Memorandum submitted by the Joint Nature
Conservation Committee (U19)
1.1 The Joint Nature Conservation Committee
(JNCC) is a forum through which the country nature conservation
agenciesthe Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature
and Scottish Natural Heritagedeliver their statutory responsibilities
for Great Britain as a whole and internationally.
2. GENERAL COMMENTS
2.1 Climate change is likely to be the most
significant and far-reaching environmental threat to have faced
the Earth in its recent history. Greenhouse gas emissions from
human activities are accelerating what was a natural process and
scientific evidence suggests that we are currently committed to
at least 50 years of rapid climate changes (and an average warming
of 1.5ºC in that time). In the longer-term, the amount of
climate change will be determined by decisions made now about
the management of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto
Protocol has raised the political profile of the need to reduce
emissions, but the targets agreed so far are too modest to have
any real effect on the warming trend. However, many see such mitigation
measures as being the solution to the climate problem; the need
to adapt to the more immediate and inevitable impacts of climate
change are often overlooked.
3.1 Climate mitigation is aimed at driving
down greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to manage atmospheric
concentrations of these gases at sustainable levelsboth
in terms of environmental and socio-economic well-being. But due
to the lengthy activity times of greenhouse gases once in the
atmosphere, the effects of mitigation measures, although essential
in moderating climate change in the long term, are unlikely to
be realised until well into the second half of this century.
3.2 JNCC welcomes and supports the commitment
demonstrated by the UK in tackling climate change and its mitigation,
and the international lead it has taken over many related issues.
The UK has a high profile role in international negotiations under
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its policy framework
is firmly focussed on the achievement of ambitious Kyoto targets.
4.1 JNCC is concerned that the UK has not
adequately or explicitly addressed the need for adaptation measures
to accommodate the inevitable effects of climate change over the
next 50 years or more. The comments which follow essentially relate
to this issue.
4.2 The potential effects of climate change
are not widely understood. The concept of "global warming"
has emerged as a popular euphemism for climate change. But temperature
rise is one of a range of consequences of human intervention in
the global climate system. Warming is being accompanied by changing
precipitation patterns, increasing frequencies of extreme weather
(storms, floods, drought) and rising sea levels (as ice sheets
and glaciers melt, and as sea water expands in response to higher
4.3 Cause and effect relationships, predicted
impacts and the urgency with which these need to be addressed,
are not widely appreciated by policy/decision makers or amongst
the public at large. For many, climate change is seen as a long
term problem with no immediate relevance. However, the implications
are already evident and will become more acute in decades to come.
4.4 Humankind has no option but to develop
measures to adapt to climate changenow. It is already having
marked impacts on the environment, societies and economies. Direct
effects are being witnessed on, for example, biodiversity, coastal
processes, human health, buildings, water resources, rural landuse
patterns and the insurance industry. Indirect impacts are influencing
other sectors and areas of activity.
4.5 Clearly, to address the more immediate
impacts of climate change adequately, adaptation measures should
be cross-sectoral, integrated and holistic. Explicit recognition
of climate change in spatial policies and environmental protection
measures is essential in this context. From a biodiversity perspective,
accommodating changing species' distribution in response to climate
change will be a key challenge for conservation. By incorporating
climate change considerations into spatial planning policies,
conservation strategies for protected areas and wider landscapes
would be set alongside policies for land use and coastal change
and water resource management, providing an effective framework
for informed decision making.
4.6 The future impacts of climate change
are the subject of a growing field of research. Typically, such
assessments use sophisticated computer models to simulate responses
under a range of climate scenarios. Simulation models provide
increasingly robust output data which should enable policy/decision
makers to begin to address "adaptation" in the context
of climate change. Whilst not yet being able to ascribe statistical
certainty to any one prediction, models are able to provide a
range of scenarios (least-worst to worst-worst) against which
no-regrets options can be formulated.
4.7 The development of adaptation measures
in the UK largely falls within projects carried out under the
umbrella of the UK Climate Impacts Programme (www.ukcip.org.uk).
JNCC commends its approach and the excellent work carried out
by a very small team of dedicated professionals. However, to tackle
the mounting challenges which characterise the adaptation agenda
effectively, the Programme clearly requires a considerable increase
in resources and a commitment to secure funding beyond the somewhat
restricted arrangements currently in place.
1 October 2004