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Delivering climate adaptation and resilience

NPL’s response to the IPCC’s Working Group II ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

Richard Barker, Head of Environment at NPL:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II (WGII) has finalised its input to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) discussing ‘impacts, adaptation and vulnerability’ to climate change. The report published on 27th February outlines observed and projected impacts and risks caused by climate change, current adaptation activity and its benefits and discusses climate resilient development.

The report states that ‘it is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems’; approximately ‘3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change’ and climate related impacts, losses and damages are projected to escalate with each increment of global warming.

As defined by the IPCC, adaptation refers to the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities and in some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects. As such, climate adaptation looks to minimise climate risk by adjusting natural and societal systems to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The report is a stark statement of the risk that climate change poses and is a reminder that now is the time to ensure accuracy, traceability, consistency, and confidence in climate measurement and adaptation activity. The IPCC WGII note that there are several constraints facing climate adaptation, primarily: financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints. NPL’s measurement science expertise provides reliable, fit-for-purpose evidence that policy makers and industry can rely on to enable science-led climate action. To this end, NPL has been undertaking focused strategic research into climate adaptation and resilience. This has included an extensive literature review, stakeholder engagement and a workshop attended by 121 individuals from across the adaptation and resilience community on “Delivering Climate Adaptation and Resilience: The Role of Measurement” (23 and 24 February).

Reflecting on the major themes coming out of this workshop, it is good to see many of these echoed in the IPCC’s latest report. For example, cascading risks and their interactions was highlighted as an area with compounding risk in the report and came up frequently in our workshops as a theme where measurement can play a significant role. Another significant theme was around monitoring & evaluating policy decisions and using outcome-based indicators to better evaluate decisions; ensuring that maladaptive decisions are avoided or corrected in a timely fashion. The IPCC report highlights this as a key area and states that there is evidence of maladaptation across many sectors and regions since the AR5. This has dire consequences as maladaptive responses to climate change can create lock-ins of vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult and expensive to change and exacerbate existing inequalities. Measurement is essential in this scenario as without outcome-based indicators there is no feedback loop to enable appropriate evidence-based decisions to be made.

This is even more important in an adaptation and resilience context due to the complexity, cross cutting nature and use of proxy indicators in this field. NPL understand that measurement has a significant role to play in this field and believe that greater measurement quality gives us the ability to accelerate our learning, understand and in some instances lower uncertainty to promote action. Measurement quality is therefore essential to enable optimum decision making, accurately determine risk and ensure the proper monitoring and evaluation of these decisions.

Alongside measurement, enabling conditions will be key for implementing, accelerating and sustaining adaptation in human and natural systems. As highlighted in the report, these include political commitment and follow-through, institutional frameworks, policies and instruments with clear goals and priorities, enhanced knowledge on impacts and solutions, mobilisation of and access to adequate financial resources, monitoring and evaluation, and inclusive governance processes. Moreover, climate resilient development must be facilitated through collaboration at all levels including, international cooperation and governments working with communities, civil society, educational bodies, scientific and other institutions, media, investors and businesses.

As part of our workshop, we brought together stakeholders from across the adaptation and resilience community with a major goal being to validate our team’s findings and feed into a report on the same topic which will be published in Spring 2022. This will be the first in a new series of environmentally focused reports which will complement NPL’s well-established energy transition report series. The purpose of this report is to highlight areas that require further investigation and investment, inform calls for collaborative research activities, as well as act as a guide for formulation of NPL’s future programmes of work to meet these needs. It is important to note that this report will highlight areas that NPL have expertise in but also those which would be best addressed by other organisations capabilities and is therefore intended as a mapping exercise across the entire adaptation and resilience landscape for all stakeholders’ benefit. Once published, this report will be made publicly available on the NPL website.

Climate risk and adaptation is also a theme of this year’s BIPM-WMO workshop ‘Metrology for Climate Action Workshop 2022’, which you can register for here.


15 Mar 2022