A lack of local climate action focus on adaptation

Climate change is a global problem, and there is strong and broad support for more climate action at the local level (e.g. three out of four local authorities in the UK have declared a climate emergency) with particular support for inclusive processes and participatory democracy.

However, the overwhelming focus of local climate action has been on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) as reflected by the work of the PCAN Climate Commissions. The UK is not prepared to adapt to a 2°C rise in temperature and, despite the fact that adaptation and managing the physical risks to climate change resonates at the local level (e.g. flood protection), adaptation features in less than 12% of climate emergency declarations.

The evolving landscape of climate action in the UK provides a window of opportunity to further explore the role of the place in adaptation to climate risks across the PCAN Commissions and beyond.  

Activities of the PCAN Adaptation platform

The PCAN Adaptation platform, established in 2020, and led by Dr Candice Howarth, seeks to enhance place-based climate adaptation and in so doing, contribute to improving the UK’s climate resilience policy framework and enhance the UK’s adaptive capacity by exploring how best to integrate climate adaptation and mitigation.

The platform will develop a baseline understanding of the current landscape of (i) climate adaptation constituents in the PCAN Cities (Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds) and London and across the UK, (ii) where adaptation features in climate emergency declarations and resulting climate action plans, and (iii) current and future climate vulnerability/threats in Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds and London.

The work of the platform aims to ensure this work reflects the needs of end-users and will help inform local decision-making and action around climate adaptation. We will analyse how experience, governance, information and institutions shape climate adaptation governance systems and responses in the PCAN cities and London (in the first instance); and seek to better understand how to achieve inclusion, participation and cross-sectorial collaboration.

Examples of activities of the PCAN Adaptation platform

The role of climate emergency declarations in enhancing local climate action

Dr Candice Howarth, Matt Lane, Sam Fankhauser

This work has included an analysis of the UK landscape of climate emergency declarations, a case study focus on the city of London and an exploration of where adaptation fits into the declarations and resulting climate action plans. Outputs include an expert roundtable (‘We've declared a climate emergency, now what?’) in March 2021 hosted by PCAN, an academic paper, and a survey of London Councils.

Providing a vehicle for the Climate Action Readiness Assessment (CARA)

Dr Candice Howarth, Millie Duncan

This on-going work involves applying the innovative CARA (Climate Action Readiness Assessement) methodology, developed by the PCAN Leeds team, to adaptation and resilience. It will involve workshops with adaptation constituents to assess blockages to climate adaptation and how to overcome them.

Place as adaptation: Understanding neighbourhood resilience in the aftermath of COVID-19

PCAN Fellowship led by Matthew Lane (University of Edinburgh)

Mitigation efforts tend to dominate climate policy, but the urgency of the climate crisis means adaptation is increasingly becoming an important governance theme. Rather than seeing adaptation as something simply needing to be considered by place­-based action, Matt’s PCAN Fellowship is premised on the notion that sense of place is a concept which itself emerges through the way in which people adapt to prevailing social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Place-based climate action in north-east Scotland: Investigating climate action where urban and rural meet

PCAN Fellowship led by Alice Hague (James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen)

Alice will research place-based climate action in the north-east of Scotland, asking how place-based sustainability partnerships address competing demands and priorities in the development of local climate strategies. During her Fellowship, Alice will study how local councils act as a nexus in engaging employers, business, communities and third sector organisations in climate adaptation, and seek understanding the opportunities and barriers for place-based climate adaptation.

Informing climate adaptation in Croydon

Dr Candice Howarth

Candice was a Commissioner on the Croydon Climate Crisis Commission from 2020 to 2021. She instigated and chaired a Working Group on adaptation and resilience for the Commission and chaired a series of meetings in 2020 leading to the production of a set of recommendations that have now been sent to Croydon Council through the Commission's report. The recommendations were informed by discussions between the Working Group members and expert presentations from the London Climate Change Partnership and Buro Happold on climate impacts and solutions relevant to London and Croydon. The resulting recommendations included developing climate adaptation pathways for Croydon; conducting a thorough assessment of the current landscape for climate adaptation in Croydon; developing and implementing a broad programme of activities; and contributing to a broader knowledge exchange exercise with other Councils. More details and how these fit in the wider context of the Commission's other recommendations can be found in the report.

PCAN Adaptation Platform team

The work of the Adaptation Platform is guided by a "PCAN community of adaptation practice’" which meets every two months and includes:

Candice Howarth, PCAN Senior Policy Fellow

Millie Duncan, PCAN Analyst

Matt Lane, PCAN Fellow

Alice Hague, PCAN Fellow

Kate Crowley, PCAN Associate

For further details about the PCAN Adaptation platform please contact Candice Howarth at c.howarth@lse.ac.uk


Header image: Wim van t'Einde, Unsplash