Climate Northern Ireland Logo

UK Climate Change Adaptation Policy

Climate Change Act 2008

The Climate Change Act 2008 establishes a legally–binding framework for the UK Government to address and combat climate change.

The Climate Change Act commits the UK Government by law to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels (net zero) by 2050. This includes reducing emissions from the devolved administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
  • Set legally–binding ‘carbon budgets’ to act as steeping stones towards the 2050 target. A carbon budget is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK over a five–year period.
  • Set up an independent expert body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to advise the government and devolved administrations on emissions targets, and addressing and preparing for climate change. It reports to Parliament on progress made and also publishes independent analysis on climate science, policy, and economics.
  • Assess the risks and opportunities from climate change by producing a UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) every five years.
  • UK administrations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all required to produce a National Adaptation Programme (NAP) every five years, setting out their objectives, proposals and policies in response to the risks and opportunities identified in the CCRA.

Climate Change Committee: Adaptation Committee

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Adaptation Committee of the CCC was established. The Adaptation Committee provides expert independent advice on the preparation of the UK–wide Climate Change Risk Assessment, report to Parliament on the progress in the implementation of the national adaptation programme, and to advise the devolved administrations as required.

UK Climate Change Risk Assessment

The Climate Change Acts 2008 requires the UK government to publish and provide Parliament with a UK–wide climate change risk assessment (CCRA) every five years. The assessment presents an analysis of key climate change risks and opportunities across all sectors of the UK economy. The first CCRA was published by Defra in 2012. The second CCRA was published in 2017, Defra commissioned the Adaptation Sub–Committee to prepare an independent UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report. This report sets out the latest evidence on the risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change. The UK government report endorses the six priority areas identified by the Evidence Report. 

The third Independent Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) was published in June 2021 by the Climate Change Committee. It sets out the priority climate change risks and opportunities for the UK. The CCRA3 includes:

The UK Government will consider and respond to the CCC’s findings and recommendations, with a full response laid in Parliament in January 2022.


 Published Risk Assessments:

Climate Change Risk Assessment Summary for Northern Ireland

CCRA3 for NI









The CCRA3 Summary for Northern Ireland was published in 2021 alongside the Independent Climate Change Risk Assessment. For Northern Ireland, 61 risks and opportunities from climate change have been assessed, including to business, infrastructure, housing, the natural environment, our health and from the impacts of climate change internationally.  

Of these 61 risks and opportunities, more action is needed now to address 31 of them, further investigation is urgently needed for 19, sustaining current adaptation action is only deemed appropriate for five of the risks or opportunities and six have been classified as watching brief. 

While many of the risks and opportunities are similar in urgency and magnitude across each UK nation, in Northern Ireland, the lower level of quality evidence available and relatively limited climate related policy in force, increase the uncertainty around future climate change impacts (although there are many policies in development and baseline studies underway). Changing climatic conditions and extreme weather event impacts may also be exacerbated in future due to the degraded state of the natural environment and the interactions with external factors such as pollution, overfishing and land use.