Adaptation Strategy

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.

Executive Summary

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:

  1. A climate change risk and opportunity assessment for Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly.
  2. A strategic adaptation plan for the next 5 years, which sets out the conditions for everyone to act on adapting to climate change together.
  3. 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

Action Plan