“Climate change is definitely with us and we need action and we need it urgently” and “we could say we have seen a lost decade on climate adaptation and action absolutely cannot be delayed further”.
These are the words of a Chair of the Climate Committee which published its latest progress report to parliament on adapting to climate change in England.
The Climate Change Committee finds in its latest report, produced as part of reporting requirements under the 2008 Climate Change Act, that climate change adaptation has continued to receive significantly less attention by the government than efforts to reduce the UK greenhouse gas emissions – an issue the committee raised in its previous assessment. The progress report concluded that we remain unprepared and thus vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Quoting the Climate Change Committee
- Policies and plans. Despite some evidence of improved sectoral planning by the Government for key climate risks, ‘fully credible’ planning for climate change – where nearly all required policy milestones are in place – is only found for five of the 45 adaptation outcomes examined in this report.
- Delivery and implementation. None of the 45 adaptation outcomes was sufficient evidence that reductions in climate exposure and vulnerability are happening at the rates required to manage risks appropriately. For around one-quarter of outcomes, available indicators show insufficient evidence of progress.
Such a lack of progress contrasts with climate change already being felt across our communities through the recent extreme weather events the UK has experienced. The last heatwave event between June and August 2022, with temperatures reaching 4o oc, had a significant impact on health including causing excess death.
The committee’s recommendations can be viewed here:-
- Planning policy should be reformed to ensure that climate resilience is a priority, with mandatory adaptation interventions on all built-environment project applications
- Set out mechanisms for funding the installation and maintenance of SuDS and green infrastructure.
- Urgently collect data on the location, type and standard of SuDS and green infrastructure interventions.
- Introduce an urban greenspace target to reverse the decline and ensure towns and cities are adapted to more frequent heatwaves.
- Provide a mechanism for setting out place-based targets for urban greenspace and arbitrary impermeable urban surfaces in towns and cities.
Blue-green infrastructure’s role in climate adaptation
Blue-green infrastructure has a critical role to play. The multiple benefits in the form of ecosystem services that BGI provides are key to the climate change resilience of our UK towns and cities.
The recent Cool Towns project focused on combating city heat stress. This can be achieved through increased tree planting, something the 2014 Heatwave Plan for England recognises. The Cool Towns project found that using trees and planting to cool a residential street resulted in a reduction of the Physiological Equivalent Temperature (PET): recording a 6.2 oC reduction in one location and a 9.5 oC average reduction in another.
Looking for a blue-green infrastructure inspiration?
GreenBlue Urban has a wealth of examples of implementing blue and green infrastructure as multifunctional systems for climate adaptation and climate resilience.
The city of Breda, Netherlands applied for funding from the EU Interreg project called “Cool Towns”, where different options for reducing urban temperatures were considered and trialled as pilot schemes to test the effectiveness of these interventions. One mixed-use street, close to the city centre and the main railway station, was chosen to demonstrate how urban greening can not only make urban streets more pleasant and healthy places but create cooler pockets in hard-paved areas. This road was successfully planted with 16 trees in full GreenBlue Urban ArborFlow tree pit systems, and the results were amazing!
Part of the original plan at Caldicot Crossroads was to create a large sustainable drainage scheme, taking all the water from the roofs and the hard paving, attenuating and treating this water. Unfortunately, due to the below-ground constraints, this significant feature had to be reduced in size and now consists of several SuDS-enabled tree pits, each taking a smaller amount of rainwater in. The mixture of GreenBlue Urban Arborflow systems, rain gardens and other smaller SuDS features have transformed this town centre. The large tree pits are built up with RootSpace soil cells, looking after the soil, and keeping it in optimum conditions for root growth, the ArborVent aeration units, keep the soil healthy and alive.
The multi-award-winning Forth Valley College in Falkirk is a state-of-the-art campus designed to provide an innovative learning space and features the latest in technology and teaching methods. It was decided early on that the new public forecourt from the main car park would form a “green link” to house the 100-plus trees, creating an avenue of tree planting. All within GreenBlue’s ArborSystem tree pits. Best practice planting methodology will minimise the impact of numerous vehicles on site, reduce noise levels, provide shade, handle stormwater and pollution runoff all the while providing a pleasant environment for all.
All case studies highlight the need to #MakeAChange a perfect win for Blue-green infrastructure – the key to building climate resilience, according to the Climate Change Committee and its climate adaption progress.