Creating a climate resilient Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Guidance to prepare local communities for a warmer world.

It is crucial that we adapt to a warmer world. We can do this by undertaking adaptation actions to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, by anticipating the effects and preparing for them.

Climate adaptation works with climate mitigation (actions to cut or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases) as part of a dual approach to reduce risk from climate change.

The Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (DCIoS) Climate Impacts Group (CIG) are coordinating regional action on climate adaptation, preparing communities and organisations for a changing climate, and improving resilience across the region.

On this site:

  • The DCIoS Climate Adaptation Strategy will help communities and organisations across the Southwest better understand the risks their area might face in the future, as climate change increasingly affects the UK. It will also help them to adapt to these changes, thereby improving their resilience and community safety.
  • Resources to help individuals, communities, organisations and local policy makers take action for climate adaptation and prepare for climate impacts

Why is adaptation important?

The world has already experienced warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) and further warming is expected. Climate projections show that continued changes to average and extreme weather are very likely. 

Critical infrastructure (e.g. transport networks, sea defences), community assets (e.g. schools, hospitals), homes, nature, businesses and public services are all sensitive to weather and climate. Therefore, climate change will directly affect the environment, demand for services, economic productivity, and infrastructure maintenance costs. 

Taking a proactive approach to adapt to climate change will create a fairer, healthier, more resilient and prosperous society.

Drier summers and an increased likelihood of droughts

Hotter summers and an increased likelihood of heatwaves and extreme heat

Milder, wetter winters with an increase in rainfall intensity and frequency

Less snowfall, frost and ice

Increase in the risk of wildfires

Rising sea levels

Increase in the intensity and frequency of storms

Shift in the growing seasons

Milder winters and changes to pest and disease pressures

Boscastle, Cornwall

Extreme rainfall and flooding

On the 16th of August 2004, 200 mm of rain fell in twenty-four hours within the catchment of the coastal village of Boscastle in Cornwall causing the rivers Jordan and Valency to rapidly overflow.

Fifty cars were lost to the flood water, 58 buildings and several bridges were badly damaged or demolished and people had to act quickly to survive.

Over 100 people were airlifted out of the floods and residents were displaced from their homes for 18 months.

The long-term financial cost through loss of tourism was estimated to be £50 million.

Cars underwater
Isles of Scilly

Drought and water scarcity

The Isles of Scilly experienced a notable drought in the summer of 2022 following some of the driest conditions in nearly 90 years. This was not just a local event, with the Environment Agency stating that all of the South West of England was in drought by August 2023.

Water became scarce. The IoS Wildlife Trusts were deeply concerned about the impact that the drought was having on local farmers and farmland, as well as wilder landscapes like heathland and wetlands.

Cracked soil
DCIoS Region

Extreme hot days and heatwaves

The DCIoS region experienced several major heatwaves in the summer of 2022, most notably in July with temperatures reaching a high of 36°C (Bude in Cornwall). It was provisionally the fourth warmest summer for the UK overall. Four of the five warmest summers on record for England have occurred since 2003.

During the five heat-periods between
June and August 2022, 56,303 deaths occurred in England and Wales; this is 3,271 deaths (6.2%) above the five-year average. Wildlife, livestock, and pets were also affected. Wildfires caused the closure of the South West Coast Path in south Devon.

Dry field
Slapton, Devon

Sea level rise and erosion

The A379 road was first closed temporarily due to coastal erosion caused by storms in 2001. From 2002 to 2015 thousands of tonnes of shingle
was used to create barriers to protect the line from further erosion. Between 2014 and 2017 south westerly storms accelerated erosion of the beach. Storm Emma in March 2018 washed away a 700m stretch of the road, causing it to be closed for 8-months.

The area has seen frequent, temporary road closures over the past 20 years. The cost of disrupting local traffic each month that the road is closed is £38k. Continued, temporary closures of the road over 25 years would damage the local visitor economy by up to £2.4m.

Stony beach

How can you get involved?

See resources for:

The Adaptation Strategy

There are three parts to the Strategy:

The Risk Register, which identifies regional climate impacts and their risks and opportunities

An Adaptation Plan, which sets out how the region can create the conditions for everyone to adapt to climate change together over the next five years.

An Action Plan, which sets out the priority actions for regional collaboration over the next 2 – 3 years

Regional priorities by sector:

Support and actively improve the adaptive capacity of landscapes and habitats.
Use agriculture / forestry networks and knowledge to implement best practice. Provide them with key information to protect ecosystem services.
Maximise community participation and connection to nature.

Develop cross sector collaboration to equip the region with the knowledge and skills to take adaptation action
Enhance long term infrastructure resilience through local stewardship
Increase community awareness of how climate change can impact physical and mental health. 
Support residences and business premises on private water supplies to adapt to climate change threats, including security of supply and changing water quality. 
Assist public services to understand climate change impacts on their assets, service delivery and the community’s health. 
Minimise heat-related illness and death. 
Ensure the region is ready for, and resilient to, flooding and coastal change. 
Equip the sector with the knowledge and skills to take adaptation action. 
Develop industry readiness for impacts (e.g. supply chain). 
Enhancing long-term business resilience through local stewardship
Improve the community’s knowledge and awareness of the health impacts of climate change, both current and into the future. 
Improve food security within the region. 
Information and liaison about the effects of climate change on crime and civil disorder. 

Current Members Of The DCIoS CIG