Weak governance on climate change adaptation of the built environment
Weak governance and a lack of national follow-up means that it is not possible to assess whether climate adaptation efforts lead to reduced vulnerability to climate-related risks for Sweden’s municipalities. The Swedish National Audit Office is issuing a number of recommendations for more effective central government efforts in this area.
As the climate becomes warmer, the risk of extreme weather events increases, which can lead to damage to buildings and infrastructure. The role of central government is to support municipalities’ efforts to adapt both new and existing buildings to the climate.
The Swedish National Audit Office’s audit shows that the central government efforts partly make a positive contribution to the municipalities’ work. At the same time, there are some deficiencies in the design and implementation of the initiatives that are largely linked to the Government’s governance.
“The Government has not given any specific agency the responsibility of following up climate change adaptation at the national level. Therefore, it is not possible to assess whether the efforts lead to a reduced risk and effect of flooding, landslides and erosion,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.
The audit also shows that the Government’s Ordinance on Agencies’ Climate Change Adaptation is unclear. This has led to a varied scope and level of ambition in the county administrative boards’ efforts, and thereby to different amounts of support to different municipalities.
In addition, the Government has failed in its governance of allocation of funds from the government grants for natural disasters in a way that ensures that the most important projects are granted funds. The Swedish National Audit Office assesses that it would be more cost effective to give priority to measures that otherwise would not have been implemented. MSB has awarded grants for measures that have already been implemented. MSB has also lacked transparent criteria for assessing which measures are most important and thereby should be awarded grants.
“At the same time, many of the most vulnerable municipalities refrain from applying, which may be partly because it is difficult for them to finance the 40 per cent of the measures cost that the grant does not cover,” says Maria Bohm, Project Leader for the audit.
The Swedish National Audit Office also assesses that the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning guidance to the county administrative boards on how they shall assess municipalities’ assessment of climate risk in detailed development plans in their supervision does not constitute the support that would be needed.
The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has also been slow in producing important guides to the municipalities. For example, only in 2022 did the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning launch a guidance on how municipalities shall assess climate risks in comprehensive plans, despite the fact that there have been legal requirements for such assessments in place since 2018. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has also delayed producing an overall guidance for the municipalities as regards assessment of climate risk in detailed development plans, assessments which the municipalities have been legally required to do since 2008. This guidance will be issued at the end of 2022.
Recommendations in brief
The Government should
- ensure that a follow-up system is put in place that can be used to assess whether central and local government efforts lead to a reduced risk and effect of flooding, landslides and erosion
- investigate whether, and if so how, governance of the municipalities needs to change so that more actual climate adaptation measures for existing built-up areas are implemented
- ensure that government grants for natural disasters are given to the most important projects at the national level
- task relevant expert agencies with producing clear guidelines for what requirements the county administrative boards can place on the municipalities in the planning process to ensure equal supervision of detailed development plans across the country.
See the report for full recommendations.
Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.
Presskontakt: Olle Castelius , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.
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