Drawing on expertise in climate-related policy and technologies, innovation policy, and climate-focused behaviour change and information environments, the StateUp team reacts to UK Government’s Third National Adaptation Programme published today. StateUp experts comment on aspects including how to make the most of the newly announced Climate Resilience Board, public procurement as a missing adaptation level within the strategy, and the huge – yet under-discussed – carbon footprint of the built environment.
Key Insights include:
- Climate Resilience Board is welcome and must have teeth, infrastructure, and clear mandate behind it
- Public procurement is forgotten policy lever in NAP3, should be central to adaptation plan
- Greater evidence needed on behavioural factors that could influence wide-scale adoption of policy and technology innovations
- Insurers’ role is underplayed, must extend beyond response to climate impacts to help de-risk development and use of resilience-enhancing innovation too
- Climate impacts are happening now and international funding must reflect this urgency
Dr. Tanya Filer, Founder and CEO of StateUp, said:
On the Climate Resilience Board
“Experts are right to identify shortfalls in the National Adaptation Programme, but it contains a vital recommendation. One way to hold governments accountable on their decarbonisation policies is to have a dedicated senior board whose role is to scrutinise and report on governments’ progress towards their own net zero emissions. It is therefore encouraging to see that The Cabinet Office and Defra, working with HM Treasury, will establish a new, senior officials Climate Resilience Board to oversee strategic, cross-cutting climate adaptation and resilience issues and drive further government action to increase UK resilience to climate change.”
“This board cannot be perfunctory—it must have teeth and an infrastructure around it. If filled by figures who are well-regarded within government and respected by sector leaders and innovators, it can act as a vital two-way channel. The board can both rally sectors behind the government’s priorities – providing these are clearly articulated – and represent its interests to government figures. It also has the added benefit of signalling political commitment.”
On international lesson learning
“While the strategy commits to international cooperation in various ways, it does not talk specifically about finding and building mechanisms with trusted partners with whom to share lessons and ideas – this is essential in areas of innovation, where nobody has all of the right answers. We know from other countries that where high-level climate resilience initiatives sit within the machinery of government will impact their capacity to act speedily and in enduring ways. The Centre for Greening Government sits within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which affords it prestige and the ability to act. Singapore has taken an alternative approach. Its Green Plan is spearheaded by a coalition of powerful ministries, including the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education, and includes a green government strand, a revamp of the Public Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental Sustainability (PSTLES) programme, under the GreenGov.SG label. While neither model is easy to replicate, UK Government should ensure it is learning from elsewhere.”
We know from other countries that where high-level climate resilience initiatives sit within the machinery of government will impact their capacity to act speedily and in enduring ways.
On public procurement and innovation
“Worryingly, almost no direct mention is made of centralised green public procurement. In 2018, the World Bank Group estimated that global government procurement amounts to $11 trillion annually, or approximately 12% of global GDP. Every element of government spend – from equipping schools to building transportation systems, to forest management, to stationary supplies – comes with its own Scope 3 emissions, as I discussed at the recent McGovern Foundation-Open Contracting Partnership roundtable on the topic. So UK Government, across departments, must work to influence their suppliers throughout the end to end procurement process.”
“Directing government procurement spending toward more sustainable projects represents a major opportunity not only to reduce emissions created by governments’ own operations, but also to encourage the development of technologies capable of mitigating and helping societies adapt to the climate crisis. As our States Regenerate report explores in detail, while NAP3 pays some attention to the role of UKRI in stimulating early-stage innovation, there is a critical role, as innovations move beyond R&D, for government to serve as customer – and sometimes first customer – boosting demand for green technologies in a wide range of sectors, from transport to construction.”
Dr. Eszter Czibor, Head of Research at StateUp, said:
On evidence and behaviour change
“It is encouraging that the Strategy notes the importance of research and information sharing, including through systems-level evidence, as integral to building climate resilience capability. But it is crucial that the focus on system-wide forces is complemented by attention to individual decision making. Decisions to adopt and use promising resilience-building innovations (whether at the household, business, utilities provider or infrastructure megaproject level) are ultimately made by people, whose beliefs, prior knowledge and experiences, preferences and biases influence their choices. To successfully embed innovative solutions supporting climate adaptation across sectors, including in our buildings and infrastructure, we need to understand not just financial and regulatory barriers, but also the most important behavioural obstacles limiting the uptake and efficient use of climate innovations. It is surprising to see almost no mention in the strategy of mapping and tackling behavioural barriers such as present bias, risk aversion or status quo bias.”
It is crucial that the focus on system-wide forces is complemented by attention to individual decision making.
On the role of insurers
“The Strategy correctly identifies the crucial role that insurers play in shaping the response to increased climate- and severe weather-related risks. However, the focus is mainly on ensuring access to affordable insurance solutions to increase protection against climate impacts; insurers’ role in building resilience into the design of infrastructure systems is merely mentioned but not explored or linked to action. This feels like a missed opportunity to leverage insurers’ unique position to encourage developers of large infrastructure projects to embed crucial resilience-enhancing innovations across the built environment. Innovative insurance products that provide direct financial incentives for climate-related risk monitoring and prevention throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure projects represent a win-win situation for policyholders and insurers alike, and could provide a much-needed boost for the uptake of resilience-enhancing materials, technologies and processes across the built environment.”
Dr. Stephanie Diepeveen, Expert at StateUp, said:
On international dimensions and climate-vulnerable and fragile states
“The strategy recognises the global dimensions and interconnections of climate change impacts, from food security to migration, which is critical given the immediate and disproportionate effects of climate change felt in humanitarian contexts globally. However, ensuring that this funding meets the needs of vulnerable communities now, as well as into the future, is vital. Ongoing research by StateUp and ODI in partnership with Internews in southern Iraq is showing that livestock and agricultural farmers’ livelihoods are already at a crisis point. The strategy’s funding commitment presents an opportunity to explore and implement evidence-based, needs driven localised responses to those most affected by climate change now.”
On information, communications, and climate impacts
In the UK and across the world, it is increasingly critical to ensure people are equipped to understand, process and act on emerging climate-related scenarios and threats, including heat stress and other extreme weather events. Key features of the information environment around climate mitigation and adaptation reveal challenges to developing and sustaining more trusted and trustworthy and resilient information ecosystems. These range from uncertainty about future climate impacts to deliberate, malicious content, intended to deceive about the nature of climate crises. NAP3 places strong attention on “information” but information is not enough alone. Thoughtful, evidence-informed communications and engagement is also needed so that citizens and others are equipped to make climate-related decisions about their lives and livelihoods.
Experts available for comment or consultancy:
- Dr. Tanya Filer is Founder and CEO of StateUp. A widely published expert on the intersections of digital governance and climate-related innovation, she established the Digital State Project at the University of Cambridge, and has advised and led climate-resilience related projects with leading governments and international organisations including UNDP, Centre for Digital Built Britain, the World Bank Group and more. Contact: email@example.com
- Dr. Eszter Czibor is Head of Research at StateUp. A behavioural economist and green innovation expert, she has led numerous projects focused on climate-resilience innovation and adoption, and evaluations of BEIS- and European Commission-funded innovation programmes and policies. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Stephanie Diepeveen is an Expert at StateUp. She has conducted extensive research, at StateUp, ODI – where she is Senior Research Fellow – and the University of Cambridge, and led numerous projects focused on climate change, international development, and information ecosystems. Contact: email@example.com
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