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New research finds UK underprepared for climate change

Two sun-chairs stand on sun-parched brown lawn in front of green trees and the buildings of Anglesey Abbey
Parched lawn in the Rose Garden at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire | © National Trust Images/Mike Selby

Ahead of the Government’s new National Adaptation Programme, which will set the Government’s climate adaptation agenda for the next five years, we share new research that shows that the UK is 'lagging behind' in preparedness for climate change.

The research, which was carried out by policy and research consultancy Public First, aims to understand what policy changes are needed to ensure the Government prioritises climate adaptation, as it has for mitigation following the 2019 net zero pledge. It found that the UK is currently unprepared for the impacts of climate change.

We're calling for more ambitious policies to prepare society for climate change to protect the country’s much-loved heritage, landscapes and communities which are under increasing threat from extreme weather events and their consequences for everyday life.

What is adaptation?

Adaptation is a strategy to manage the impacts of climate change which focuses on increasing our preparedness for the changes it'll bring, for example by planting drought-resistant species in gardens and woodlands to ensure they're better suited to hotter and drier weather.

It is different from so-called mitigation, which focusses on reducing the factors that cause climate change, such as decreasing the use of fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy.

What the public said


of the UK public think the country is well-prepared for climate change


of UK adults want to see immediate steps taken by Government to respond to the threats of climate change


of the UK public are worried they'll be personally affected by the destruction of nature caused by climate change

A fire at Zennor Head in Cornwall
A fire at Zennor Head in Cornwall in July 2022 | © National Trust Images

Why did we commission this research?

Climate change poses the single biggest threat to the nature-rich landscapes and historic places that we've been looking after for generations. From coastal change which wipes away undiscovered archaeology to higher temperatures causing greater risk of outdoor fires, its impacts are multiple and serious.

This new research helps us assess what these risks mean for us, as well as where climate change may present some opportunities to think differently, and what actions we need to take to meet the coming changes with confidence.

Facing into the effects of climate change is the elephant in the room. We need a frank conversation but also urgent action to address the level of risk we face, what we’re prepared to live with, and ambitious targets that can be measured and monitored.

A quote by Keith JonesNational Trust Climate Change Advisor

What happens next?

The Government is expected to release its Third National Adaptation Programme in the coming months. Ahead of this, we'll be sharing the findings of our research with policymakers, urging our leaders to be ambitious and make adaptation a national priority that all Government – rather than just one department – is engaged with.

As it stands, the UK has no set targets for climate adaptation, unlike mitigation, which is driven by the target to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

We believe:

  1. Targets for climate adaptation, or a new policy to put adaptation at the heart of Government, are essential for equipping the UK with the necessary tools to tackle climate change
  2. The new National Adaptation Programme, expected this summer, needs to demonstrate that Government takes climate adaptation as seriously as mitigation

We'll also be looking to publish a full report on the work we're doing on our own land and properties to prepare for the impacts of climate change later this year.

Clear evidence how the erosion of the cliffs due to climate change threatens the archeological site of the hillfort at Dinas Dinlle, Gwynedd

Making Climate Adaptation Matter

Find out more about the importance of climate adaptation in Public First's full report.

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