“Mitigate to survive and adapt to thrive”, Environment Agency chief states


If adaptation is overlooked and not placed hand in hand with mitigation targets, the bigger the bill that we will hand to future generations will be, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan will highlight today in a speech (29 November).

The speech follows the conclusion of COP27 in Egypt, where the UN Secretary-General warned that the world was on the “highway to climate hell”. Bevan will highlight that a renewed focus on mitigating the impact of climate change is crucial.

In a speech at the Institute for Government in London, Bevan will focus on his opinion that world attention has allowed substantial progress in tackling emissions. He will also say, however, that action on adaptation has been far too slow and that the UK has so far largely failed to adapt much of its critical infrastructure to the climate emergency, threatening the country’s security and prosperity.

Sir James Bevan is expected to say: “Unless we can start closing the widening gap between adaptation action and worsening climate risk, various ugly sisters will rear their heads. We will see significant and growing threats to our habitats, our soil health, our crops, our power systems, our physical and mental health, and our economy.

The longer we leave it to adapt, the bigger the bill we are handing to our children.

“And the longer we leave it to adapt, the bigger the bill we are handing to our children. Because it will be they who are forced to pay for the deterioration of our climate-vulnerable infrastructure and the disruptive consequences of climate impacts.

He will go on to warn that government investment alone will not tackle the issue, despite the progress he says has been made by the UK Government on adaption through its third five-year National Adaptation Plan and commitments to triple its international funding for climate adaptation.

Reflecting on the role of government and the private sector, he is expected to say: “The UK government has a leading role to play in this, and it is playing it.

“But in one sense governments, here and elsewhere, can only be the fairy godmother of climate adaption, because while governments can change some things, including by giving political leadership, setting standards and addressing market failures, they cannot change everything.

“For that, every section of society needs to play a part in making us resilient to a climate-changed world: from businesses to NGOs, to each one of us personally.”

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