a Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) to address the risks identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland. It also requires public bodies to help deliver this programme. Climate change adaptation policy for Scotland is explained in a short document (pdf, 370 KB), with the next SCCAP to be developed in 2017.

[tab name=”Policy”]Policy decisions are made by the UK government in conjunction with the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


The government is responsible for setting the policy and regulatory context for organisations and businesses to implement climate change adaptation. Adaptation action is being delivered in the UK by a range of organisations, including local authorities, businesses, partnership groups and networks, and community-based groups.

Understanding climate risks – CCRA

To better understand the specific risks that climate change poses to the UK, government carried out the first UK climate change risk assessment (CCRA). The assessment gives a detailed analysis of 100 potential impacts of climate change.

The report will be updated every 5 years, with the next assessment due in 2017.

Planning for adaptation – National Adaptation Programme

The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) sets out what government, businesses and society are doing to become more climate ready. The first report was published on 1 July 2013 and will be reviewed every 5 years.

Government developed the NAP as a response to the CCRA, working with businesses, local councils and community groups to develop the programme. Action in the NAP is divided into the following broad categories:

  • raising awareness of the need for climate change adaptation
  • increasing resilience to current climate extremes
  • taking timely action for long-lead time measures
  • addressing major evidence gaps.

Adapting essential services and infrastructure – adaptation reporting power

It is vital that essential services and infrastructure are ready to cope with potential changes in our climate.

Under the adaptation reporting power, Defra asked the organisations responsible to report on how they plan to respond to the risks to their business. The 2013 strategy for exercising the adaptation reporting power was published on 1 July 2013.

Northern Ireland

Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI) leads on climate change policy through the Climate Change Unit, working closely with DECC, Defra and the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales.


The Scottish Government / Riaghaltas na h-Alba leads on climate change policy in Scotland, working closely with DECC, Defra and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland and Wales.


The Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru works with Defra and the Environment Agency on the Agency’s adaptation delivery role in England and on non-devolved matters.

UK organisations


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) leads on domestic adaptation policy in the UK and has a role in mitigation through its influence over important sectors of the economy.

Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) leads the government’s climate change mitigation policy in the UK along with work on international adaptation.

Climate UK is a not-for-profit Community of Interest Company working with Climate Change Partnerships across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to promote action on climate change. It brings together local knowledge and technical expertise from a range of sectors.

Marine Climate Change Partnership (MCCIP)

MCCIP  brings together scientists, government, its agencies and NGOs to provide advice and guidance for policy advisors and decision-makers on climate change impacts around the coast and seas of the UK. It examines how climate change is affecting marine ecosystems, water cleanliness and safety and commercial activities.

MCCIP’s Climate Smart Working bridges the gap between knowledge of marine and coastal climate change impacts and the capacity of organisations to respond.

Living with Environmental Change (LWEC)

LWEC is an interdisciplinary research and policy partnership to tackle environmental change and the societal challenges it poses. The partnership ensures that decision-makers have the knowledge, foresight and tools to mitigate, adapt to and benefit from environmental change.

LWEC consists of 22 organisations, including the UK research councils, government departments with environmental responsibilities, devolved administrations and government agencies. One of the six core challenges focuses on understanding the risks of climate change and assess options for avoiding or managing such risks.

A series of Policy and Practice Notes draw out conclusions and recommendations from LWEC-funded research. They present accessible key findings that are tailored to specific audiences.


The Environment Agency’s Climate Ready Support Service provides advice and support to organisations from key sectors in England to help them build resilience to climate change.

Climate Local is an initiative to drive, inspire and support council action on climate change, and succeeds the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change. The framework reflects local priorities and opportunities for action, and is hosted by the Local Government Association for England and Wales.

Northern Ireland

Climate Northern Ireland provides support for adaptation by stimulating, supporting and promoting action. The partnership is made up of representatives from central and local government, the business community, the voluntary sector and professional organisations. Scottish & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) provides the secretariat.


Adaptation Scotland provides advice and support to help ensure that Scotland is prepared for, and resilient to the impacts of climate change. Adaptation Scotland is managed by Scottish & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER).


The Welsh Governments’ Adaptation Framework builds information on climate change impacts, mainstream adaptation within the Government and public bodies, and raises awareness of impacts and responses. Sectoral Adaptation Plans and Supporting tools and resources are also being developed.



Within the European Commission (EC), the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) is responsible for action on climate change adaptation. Established in 2010, it leads international negotiations on climate, helps the EU to deal with the consequences of climate change and to meet its targets for 2020.

Climate ADAPT was developed by the EC for policy makers and practitioners to share experience of adaptation actions. The website and associated documents provide information on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe.

Climate Impact Research & Response Coordination for a Larger Europe (CIRCLE-2) is a European Network of 34 institutions from 23 countries. The network funds research and shares knowledge on climate adaptation, and enables long-term cooperation among national and regional climate change programmes. It maximises how research outcomes address both national and European climate policy needs.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets a framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle climate change that has led to a number of programmes including:

There are now 195 Parties to the Convention with annual international negotiations at the Conference of the Parties (COP).

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) helps developing countries reduce vulnerability and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. The work is guided by and contributes to the Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation.

Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) is a global initiative working on improving the coordination of international research on the impacts of and responses to climate change. The PROVIA Secretariat is currently hosted by UNEP in Nairobi.