Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Secretary of State can require organisations with functions “of a public nature” to report progress on adapting to climate change. This reporting power aims to help ensure that these organisations take appropriate action to adapt to the future impacts of climate change. Organisations which can be asked to report include water and sewerage companies and sectoral regulators.
The reports allow the Government to assess the degree to which the country’s essential services and infrastructure are preparing for climate change and identify any barriers that could prevent this from happening. The Government will use the information from the reports to feed in to the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessment, which they are obliged to produce every five years.
We have been working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on this issue since late 2008. We formally responded to Defra’s ‘Consultation on Adaptation Reporting Power in the Climate Change Act 2008’ in September 2009. In our response, we stated our general support for the measure and said that we will embed consideration of climate change risks into the companies’ processes and our regulatory approach.
Directions to report
All 19 water and sewerage companies in England have been directed to report under this power by 31 January 2011.
As the economic regulator, we have also been directed to report on how climate change will impact on our functions by 31 May 2011. Reports will be made public by the end of 2011.
The Welsh Assembly has not formally directed Dŵr Cymru and Dee Valley Water to report. To ensure that these companies are not outliers, we have informally invited them to report using the same guidance and to the same timelines as the other companies. Both Dŵr Cymru and Dee Valley Water have agreed to do this.
The direction to report requires us to demonstrate that we:
- understand how climate change might affect the successful operation of our functions
- have carried out a risk analysis and understood climate change risks
- have actions and plans in place to deal with the risks we have identified
For us, actions to adapt to climate change fall into three main categories:
- building adaptive capacity – by improving our understanding and the evidence base
- enabling adaptive action – by ensuring we set the right regulatory framework, incentives and outputs
- monitoring and evaluation – monitoring the companies’ long-term performance and taking action where adaptation is insufficient
The starting point for this work is our existing climate change policy statement. We aim to ensure that climate change risks are considered as an integral part of decision-making in the sector. This is crucial in order to achieve our overall aim of sustainable water.
After the companies have produced their reports, we will continue to monitor their progress on adaptation. Although we have no formal role in reviewing the reports the companies produce, our future approach to adaptation will build on the reports submitted by the companies under Defra’s direction.