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Blog: The 3 Ps of adaptation: protect people through partnerships

Blog posted by: Mike Keil, Senior Director of Policy, Research and Campaigning, 01 June 2023.

In May, CCW and the Met Office brought together professionals from across the water sector and beyond to a climate change adaptation conference. More than 60 delegates assembled at the Met Office’s Headquarters in Devon to consider the challenges faced by our changing climate. We explored what needs to be done to protect people from the worst of the impacts.

Stellar line-up

This conference featured a stellar line-up, including Alan Lovell (EA Chair), Penny Endersby (Met Office CEO), Emma Clancy (CCW CEO), David Black (Ofwat CEO) and Susan Davy (Pennon CEO). This was a very visual representation of just how seriously the water sector is taking climate change. The conference was well and truly focused on people. It looked at the chain right through from the underpinning science, to the impacts on the water services we rely on every single day and what this means for people.

The need for action

Key themes emerged throughout the day, with the need for action clearly topping the list. The water sector has been great over the last two decades at understanding the science, articulating the challenges, and formulating long-term plans. We saw good evidence of this in our review of water companies’ climate change adaptation reports. However, applying the science and making plans aren’t enough. These must translate through to action and delivery on the ground.

There is no time for hesitation or uncertainty. Action is all the more critical as the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly common. What were once future challenges are now being felt on the ground. This point reappeared throughout the day – you don’t have to look far to see the impacts of climate change. This is where partnerships are essential to make sure effective action takes place.

A climate of collaboration

Effective adaptation will require many partnerships in all shapes and sizes. Some of the water sector partnerships highlighted at the conference included:

  • Scientists to provide impact models and early warning systems;
  • Farmers to help secure good water quality, alleviate flood risk; and
  • People who can be part of the solution through reduced water consumption and sewer misuse.

Protection for those in vulnerable circumstances

The latter group has another important dimension to it. People also need to be protected, particularly the most vulnerable in society. The costs of adaptation will have an impact on bills as there is no avoidance of the need for investment in resilience – this would be a false economy. However, we can do something about how affordable bills are by offering reduced bills, in the shape of comprehensive social tariffs, for those who struggle.

Finally, protection is also needed during incidents caused by extreme weather events. It’s unfeasible to mitigate all disruption so that there will never be any service failures. That’s why the way we respond to incidents is vital. The final round table session of the conference involved very practical intelligence sharing. The openness to share experiences, both good and bad, and learn from each other suggests a renewed spirit of co-operation. This will be needed to tackle the biggest challenge the water sector faces.


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