In 2011, the U.K. government mandated all reporting authorities (organisations with functions of a public nature and statutory undertakers) to complete a climate change adaptation report.  WSP (then WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff ) helped Cardiff and Luton airports develop a risk assessment methodology to identify the preparedness of their operations and assets for potential climate change impacts. The output was a prioritised risk assessment and adaptation action plan that met with U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reporting requirements, and supported the U.K. government with developing its first national adaptation plan.

During the last 8 years, the U.K. has witnessed some of the most severe weather events on British record (see figures 1 and 2). Summer flood events in 2007 caused widespread disruption, economic loss, and social distress, resulting in a national catastrophe being declared by the government. The Environment Agency estimated national losses at £4 billion, of which £674 million of damages were to ‘important national infrastructure’ and the operation of essential services.

In December 2010, the ‘big freeze’ caused the economy to shrink by 0.5 percent in the last three months of 2010 (see figures 3 and 4), whilst in January 2013 snowfall across the U.K. cost the economy an estimated £470 million a day, based on unprecedented travel disruption.

In response, the U.K. government recognised that a national adaptation programme (NAP) was required to identify the preparedness of major industry sectors for climate change impacts. Within the NAP infrastructure review, all reporting authorities - including the aviation sector - were mandated to prepare a climate change adaptation report which stated how resilient their organisation and operations are to future climate change impacts. The output of the reports was of significance to the U.K. government, as it used all reports to underpin the U.K.’s first climate change risk assessment.

London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLAOL) and Cardiff Airport (CA) commissioned WSP to help them understand the requirements, assess their readiness, and present this back to government.