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Sally-Ann Hart is the MP for Hastings and Rye, and was a councillor in Rother.

The narrative around climate change has largely been focused on cutting carbon emissions and to some extent, sequestering carbon. However, the reality of climate change is that every country, including the UK, will need to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Climate change has triggered more extreme weather conditions causing primarily heatwaves, droughts, high precipitation and flooding. Adapting to the impacts around the globe is a daunting prospect, but adaptation will undoubtedly keep the human population safer.

Throughout history, humans have adapted to the effects of climate change, including by migration – perhaps a reason why we have been around for so long.

Taking steps now to adapt to future change will make us more resilient and less vulnerable to its impacts. Adaptation can include traditional engineering projects such as seawalls or other coastal defences as sea levels rise; but the natural environment (wetlands, trees, vegetation and green roofs, for example) also has a significant role to play.

Adaptation covers everything from water storage to drought-resistant crops, from green urban areas to protecting and restoring natural indigenous ecosystems. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, adaptation has increasingly been framed in a wider context of strengthening resilience, which covers the ability to respond to a range of threats.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) reports on progress in adapting to climate change in England, with many of its previous recommendations for improving adaptation planning and implementation in England being taken up by the Government and its arms’ length bodies, accepting CCC’s central message that it must take greater action to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

However, in its latest risk assessment, the CCC stated that “adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored.” It has advised the Government to urgently plan for adaptation to a 2°C world, and plan for 4°C.

The UK’s National Adaptation Plan sets out potential actions to address climate change risks. Investment in flood defence and improving resilience to flooding is substantial, with the Government spending nearly £900m on flood and coastal erosion risk management in England in 2019/20.

A long-term approach to flooding is essential; spending on prevention is better than the reactive spending required to mop up the mess.

The recently released IPCC report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, acknowledged that climate change has already caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people – and to a greater extent than estimated in previous assessments.

Climate change is and will increasingly cause extensive and sometimes irreversible damage to ecosystems, and this degradation of ecosystems increases the vulnerability of people. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.

Nature-based solutions offer cost-effective adaptation to climate change whilst also providing benefits to people and wildlife. Safeguarding biodiversity is fundamental for climate-resilient societal development. Conservation, protection and restoration of land, freshwater, coastal and ocean ecosystems, together with targeted management to adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change, reduces the vulnerability of biodiversity to climate change.

Sustainable food production using agroecological principles and practices, ecosystem-based management in fisheries and aquaculture, and other approaches that work with natural processes support food security, nutrition, health and well-being, livelihoods and biodiversity. These practices also help to sequester and capture carbon.

I was interested to read Nature-Based Solutions in UK Climate Adaptation Policy, written by Oxford University’s Nature-based Solutions (NbS) Initiative and commissioned by the RSPB and the WWF-UK.

The report highlights the opportunities and policy support needed to implement NbS across the UK in ways that deliver for nature, climate and people. It also outlines how NbS offers opportunities to mitigate the eight key risks identified by the CCC in the UK, while supporting the provision of public and private goods.

NbS contribute to reducing our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Using green roofs to reduce stormwater runoff in urban areas, for example, reduces the exposure of people and assets to climate hazards.

By diversifying livelihoods and enhancing the resilience of timber and food production to pests, pathogens and less water availability, we can reduce our sensitivity to climate shocks and through governance reform, empowerment, and improving access to natural resources we can enhance the adaptive capacity of individuals and communities.

NbS have huge potential and should be integrated in the forthcoming National Adaptation Plans. NbS are no longer peripheral, and Defra has already started to develop policies that should be rolled out across all sectors. NbS can be measured and monitored for their effectiveness by using defined metrics, indicators and targets and standards can be set for high-quality NbS, benefiting nature, our environment and people.

Increased funding is required. But it does not have to be the sole responsibility of government; three per cent of private financing mobilised under the 2018 Paris Agreement went into adaptation, with more than 95 per cent going towards mitigation. Adaptation will increase resilience, benefiting businesses and financial institutions, as well as nature and people.

Emma Howard-Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, has recently highlighted the need to ensure that the race to net zero runs hand in hand with the race to resilience with ‘resilience [being] the missing link in investment in net-zero and nature’.

We have a window of opportunity to take action to adapt to climate change and avoid the worst impacts and political commitment and follow-through across all levels of government to accelerate the implementation of adaptation actions is vital. I believe that will is there.