New climate change strategy focuses on unique challenges for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of ScillyDevon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are ...

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New climate change strategy focuses on unique challenges for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of ScillyDevon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are ...
New climate change strategy focuses on unique challenges for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are working together on a new regional climate change strategy that takes account of the region’s specific needs and challenges. For example, tourism is a key part of the area’s economy and so helping seasonal businesses and coastal communities prepare for sea level rise is of the utmost importance here.

The region’s 1500 km coastline bears the brunt of storms from the Atlantic, with low lying and coastal communities susceptible to coastal flooding and erosion. Inland, there are steep valleys and terrain, as well as vast areas of exposed natural habitat, such as Dartmoor.

The Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Impacts Group is working with RSK Group (including subsidiaries ADAS, WRc and the RSK Centre for Sustainability Excellence), a global leader in climate change and sustainability, to develop a draft Climate Adaptation Strategy that emphasises how collaboration can increase resilience across the region, with an action plan highlighting where efforts should be focused over the next five years.

RSK Group company ADAS Climate and Sustainability Director Charles Ffoulkes said: “While mitigation (actions to reduce emissions that cause climate change) is widely talked about, adaptation (action to manage the risk of climate change impacts) is less-well understood and communicated. Significant climate ‘shocks’ are inevitable as the world grows warmer, with certain areas, depending on factors including geography and population, affected in different ways.

The region’s 1500 km coastline and low-lying coastal communities are at risk from rising sea levels, coastal flooding and erosion, while steep valleys and terrain exacerbate flash flooding. Summers are increasingly becoming hotter and drier, with drought conditions, water scarcity and wildfires becoming an increasing concern, which will impact the rural economy as crop failures and reduced productivity become more frequent across the region.”

To create the strategy, RSK Group companies ADAS and WRc ran sector-specific workshops with stakeholders from the Climate Impacts Group to identify, assess and evaluate the risk and opportunities for the region. Using insight from the national-level scores as a basis, local discussions were held to score the magnitude of the consequences and likelihood of occurrence of each impact by the 2050s under a 4°C warming scenario, and thus to assign urgency scores for the actions.

The Climate Impacts Group, chaired by the Environment Agency, was formed in 2019 in response to declarations of climate emergency across the three areas. It is responsible for assessing the impacts faced in the South West and reviewing current levels of community preparedness for a warmer world. The new draft strategy includes a risk assessment of the impact of climate change in the region, a strategic adaptation plan, which sets out the conditions needed to enable regional partners to act on adapting to climate change together, and an action plan focused on the next five years.

The research identified five main hazards that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly face from climate change: river and surface water flooding, sea level rise and coastal flooding and erosion, water scarcity and drought conditions, extreme temperature fluctuations and interacting and cascading impacts.

Charles said: “This plan primarily focuses on adaptation planning and action at the policy and organisational level, and its purpose is to set out how the region can create the conditions and capacity for everyone to adapt to climate change together. We see individuals, families and communities out there that want to do something, but they are not sure what or how. By providing the enabling conditions, knowledge and where applicable, funding, adaptation action can occur more easily at all levels of society.

“Furthermore, this guides local authorities to plan for and implement climate adaptation at a county and local level, including for flood risk management, public health and environmental impacts, while organisations and businesses can adapt to the risks and opportunities that climate change poses to their assets, products and services, especially with regards to critical energy, water, telecommunications and transport infrastructure.”

Residents are being asked for feedback on the draft strategy before it is finalised, with the public consultation set to close on 30 June.

The Environment Agency’s Area Director for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Mark Rice, said: “Significant impacts from climate change are now inevitable, but we can successfully respond to the climate emergency through greater, collective focus on adaptation to the increased hazards that are already evident…. This is why the Climate Adaptation Strategy is so vital – it looks at climate impacts, risks and actions which require regional solutions. By responding to the consultation, [the public] will have the opportunity to influence the future resilience of [their] community.”

The group has made the summary, adaptation strategy and a series of accessible ‘quick-reads’ available on its website, where the public is also invited to respond to the questionnaire.