Wednesday, 6 June 2007

UK conservation policies ill-equipped to deal with climate change

Measures to protect wildlife, woodland and water in England and Wales differ widely in their suitability to adapt to climate change, says a report launched today by the Environment Agency and Countryside Council for Wales. Analysis of six key natural resource policies in England and Wales looked at their vulnerability to climate change and a recommended coherent, joined-up approach to build this increased risk into countryside management.

The six initiatives/policies analysed were: Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); Welsh agri-environment schemes (Tir Gofal); Woodlands Strategy; Biomass Action Plan; Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies (CAMS); and Catchment Flood Management Plans (CFMP).

Environment Agency Research Fellow Harriet Orr commented: “We analysed policies that covered a wide spectrum of natural resource protection issues - addressing nature conservation, water resource management, flood protection and economic and recreational use of the countryside. We assessed the key components of each policy on vulnerability to climate change and if one or more component had a high probability of failure, then the overall policy was considered to be vulnerable.”

She added: "We found that some of our natural resource policies were ill-equipped to deal with the looming threats of climate change, while others which had flexibility built into the core structure were well positioned to adapt to the challenges likely to be experienced in the coming years."

Countryside Council for Wales' Climate Change Advisor Dr Clive Walmsley said that rather than waiting for the impact of climate change, policy needed to help land managers find opportunities within adaptation practices. “Now that we've got a general acceptance that some degree of climate change is inevitable we've got to do some horizon scanning and find opportunities.”

The study Climate Proofing Rural Resource Protection Policies and Strategies in Wales can be found at

* The July issue of Birdwatch will look in depth at climate change and its effects on birds - watch this blog for more details.