UK’s Third National Adaptation Programme: Missed Opportunity

by Olivia Draycott

What is the National Adaptation Programme?

The Third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) was released in July 2023. NAP3 was designed to set forth a five-year plan to enable the UK to deal with the consequences of climate change, starting 2023 with aims to achieve the goals by 2028 [1]. The NAP3 sets forth the task of boosting resilience to climate change and mitigating what harm is caused by the changing climate, such as: recurring flooding, droughts and the increasing amount of heatwaves experienced in the country [2]. The NAP3 acts as ‘The Programme’ for climate resilience and adaptation by accumulating the approaches designed by the Government into one programme [1]. The Adaptation Programme is said to be aligned with the Government’s Resilience Framework of review standards and regulatory practices, which form the foundations of the NAP3 resilience elements [1]. 

What is the NAP3 Proposing?

The NAP3 insinuates that the UK government has precise desires to extend support to vulnerable communities globally, through £1.5 billion by 2025, as well as reiterating investments of £80 million for the Green Recovery Challenge fund, which “play a crucial role in enhancing the UK’s Resilience to Climate Change” [1]. The overreaching ideals promoted by the NAP3 suggest a greater focus on protecting lives and well-being across the UK through using pre existing legislation, such as the Environment Act, Plan for Water and Environmental Land Management Schemes [1].

Consequences of the NAP3:

The ‘new’ actions proposed indicate that Defra will push for accelerated investment in water quality and resilience through Plan for Water with £2.2bn, which will theoretically boost the impacts of the Local Nature Recovery Strategies, as well as enable local authorities to support local adaptation strategies for hazards, such as localised heavy rainfall, flooding and droughts. This measure, whilst welcomed in the agricultural sector due to how the programme outlines some methods to help build farm resilience, lacks any information regarding the measures that will be introduced to deal with protecting home food production [3]. The National Farmer Union has stated that ‘despite considerable investment being proposed, sourcing water for food is a primary concern, and for the NAP3 to have any significant impact there is a need for a clear, ambitious plan dedicated to helping vital British farm businesses adapt’ [3].

This critique is not in isolation, as these complaints are demonstrated within the British Media. Stallard (BBC Climate and Science Reporter) notes that the NAP3 contains no substantial new legislation. Baroness Brown stated that despite the NAP3 looking progressive in comparison to prior Government Actions, it is disappointing they have not used the opportunity to take further action [4]. Despite the NAP3 within its core stating it is a plan to boost climate resilience domestically at local levels (by building new schools and hospitals as an example), there is a significant lack of new legislation or funding secured to protect existing homes against the climate risk, thus leaving those in vulnerable and densely populated areas at exceptionally high risk (London, Manchester and Birmingham for example) [4].

A particular critique proposed is that of Ward (Policy Director of the Granthan Research Institute on Climate Change), who states that despite the NAP3 promising to dedicate a new focus on research regarding heatwaves in the UK, the suggested research should have already occurred [5]. This follows the argument that the NAP3 is ‘another weak plan’ from a government still not prioritising climate change or the environment [5]. This argument is again supported by how the NAP3 insinuated that the Government aims to protect the domestic environment through climate-resilient infrastructure. Yet, the planning cited in the NAP3 has been in effect since 2022 and does not cover existing at-risk buildings, just new residential homes [5]. 

Louise Hutchins (UKGBC Head of Policy and Public Affairs) stated that the NAP3 lacked sufficient urgency and ambition. She noted that the Government had an “open goal” to align the planning system with climate goals by accepting UKGBC-backed amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, yet the Government have failed to do so [6]. This has resulted in leaving those at risk of climate change exposed to flooding and over-heating due to a failure by the NAP3 to improve climate resilience on pre-existing infrastructure across the country. As such, when placed in context to how the NAP3 was released ‘almost exactly a year on from the hottest day ever recorded in England’, leaves a macabre irony to the government’s lack of action in its wake [6].

As a result, the NAP3 is a missed opportunity by the Government of the United Kingdom to sufficiently set forth protective and proactive measures for citizens at risk from the climate crisis.


[1] Government sets out adaptation programme to tackle climate impact – GOV.UK. [online]. Available at: (accessed on 06/08/2023)
[2] How will climate change affect the UK? | Greenpeace UK. [online]. Available at: (accessed on 06/08/2023)
[3] National Adaptation Plan ‘needs to go much further’ – NFUonline. [online]. Available at: (access on 07/08/2023)
[4] Esme Stallard,  Climate change plan will leave the UK unprepared advisers warn – BBC News. [online]. Available at: (accessed 07/08/2023)
[5] Carrington, D. Leaked UK government plan to protect against climate heat ‘very weak’. [online] Available at: (accessed 07/08/2023)
[6] Daniel Gayne, Industry concerned at ‘lack of urgency’ in UK climate adaptation plan | News | Building. [online]. Available at: (accessed 08/08/2023)

Categories International Climate Policy

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