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Adapting to climate change

Posted on 24 September 2014

A new report has found communities across the UK are developing increasingly innovative approaches to climate change adaptation but local authorities need to do more to ensure they’re a key part of long term local climate change strategies.

The climate change learning report produced by Groundwork UK, BRE and New Economics Foundation (NEF) looks at the progress communities have made over an 18 month period, as part of the Big Lottery funded Communities Living Sustainably (CLS) programme. The five year programme, supported by Groundwork, provided up to £1 million to twelve communities to test ways of dealing with the potential impacts of climate change.

The report highlights flood resilience and adaptation, and extreme weather resilience as the two most common climate change risks faced by CLS projects. It also points to good examples of climate change adaption project activity focused on community emergency response plans.

However, the report also notes that as local climate change adaptation measures are part of long term strategic investment plans requiring large capital resources managed by statutory agencies, communities cannot deliver adaptation projects alone and require support.

The ‘Sustain Eden’ project in Cumbria is helping local communities to build resilience to flooding and extremes of weather by developing emergency response plans and working with voluntary organisations to ensure they can continue to operate during an emergency. The project worked closely with strategic partners, who had experience of developing emergency response plans for flooding, to develop a new strategy linking with the local authority’s existing plans. The work of Sustain Eden and partners means there is now a focused community-led approach to managing flood risk in the local area.

Caroline Turner, Manager of the Sustain Eden project at Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), said, “Communities are proving able partners to the statutory services in emergency planning. Where communities are small or rurally isolated it is vital they consider their own local emergency response and we are developing models and toolkits to assist this process which should prove valuable elsewhere in the country. Addressing the wider challenges of climate change resilience with communities is a longer term role that CAfS, along with its partners here in Cumbria will continue to address through the project and beyond.”

The CLS report also identified three groups of people vulnerable to climate change in their communities: people whose livelihoods are at risk (eg farmers, fishermen), people who are on a low-income, or particular groups that face social exclusion (eg older people, single mothers, or people with English as a second language). Across these groups, the report found that direct one-to-one engagement, while resource intensive, is far more effective than larger awareness events on climate change.

Commenting on the report’s contents, Groundwork chief executive, Graham Duxbury, said:

“It is a stark reality that global environmental challenges impact first and foremost on those people and communities who have the least. It is also true that addressing these challenges successfully will require people everywhere to learn to live differently.

“It is generally recognised that climate change adaptation is not as straightforward to plan or deliver as mitigation and while this report finds that communities are developing innovative approaches to this issue in their area, more must be done to acknowledge and support the vital role they can play in educating people and responding to these issues effectively.”

Download the report
Download summary report

For further information about Groundwork or Communities Living Sustainably,
contact Garry Campbell, Communications Manager on 0121 2368565

Notes to Editors:

About Communities Living Sustainably
CLS will run for five years, with the communities taking part providing inspiration to other communities across England and sharing what they have learned with one another. The Big Lottery Fund programme is supported by the Groundwork UK Learning Partnership – five organisations with expertise in tackling climate change and helping communities to live more sustainably. The partnership comprises Groundwork UK, The Energy Saving Trust, The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and The New Economics Foundation and Building Research Establishment.