Global adaptation

Climate change is an established fact. Whilst global efforts to cut emissions, transition to carbon-neutral economies, and slow the pace of global warming are essential, it is imperative that we simultaneously adapt to the many climate consequences we face so we can protect our communities. 

These consequences vary depending on where you live, and in the immediate term might mean fires or floods, droughts, hotter or colder days or sea-level rise – but in the longer term, these consequences will have undeniable global impacts through the migration of displaced people, implications on food production, and an increased need to support the Global South’s response to environmental disasters. 

Adaptation is essential to ensuring that global policymakers understand the necessary changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. Put simply, policymakers around the world must develop solutions and implement actions to respond to current and future climate change impacts, both domestically, and on a global scale. 

These solutions will take varied forms, depending on the unique context of a community, organisation, country, or region. There is no one size fits all solution and adaptation will range from building flood defences, setting up early warning systems for extreme weather activity, and switching to climate-resistant crops, to redesigning the way we communicate risk, business behaviour and government policy. This work is already underway but sustained action and ambition are needed to manage risks cost-effectively, both now and in the future. 

In the run-up to COP28, national and international policymakers have a unique opportunity to advocate for impactful interventions which are vital to global adaptation and resilience. This paper recommends a series of national and international interventions which if adopted, would build on existing expertise, and go some way to addressing the challenges we face.

Adapting to the consequences of climate change to protect our communities and environment

National Policy Recommendations

  • The Government must engage with local communities to better understand the risks posed by flooding and the uniqueness of watershed characteristics to improve flood preparedness, response and mitigation.
  • The Government should collect information to generate knowledge on the locality and communities at risk of flooding so that we can design a purposeful early warning system. 
  • The Government should invest in management to protect and promote natural regeneration to secure the persistence of existing woodlands in the coming decades, including (but not restricted to) the reduction of the large population of herbivores, e.g., deer, and control of bracken in regeneration sites.
  • The Government should ban the commercialization of products derived from deforested areas and certify more strongly the origin of products imported to the UK.
  • The Government needs to prioritise updating our Buried infrastructure which contributes to our everyday living with gas, electricity, water etc. - the network is ageing and needs adaptation to changes in climate and demand.
  • The Government must utilise existing and novel sensing technologies to move from reactive to proactive asset management of buried infrastructure, it is important to move away from an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ culture.
  • The Government should explore green hydrogen as a solution to railway emissions.
  • The Government can draw on academic expertise in supporting the rail sector to address two key challenges: optimising the current rail system -such as reducing emissions and increasing accessibility -and making optimal choices when commissioning new rail infrastructure. 

Global Policy Recommendations

  • Global governments must come together to develop a truly shared international agenda on climate research and impacts, a stable framework for international funding, and a global environment that enables rapid innovation.
  • Governments, industry and the scientific community across the world must intensify their efforts to help bridge the gaps between research, education, policy, and practice.
  • Large-scale programmes of tree planting should aim to restore ecosystems and improve the lives of local communities. Failure to do these can lead to biodiversity loss, carbon released into the atmosphere and social crises. The carbon market should be structured and regulated to protect nature and vulnerable societies, not only store carbon.
  • International agencies should promote the protection of old-growth forests, their biodiversity, and their people. For that to happen, financial incentives should be provided to the people that depend on this land and the countries opting to keep their territory as natural vegetation, aiming to the development of sustainable management practices and ethical sourcing, and avoiding carbon colonialism.
  • Governments across the globe must take action to ensure potable (drinking) water is not lost due to ageing buried infrastructure.
  • The international community can draw on academic expertise to help deliver financially sustainable rail infrastructure in developing countries.

Policy brief contributors

Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert

Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert

Associate Professor in Global Forest Ecology

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Adriane Esquivel Muelbert investigates how forests respond to different global change forces and what the implications of these responses are on biodiversity and global biogeochemical cycles. Her work demonstrates the importance of drought tolerance in shaping diversity and composition across Neotropical tree communities and provides evidence that Amazonian forests are changing as a ...

+44 (0)121 414 8306

Professor David Hannah

Professor David Hannah

Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability)
Director of the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action
Professor of Hydrology, UNESCO Chair in Water Science

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Water Crisis - Birmingham HeroesProfessor David Hannah - Research in 60 seconds videoDavid is a physical geographer with interdisciplinary research interests focusing on three complementary themes within hydroclimatology (interface between hydrology-climatology): (1) hydroclimatological processes within alpine, Arctic, mountain and glacierized river basins; (2) climate and river flow regimes; and (3) river energy budget and water temperaturedynamics. He has cross-cutting ...

+44 (0)121 41 46925 (for own research)

Professor Nicole Metje

Professor Nicole Metje

Professor of Infrastructure Monitoring
Director of the National Buried Infrastructure Facility
Head of Enterprise, Engagement & Impact, School of Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

Nicole Metje is the Head of Enterprise, Engagement and Impact and Head of the Power and Infrastructure Research Group within the School of Engineering, and the Director for the UKCRIC National Buried Infrastructure Facility at Birmingham.

Nicole is an international leader in the development and application of sensors for (buried) infrastructure assessment and monitoring. She ...

+44 (0) 121 414 4182

Professor Clive Roberts

Professor Clive Roberts

Professor of Railway Systems
Deputy Head of School of Engineering
Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education Lead for the UK Railway Research and Innovation Network

Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering

Clive is Professor of Railway Systems and Deputy Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham.  He is Director of the University’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, which has over 180 researchers. He works extensively with the railway industry and academia in Britain and overseas. 

Clive leads a broad portfolio of research aimed at ...

+44 (0) 121 414 4306