Principles for climate adaptation in place
Author: Sandy Forsyth |
This short report is part of our ongoing series on the construction of a Local Resilience Act.
As climate shifts worldwide, councils across England are being hit by increasingly extreme weather patterns including violent storm surges, unbearable temperatures, and widespread flooding. At the level of place, our local authorities are best situated to understand and to act upon individual resilience requirements from city to country to coast. However, the current funding landscape for local government to deliver resilient places is far too piecemeal and insufficient. Furthermore, the system is overwrought with complexity – the division of responsibilities between local, central government and industry are too fragmented and disconnected for this to be addressed as a whole place agenda. For these reasons, Localis proposes the codification, consolidation and strengthening of local authorities role through a Local Resilience Act.
Defining resilience is the second in a series looking at various dimensions of a Local Resilience Act, looking at how effective climate adaptation at the local level might be legislated for through the lens of defining resilience. The report analyses how resilience is defined at various spatial scales and in a range of policy contexts; how UK legislation currently defines resilience, and what international precedent exists for climate adaptation legislation. Drawing from these sources, the report concludes with a list of six principles for a Local Resilience Act which could provide both a baseline and a guidance system for local authorities to shore up resilience to the impacts of climate change in place.
Looking across various institutional definitions of resilience, some overarching themes are visible depending on the type of institution and policy area. The unique and complex role of local government in civic life means that its approach to climate resilience must take on elements of all these definitions.
- Governments stress:
- a focus on
- positive adaptation.
- the need to navigate sustainability and growth.
- acceleration of resilience as a key factor.
- a whole society approach with capacity for self-organisation.
- Charities stress:
- the rights of individuals and communities.
- the importance of defining roles and responsibilities.
- the importance of integration in adaptation.
- wellbeing as a factor in resilience.
- Research organisations and INGOs stress:
- self-organisation and the ability to
- having the right resources – including social and cultural resources – through which to be resilient.
- the principle that identity must not be sacrificed in preparation for and response to risk.
- resilience as an enabler for action.
Principles for a local resilience framework
The need for a broad definition, combined with the differing circumstances faced by authorities across the country, points towards a Local Resilience Act which establishes an enabling framework for locally-led climate adaptation. An Act which put in place a framework for adaptation abiding by these principles could help to create a clear baseline and overarching guidance for local authorities to prepare for the impacts of climate change in place, without taking emphasis away from the need to decarbonise as a national priority.
- Adaptable. Given the inherent uncertainty and multiple intangibles involved in climate adaptation, the local resilience framework must be able to quickly respond to changing circumstances.
- Localised. The creation of a framework with a baseline for adaptation must not mean a multiplicity of hard and fast rules which may be more applicable in some areas than others.
- Equitable. The challenge of both planning and financing climate adaptation will vary considerably for different parts of the country, this reality must be factored into the framework for local resilience.
- Transparent. There must be a clear distribution of responsibilities in shoring up climate resilience between central government, councils, sectors of the economy and citizens.
- Accountable. A compliance system ensuring that different actors and institutions will be held accountable if their responsibilities are not upheld should be built into the framework to ensure credibility.
- Quantifiable. The presence of easily applied tests and mapping to cross-check decisions was shown both in literature reviewed for this paper, and in Climate Resilience in Local Plans, to be an enabler of effective adaptation.
In putting forward a framework for resilience in place, capacity constraints at the local level would also need to be addressed. This is particulary relevant to the argument for a new duty being placed upon councils, which could not come without sustained revenue funding to support delivery. Further research as part of the Local Resilience Act campaign will focus on how such funding could be arrived at and distributed.