Climate change and future environments

Strengthening ‘resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries’ is one of the key targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 13 to take action on climate change sustainabledevelopment.un.org.

New extremes of heat, fierce storms, floods, wildfires are increasingly ‘common’ as we come to accept the consequences of global warming are here. Our communities, cities and infrastructure need to be resilient and adaptive; assessing the impact of policies, plans and programmes and involving stakeholders and communities in shaping them will be important.

Recent projects

Understanding the actions and attitudes of UK local authorities

‘Cities play a significant role globally in creating carbon emissions but, as centres of major population, innovation and social practice, they also offer important opportunities to tackle climate change. The new challenges faced by cities in an ‘age of austerity’ and decentralist agendas present substantial challenges for coordinated multilevel governance’. This was the background to a study carried out by IAU member Elizabeth Wilson to understand the actions and attitudes of local authorities when developing carbon management plans.

The findings of the study are published in:
Dixon T and Wilson E (2013) Cities’ low carbon plans in an ‘age of austerity’: an analysis of UK local authority actions, attitudes and responses. Carbon Management 4 (6): 663-680

Accounting for carbon in EIA – greenhouse gas confusion

The EU EIA directive 2014/52/EU (which amends Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment) has a requirement the impact of the project on climate (for example the nature and magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions) and the vulnerability of the project to climate change to be considered as part of the assessment process. Research by IAU staff member Bridget Durning into how carbon emissions are being accounted for in the assessment process showed a wide variation in practice from not being considered at all to rarely being considered! However, even when consideration was given, the practice was poor with inconsistent use of terminology and clear lack of understanding of the science. Rapid improvement in practice will be needed for this new requirement in the EIA directive to be effectively implemented.

Findings on the confusion in terminology are published in:
Watkins J and Durning B (2012) Carbon definitions and typologies in environmental impact assessment: greenhouse gas confusion? Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 30 (4) 296-301

C-Change

In 2010-2012 the EC funded the C-Change project, which aimed to facilitate change in both attitudes and practical responses to the challenges of climate change in city regions, by finding, testing and demonstrating answers to three questions, which formed the Project's three shared objectives:

1. How can all communities and stakeholders be actively engaged in practical responses to climate change?

2. How can multi-functional open space and the built environment help us to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change?

3. How can spatial planning strategy and policy contribute to 'climate proofing' our city regions?

The programme entailed the setting up of a large number of projects across the four partner countries. A Transnational Peer Review process was envisioned as part of the structure of the programme, in order to investigate value and contribution of the approaches taken in these projects. The review was conducted at two points: mid-programme and at the end of the programme. Jake Piper (retired member of the IAU staff) was contracted as lead reviewer, visiting a broad selection of projects and using project publications, and coordinating a final TPR report. She also undertook the compilation of a final report for the programme, on behalf of the lead partner: Groundwork, UK.

Branch: Biodiversity Spatial Planning Climate Change

Climate change modelling and socio-economic scenarios provide a complex picture of likely climate change over the period to 2050. Unavoidable change will happen as the result of past emissions and attempts to mitigate climate change via emissions reduction cannot avert this. As part of the EU-funded BRANCH programme (Biodiversity Requires Adaptation in Northwest Europe under a CHanging Climate), spatial planning policy relating to biodiversity and climate change, was reviewed across three partner countries: France, Netherlands and UK (England). The study methodology included the review of national policies and planning documents at various levels, followed by consultation with policy-makers and planners at workshops in Winchester, The Hague and Brussels, and interviews in northern France.

Spatial planning has a role to play in finding ways of enabling species to survive and adapt to climate change, through measures that protect and enhance biodiversity and measures that control the impacts of human activities, or safeguard areas of current or future importance for biodiversity in the light of a changing climate. Many of these measures will also provide other benefits both for the support of ecosystem functions and for human quality of life.

IAU staff involved: Jake Piper and Elizabeth Wilson for English Nature under European Regional Development Fund: Interreg IIIb.