This is the post consultation Climate Adaptation Strategy of the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Impacts Group – it details the risks the region might face in future as climate change increasingly affects the UK and identifies how we can adapt to these changes.
The Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Impacts Group commissioned the preparation of this strategic-level Adaptation Strategy, led by RSK Group (including subsidiaries ADAS and WRc) and co-developed with the Climate Impacts Group.
It comprises of three sections:
- A climate change risk and opportunity assessment for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly.
- A strategic adaptation plan for the next 5 years, which sets out the conditions for everyone to act on adapting to climate change together.
- An action plan, which sets out the short term actions for regional collaboration over the next 2-3 years.
It focuses on climate impacts which require, or which would benefit from, regional collaboration. Due to the place-based and context specific nature of climate risk and opportunities, it is not the purpose of this Adaptation Strategy to plan the detail of how individual areas and communities should adapt. Instead, such detailed plans will be captured under county-level risk assessments and adaptation plans.
Climate change risk and opportunity assessment
A climate change risk and opportunity assessment was co-developed with the Climate Impacts Group. This built upon an initial climate risk assessment that had been prepared previously by the Climate Impacts Group in early 2022.
The climate change risk and opportunity assessment evaluated 64 climate change impacts for the region, considering both positive (i.e. opportunities) and negative (i.e. risks) effects. These were categorised into five sectors that broadly correspond with the sectors highlighted in the national climate risk assessment: natural environment (including agriculture and forestry), infrastructure, health and the built environment, business and industry, and cross-cutting impacts (including international dimensions).
Five main impact themes were scored as being the most severe for the region, all of which have impacts on human health. The themes are not listed in any order but discuss the broad hazards that the region faces from climate change.
- River and surface water flooding: Devon and Cornwall are highly susceptible to the impacts of river and surface water flooding. Climate change is projected to increase winter rainfall and increase the intensity and frequency of storm events, furthering the region’s vulnerability.
- Sea level rise (coastal flooding and erosion): If global temperatures increase by 4°C by 2100, projections suggest sea level in the region is very likely to rise by between 0.24m and 0.38m by 2050. Wave height, storm surges and offshore wind speed are also expected to increase as a result of climate change, resulting in more intense storm events and greater impacts from coastal flooding.
- Reduced water availability (drought conditions): It is projected that decreased summer rainfall will increase the likelihood and length of drought periods and water scarcity. Prolonged periods of reduced water availability will have significant negative impacts on agricultural productivity, commercial forestry and terrestrial and freshwater species and habitats.
- Temperature change and extreme heat/cold: Climate change is expected to increase average temperatures, the number of hot days, summers, heatwaves, and periods of extreme heat. These are likely to cause negative health impacts, including direct impacts (e.g. from increased illness and death from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and other chronic health conditions) and indirect impacts on health (e.g. impact on health services, increased risk of accidents, transmission of food and water borne diseases.
- Cascading impacts: Interacting and cascading impacts can be triggered by multiple hazards that occur coincidentally or sequentially, creating substantial disruption to human and or natural systems. Across the region there is the risk that interaction between named hazards could result in the compounding of impacts across different systems.
Strategic Adaptation Plan
The purpose of the strategic-level adaptation plan is to set out how Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can create the conditions and capacity for everyone to adapt to climate change together over the next 5 years. The adaptation plan considers four levels of adaptation planning and action, relating to different parts of society: policy/regulator-level, organisational-level, community-level, and individual-level actors and actions; with a primary focus on the top two levels to provide the enabling conditions.
Climate change will affect different places in different ways. This drives the need to develop place-based adaptation options with strategies focussed on ‘location’. Locations across the region experience many of the same climate impacts. This means that the region can work collaboratively at a strategic level to ensure that interlinked human-environment systems (e.g. transport, utilities etc.) remain resilient, with the implementation of adaptation options that provide flexibility against uncertainties of future climate impacts.
The regional priorities and strategic directions outlined in this adaptation plan are based on the Climate Impact Group’s assessment of climate risks and local vulnerabilities, alongside the input of stakeholders. Strategic directions and actions to support adaptation include, by sector:
Natural environment (including agriculture and forestry and fisheries):
- To support and actively improve the adaptive capacity of landscapes and habitats.
- To use agriculture / forestry networks and knowledge to implement best practice. Provide them with key information to protect ecosystem services.
- To maximise community participation and connection to nature.
- To develop cross-sector collaboration to equip the region with the knowledge and skills to take adaptation action.
- To enhance long-term Infrastructure resilience through local stewardship.
Health and the built environment:
- To increase community awareness of how climate change can impact physical and mental health.
- To support residences and businesses on private water supplies to adapt to climate change threats, including security of supply and changing water quality.
- To assist public services to understand climate change impacts on their assets, service delivery and the community’s health.
- To minimise heat-related illness and death.
- To ensure the region is ready for, and resilient to, flooding and coastal change.
Business and industry:
- To equip the sector with the knowledge and skills to take adaptation action.
- To develop industry readiness for impacts (e.g. supply chain security, drought restrictions).
- To enhance long-term business resilience through local stewardship.
Cross-cutting risks and international dimensions:
- To improve the community’s knowledge and awareness of the health impacts of climate change, both current and into the future.
- To improve food security within the region.
- To improve information and liaison about the effects of climate change on crime and civil disorder.
Whilst the Climate Impacts Group and local authorities will play an influential role in preparing the community and other stakeholders for the changes ahead, success will require a collaborative approach involving government departments and agencies, transport and utility providers, local businesses, communities and individuals to develop and build the adaptation actions needed in each sector.
The action plan summarises the impacts from climate change on each sector and identifies the short-term actions from the adaptation plan for delivery over the next 2 – 3 years. Short-term actions to adapt to climate change for each societal group are:
Policymakers, regional / local government, and arm’s length bodies
- Build on and develop resilience partnerships. Ensure their command, control and co-ordination arrangements for an emergency which involves the loss of both power and telecoms, and actively involve utilities companies in local planning where required to ensure linkage with regional and national developments.
- Develop a climate change awareness campaign to inform the public of the projected range of changes and their impacts alongside how we are adapting.
- Public authorities to continue to provide timely & localised information on climate change impacts to enable appropriate adaptation planning by businesses and householders.
- Policymakers to raise public awareness and understanding of the predicted impacts of climate change around the coast generally, and on their local communities specifically – to advance knowledge and engagement.
Organisations, businesses, infrastructure operators, charities, trusts etc.
- Develop a collaborative regional water strategy to manage water availability, including aquifer recharge, control over-extraction, increase the use of rainwater harvesting etc.
- Promote soil management techniques (Min-till cultivation, cover crops, ley-arable rotations) to protect and improve soil structure / nutrient levels and increase resilience to adverse weather / aridity impacts.
- Provision of capacity building support and advice to community groups for taking action to support nature enhancement.
- Develop joint strategies, research, and longer-term schemes with South West Water and catchment partnerships (and other risk management partners where appropriate) to improve catchment management both for high flow areas at flood risk and protect low flow by reducing demand / drought impacts.
- Develop and expand the Climate Emergency / Readiness Action group – (steering group formed from business, public sector, and academia) to take the lead on more projects within the region.
- Put in place a flood plan to ensure business continuity and community awareness – sign up for alerts and check insurances for coverage on flooding / severe weather events.
- Define a regional approach (e.g. ‘One Health’) to prevent the emergence of zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases transmitted between animals and people).
- Raise awareness on the impacts of anti-microbial resistance and prevention measures (e.g. reducing antibiotics use in livestock).
- Work with partners, including universities, to examine the effects of climate change on crime rates and the potential for civil disorder.
Community Groups, local hubs
- Work with partners, including local authorities, to develop the materials and training to support in the establishment and support of local Community Resilience Groups.
For climate change impacts to be effectively addressed and adapted to, individuals should take an active role in assessing their own, and their communities’, vulnerabilities to extreme weather events, including impacts from flooding, heatwaves, and water scarcity. Individual property-level adaptation actions may include:
- Install rainwater harvesting, such as a water butt.
- Increase your property’s resilience to flooding.
- Check your insurance coverage levels and limitations.
- Upgrade your household water fittings to reduce your water use.
- Switch to water-efficient appliances.
- Choose porous surfaces for your driveways and paths.
- Add solar shading to the south façade of buildings and/or introduce passive cooling measures to reduce heat impacts.
- Fit insect screens where needed.
- Maintain building structure, including roofs.
- Increase the capacity of guttering down-pipes.