What does a climate resilient organisation look like?

Public consciousness about mitigating against climate change is at an all-time high, as extreme weather events become more common, Extinction Rebellion brings parts of London to a standstillGreta Thunberg raises her voice above the noise, and the Committee on Climate Change maps our path to net zero by 2050.

But what are we going to do about the impacts that climate change is already having on our business operations, properties and land? How are those impacts going to change in the future? And what does a climate resilient organisation look like?

Working with others - Formby, Liverpool, the fastest eroding place in the Trust's care. We're developing a coastal adaption strategy and involving the local community at every stage of our plans. Credit Joe Cornish.

Dunes under threat from coastal erosion at Formby. Credit Joe Cornish

Fit for the Future Network is a National Trust initiative, set up to support organisations working on sustainability and to encourage knowledge sharing across different sectors. Fit for the Future has partnered with the Met Office and the RSPB to try and answer some of these questions.

Climate change adaptation is an increasingly important part of Fit for the Future’s work, as we support our members to think about and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Our event at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter was an opportunity for members to look at the latest climate projections (UKCP18), delve into the data for themselves, and start to think about how to develop an adaptation strategy armed with some of this knowledge.

The event was attended by a diverse range of Fit for the Future members who manage a vast and varied portfolio of buildings and land. These members included the RNLI, Historic England, the Field Studies Council, the Forestry Commission and local authorities; proof that climate change is of significance to organisations of all types and sizes.

After a welcome from renowned Professor Peter Stott of the Met Office, Liz Bergere, Head of Climate Change Evidence & Analysis at DEFRA introduced the policy context behind their adaptation approach and the latest climate projections.

Dr Fai Fung, UKCP Climate Services Manager, talked through the latest projections and provided hands on training on the UKCP18 webpages and user interface so that we can access the data.

Graph showing climate adaption process

Temperature Projections | Photo Credit: Dr Fai Fung at the Met Office

The projections highlight that our summers will become hotter and drier, our winters will become warmer and wetter, and there are regional variations across the UK. But what do we do with this data to make it relevant for our own organisations?

Climate Adaption Process

Climate Adaption Process | Photo Credit: Dr Fai Fung at the Met Office

Developing an adaptation strategy

Olly Watts, Senior Climate Change Policy Officer at the RSPB has been helping our members understand how to develop an adaptation strategy. The RSPB have their own framework which they are successfully applying in their work to protect wildlife from future climate impacts – including building sites with special microclimates and developing plans to move species that are going to be at risk from temperature rises. Their approach emphasises that you do not need specialist climate knowledge in order to develop an adaptation strategy – rather, focus on the key work objectives for your organisation, and think about how changes in the climate could pose a risk to those objectives.

Climate Adaptation Workshop | © National Trust

Communicating adaptation

It’s by no means an easy task to develop strategies around adaptation, given the complexity of the data, the individuality of every potential location and site, and the array of impacts that could be experienced.

But everyone in the room agreed that the lack of awareness of adaptation is a major stumbling block for delivering action. Few Chief Executives or senior teams are prepared to invest in uncertainties, so how do we encourage our organisations to take this seriously?

Perhaps Greta can be an example to us all. Olly Watts affirmed the need to reach hearts over minds, to tell the human stories of climate change, and to find out what people care about before we even introduce the idea of climate change.

So, there is a long way to go! But Fit for the Future members are working hard to find solutions, share knowledge and lead the way on ensuring their organisations become climate resilient. We will be following up this event in the coming months to support our members further in developing their strategies so keep an eye out on our events page.

To find out more about Fit for the Future and our work on adaptation, contact info@fftf.org.uk.

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