Getting started: basic adaptation resources

Climate change is already here

Climate change is receiving unprecedented attention at the moment. Zero carbon is the main focus, but even if we achieve net zero tomorrow, a certain amount of climate change is now unavoidable and will continue to unfold for another few decades. And it’s already evident. To put it into context:

  • 2020 was third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record for the UK. No other year has fallen in the top ten for all three variables for the UK.
  • 25 July 2019 saw the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, reaching 38.7 degrees C.
  • 2020 was the third warmest year for the UK in a series from 1884, and also third warmest for Central England in a series from 1659.
  • All the top 10 warmest years for the UK in the series from 1884 have occurred since 2002.The Central England Temperature series provides evidence that the 21st century so far has overall been warmer than the previous three centuries.
  • The decade 2011–2020 has had 16% fewer days of air frost and 14% fewer days of ground frost compared to the 1981–2010 average, and 25%/20% fewer compared to 1961–1990.
  • The decade 2011–2020 has been on average 4% wetter than 1981–2010 and 9% wetter than 1961–1990 for the UK overall.
  • On 31st July, 37.8°C was recorded in Greater London, making this the UK’s third warmest day on record.

For more on observed climate change, in the UK see the Met Office’s State of the UK Climate 2020 (published July 2021).

Climate change will make these weather extremes, and the resulting disruption and discomfort, more frequent and severe into the future. Through this century, London expects to see hotter, drier summers, warmer, wetter winters, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events. Risks may be direct – from weather-related damage to buildings and assets, or indirect – from disruption to business supply chains or the infrastructure we rely upon, such as IT systems, transportation, or energy. London’s people, places, and infrastructure need to be ready.

 

Considering climate justice

The impacts of climate change will not be evenly or fairly distributed. And while we know that existing inequalities and disadvantages will make some people more vulnerable to climate impacts, we also know that climate impacts will exacerbate these inequalities by taking the biggest toll on poor, marginalized, vulnerable communities.

Consideration of vulnerable populations is important in understanding who is most at risk from climate change, but also in how we shape our adaptation interventions. For example, greening is often seen as a solution with benefits for adaptation, health, amenity, and biodiversity. But the design of public spaces can include or exclude people if it doesn’t reflect the views, values, culture, and priorities of those who might use them. Not all climate action is fair or just. When considering interventions, we need to ask: who benefits? Whose values are reflected in this action? And how can we make sure that our solutions are genuinely inclusive?

There are resources that can help point the way to more inclusive and fair climate action:

  • Green Space or White Space?  Dr. Bridget Snaith from the University of East London showed that the way we shape our public realm in our parks and green spaces can discriminate by design. Find her fascinating talk here.
  • C40 Cities has developed a suite of resources to help cities ensure that principles of equity and inclusion are embedded in processes and policies. It also encourages city decision-makers to measure, monitor, and evaluate both the impacts of the action we’re taking but also the distribution of impacts across the population.
  • Environmental justice and systemic racism: The US Environmental Protection Agency hosted a speaker series that explores how understanding and addressing systemic racism and the roots of disproportionate environmental and public health impacts is key to integrating environmental justice in the policies and programs of EPA and other environmental agencies to achieve environmental protection for all people.
  • Social vulnerability and climate change – climate risk mapping: The GLA has produced this climate risk mapping, which overlays key metrics to identify areas of London that are most exposed to climate impacts with high concentrations of vulnerable populations.

 

Getting started

When considering adaptation, it helps to focus on areas of your work that are most likely to be affected by climate. A simple set of questions can help you determine whether climate risks are relevant to you and require further assessment:

  • Do you make decisions or investments with long lifetimes?
  • Do your decisions carry a high degree of “lock in?” That is, would they be difficult and/or expensive to reverse or retrofit later?
  • Are important aspects of your work weather-sensitive? Do you already experience impacts from weather?
  • Are you dependent on infrastructure or supply chains that could be disrupted due to weather?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then adaptation is something you need to consider.

Adaptation can be confusing, but there are simple ways to begin. The LCCP encourages partners to begin with a review of their own aims and objectives–and how these might be affected by current weather and potential future climate.

These guides describe this approach and provide simple steps to starting on the adaptation journey:

How do you adapt in an uncertain world?

A User’s Guide to Applied Adaptation Pathways

EA’s Adaptation Pathways Induction Pack

 

Quick actions

Different organisations will have different ways of considering adaptation, but there are a few basic actions that almost any organisation should consider. These include:

  • Appoint someone in a leadership position with responsibility for adaptation.
  • Ensure that weather-dependent risks are included in corporate and community risk registers and reviewed regularly.
  • Map flood risk to assets, buildings, staff, important travel routes, and others within your area of interest with the Environment Agency’s free flood maps.
  • Sign up for the EA’s flood warning service, and promote sign-up to important suppliers, stakeholders.
  • Identify people who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts with London’s climate risk mapping.  Climate Just also has a wealth of information about who is vulnerable and why.
  • Follow and promote heatwave advice to your staff and wider networks.
  • Reduce water consumption in your buildings and processes, and promote water saving to others. Thames Water offers free Smarter Business Visits for public and commercial organisations.
  • Map your longer-term decisions and investments to identify opportunities to build in resilience.
  • Require larger suppliers to demonstrate consideration of climate risks to their businesses and operations – through social value frameworks or procurement contracts.

 

Getting more help

The London Climate Change Partnership offers free support and advice about adaptation in London, including peer learning, research, events, and other activities related to sectors and climate risks.  Contact Kristen to find out more.

Other resources:

Early stage overheating risk tool:  This tool provides guidance for how to assess overheating risk in residential schemes at the early stages of design.

Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): Produced guidelines for voluntary reporting on climate risks. Find recommendations and help in implementing recommendations, including guidance for financial and non-financial sectors. For businesses but principles apply to other organisations as well.

Good practice guidance for Local Government: Produced by the Local Adaptation Advisory Panel, this guide provides some entry-level and more advanced measures that local authorities can take to be more climate-resilient across service areas, including public health, built environment, infrastructure, natural environment, and their own operations.

Adaptation reports: Government has a collection of adaptation reports from organisations reporting under the Adaptation Reporting Power. Under the Climate Change Act, Government can ask organisations to report on their understanding of risks and action to adapt. These reports can provide insight into how others are considering their risks and the measures needed to address them.

UKCP18 headline findings  provide an overview of the UK climate projections, including the resources available, the observed climate, and future projections for temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise.

We will be adding to this page periodically with other helpful tools, resources, and examples. If you have or come across any useful resources, please send them along!