Assessing the role of local government in climate change adaptation

Our climate resilience specialists explore the role that local government plays within climate change adaptation and the support we can offer.

Written by Maxine Zaidman, Anna Beasley, Murray Dale & Silole Menezes

Building climate resilience

Our climate change resilience team are working with our water and environmental managers to help councils and regulators to build adaptation into schemes, access new funding streams and harness collaborative investment. We have developed climate risk assessments and adaptation strategies for local authorities across the UK that focus on their specific risks and opportunities. We are also working with national organisations like the Environment Agency, UK Water Industry Research and Network Rail to help them interpret climate change projections for their own needs, understanding how much adaptation may be needed.

We also offer a foundation training programme on Climate Adaptation Planning (in partnership with Climate Sense), that builds on the best practice set out in the ISO14090 standard.

What is climate adaptation?

Climate adaptation is about acknowledging that climate change will occur, identifying and prioritising risks, understanding the existing degree of resilience to these risks, and then making sure we adapt to reduce negative impacts.

The systems and infrastructure that underpin the operations of local government are still far from being resilient to the climate change induced events we are likely to experience in the UK. These impacts will include extreme heatwaves, increased risk of wildfires, sea level rise and coastal erosion, more frequent and extreme storm events, flooding, drought and the loss of habitat.

Strategic and local policy change

Strategic policy change is now needed to ensure buy-in to and integration of adaptive thinking into the day to day. A challenge for local government is to translate new and emerging national legislation and policies, such as the Environment Bill, the Agriculture Bill, Nature Recovery Network, Environmental Land Management and River Basin Management Plans for example, into local policies. One area where local government currently plays a key role in climate change adaptation is in managing the future risk from local sources of flooding such as surface water and groundwater.

Strengthening resilience

Many local authorities are finding innovative ways to adapt and increase resilience to local flood risk, with some strategies even bringing additional benefits. These range from nature-based solutions and regeneration, to low carbon infrastructure and artificial intelligence in flood forecasting and in some instances are also supported by Defra funding through the “Flood and Coastal Innovative Resilience Programme.” The Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Policy Statement committed to doubling the number of government-funded projects, including nature-based solutions to reduce flood and coastal erosion risk.
Local government also has a responsibility to incentivise and support individuals, communities and businesses to undertake adaptive action. It is especially important that councils are able to promote the opportunities this offers to proactively embed climate change adaptation strategies and strengthen resilience.

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Want to know more?

To find out more about our climate resilience services for local authorities contact Silole Menezes. For more info on our Climate Adaptation Training Programme please contact Katy Tunney or click here.


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