Engaging with climate services providers

This project brings together UK providers and purveyors of climate services to understand how best to develop the climate services market, and influence and engage with national and European climate services initiatives.

Supported by NERC, UKCIP held workshops across the UK, organised in partnership with Climate NI, Climate Ready, Adaptation Scotland, ClimateXChange, Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government.

Belfast, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff

November 2014

The workshops engaged UK-based organisations who provide or have a role in climate services to support decision-making and other activities. As well as an opportunity to understand the community, developments and opportunities, the workshops:

  • Identified the demand and supply of climate services, and associated barriers and enablers;
  • Helped to identify research needs, knowledge gaps and innovations to support those providing climate related services, and how to link to UK and European Horizon 2020 initiatives; and
  • Explored links, partnership opportunities and challenges, including the role of a network or community of providers at national, UK and European levels.

Scope of climate services

For the purpose of these workshops, climate services were defined as:

The transformation of climate related data – together with other relevant information and data – into customised products such as projections, forecasts, information, trends, economic analyses, assessments (including technology assessments), counselling on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions, and other services in relation to climate or responding to climate change that are of use to society.

The uses to society considered are in the context of climate change impacts, risk and vulnerability assessments, as well as adaptation, mitigation, and disaster risk management.

Climate services is a relatively unfamiliar term and other information is available that is not described as climate services.

Types and scope of participants


  • Belfast – 18
  • London – 33
  • Edinburgh – 22
  • and Cardiff – 19

The workshops attracted 92 representatives from a wide range of providers and users:

  • academic institutions
  • consultancies
  • industry
  • policy-makers (government departments at different levels)
  • government agencies
  • knowledge exchange organisations.

Climate services workshop attendees
Participants saw themselves playing a role in climate services, but were not necessarily aware of other participant’s roles nor see themselves as being part of a community. Differences in awareness largely reflect the relative maturity of the ‘climate service markets’ and the extent of previous collaborations. These differences were also reflected in the range of expressed needs for collaborative links and in the nature and roles of the required climate service community.

Participants play many different roles in climate services, which is seen as particularly important where the services are user-driven and science informed. The boundary between users and providers is often unclear – individuals see themselves as both users and purveyors as they provide data and information, and add value to that of others. They recognise that their roles often span a range of functions e.g. knowledge and data production, synthesis, translation, mobilisation, and the provision of advice and guidance.

The climate service market

The current market for climate services is immature but evolving slowly – mainly due to a lack of demand as there is limited awareness of the services and providers. There is potential for climate servies to be used more widely, but for many, other drivers take priority as climate change is not seen as an imminent issue. This could reduce demand and hinder the development of the cimate services market.

The market is not yet driving supply – more action is needed to improve awareness and stimulate uptake of climate services. Added to this, the user community have limited access and ability to use the services, while there is not a clear understanding of who the providers, purveyors and users (customer base) are.

The market in the water and transport sectors is relatively mature, whilst in the housing and health sectors it is quite new. The potential for growth of climate services may be higher in sectors that traditionally use weather services (e.g. agriculture, forestry and disaster risk management), and where long-term decision-making and major, long-term investments are made (e.g. infrastructure).

Recent growth in the demand for can be attributed to the requirements of EU, UK and other policies and an increasing awareness of potential climate change impacts, including extreme weather events.

At present, climate services primarily comprise:

  • data and information on climate change science e.g. model and scenario projections and observations
  • and products derived from this science.

There seems to be a lack of availability or demand for services that integrate this information with data from other areas (e.g. hydrology and land-use change). Also, much of what is available is generic for the UK, with a lack of local data and region- or sector-specific information.

Participants pointed out the need for greater:

  • engagement of customers in the joint design, development and evaluation of climate services
  • consideration of the type and level of information needed to inform decisions
  • understanding of the varied capacities of users.

Research needs, knowledge gaps and innovations

Overarching elements from the four workshops:

Demonstrations to stimulate action and learning, and to highlight the added value of climate services

  • Initiate peer-to-peer work, case studies and pilot studies looking at specific outcomes and the processes used.
  • Stimulate engagement and demand by demonstrating the value of climate services.
  • Provide knowledge and information to promote the use of climate services in decision-making.
  • Demonstrate the value of climate services within existing decision-making frameworks.

Integration of data and information to support decision-making

  • Integrate climate data, information and knowledge with other decision-making-specific information in priority sectors.
  • Identify what data and information is needed to support assessment and decision-making for life-cycle management, ‘hot spots’ and sector and system interdependencies.
  • Increase the understanding and application of uncertainty and its impacts on decisions – including uncertainties in climate, socio-economics, hydrological and ecosystems, and adaptation.

Understanding and improving links within the climate service landscape

  • Identify what data, information and knowledge is available and who the providers are, and ensure it is accessible for the intended users.
  • Promote the value of adding climate services to decision-making.
  • Identify how to aid better working across sectors to support the development of climate services, including within private/public partnerships and within regions.
  • Improve links between ‘early adopter’ users and the provider community to enable joint design, development and evaluation.

Understanding users and their decisions

  • Understand targeted decisions, how the risk-based approach works and where decisions can be influenced by climate services before designing, developing and evaluating services.
  • Understand users’ needs for climate services, e.g. levels of information, scales and access needed.
  • Prioritise further action by understanding data and information gaps and the implications for decision-making.

Supportive tools and resources, and training

  • Access to climate services via user-friendly interactive platforms that acknowledge other providers
  • Encourage use of climate services to inform decisions, and develop knowledge, skills and supportive infrastructure.
  • Tools and resources to cover social and economic implications in the short and long term.
  • Communications and messages for data, information, knowledge and also decisions, including handling uncertainties. Need to decide on the best mechanisms for targeting specific sectors and disciplines
  • Educational and awareness-raising resources to support professional training.

These research needs, knowledge gaps and innovations reflect that the participants already understand the climate service market, but also that different regions of the UK have varied concerns. The similarities and differences suggest a need for UK-focused climate services, along with a specific focus at a regional level.

Support from research councils and other funding agencies is needed to stimulate this work, but also from government departments and end-users. This includes long-term funding to support the capture and transfer of evidence and information for the development of climate science and climate services. Do we need something similar to the UK Water Research and Innovation Programme?

Climate service network or community

There is support for a climate service community for the UK, but with strands specifically focused for Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. This could be similar to the European Climate Services Partnership. The advantages of such a community include:

  • Sharing learning and opinions on challenges, opportunities and innovations
  • Identifying and mapping current activities, stakeholders and information needs
  • Strong engagement of users, providers and purveyors
  • Fostering links and collaborations at research and project level and beyond, including internationally
  • Tackling barriers and disconnects
  • Supporting capacity building and growing capacities across the UK
  • Creating a climate service community to help drive growth and avoid activities being side-lined or siloed
  • Providing a stronger national voice to promote priorities within and across the UK

Using existing mechanisms and structures rather than inventing new organisations avoids duplicating effort, and stimulates and supports working with others, for example:

  • Climate Northern Ireland
  • Adaptation Scotland
  • ClimateXchange
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Climate Change Commission for Wales
  • Climate Change Consortium for Wales
  • Environment Agency

A Climate Services UK approach is also a possibility, but that would need additional resources and the flexibility to allow responses to meet emerging requirements.

Next steps

Each of the workshops identified next steps:

  • Dissemination of workshop reports and the summary report
  • Informing the participants of developments on Horizon 2020 Roadmap on Climate Services
  • Keeping participants informed of research and innovation calls.

The dialogues on climate services and the development of a related community were welcomed and should continue. The first step is to use existing mechanisms and provide occasional updates, but participants also strongly expressed the need for continued engagement.

Participants shared their thoughts on the nature and scope of the community that would best meet their needs and support the growth of the UK climate service market. Subsequent deliberations emphasised the need for targeted action to establish and support such a community. In particular, further discussions with NERC and Innovate UK are needed to explore and identify possible mechanisms and opportunities. The Environment Agency will consult on a proposal for a UK-wide providers’ network to inform national capability and enable partnership opportunities.