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Why Climate Adaptation is Crucial


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January 31, 2024

In February we'll be working with the Bioregional Learning Centre to discuss climate adaptation at our Change Makers event. In advance of that, Bioregional Learning Centre Director Isabel Carlisle offers an insight to climate adaptation and how communities can look to respond.

At the recent high-level talks at Cop28, the main focus is still on ‘what can we do to reduce carbon emissions to forestall dangerous climate change?’. In other words, governments and big business are largely talking about mitigation: exerting influence for a less bad outcome. Just as important, and frustratingly not much covered at this CoP, is climate adaptation. 

Climate adaptation accepts that climate change is happening and will have a big impact on our lives. It asks: ‘What do we need to do to raise our game while keeping the life blood flowing in our communities and our lives?’. In other words: how can we best evolve in response to the non-negotiable imperative of climate change?’

That is the question that the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Adaptation Strategy was commissioned to help us answer here in the South West. We are very fortunate to have this new piece of work to get us thinking and planning. It has produced a clear assessment of the risks that climate change brings and takes us through why a step-change in our thinking, planning and acting is needed now. In total, 62 climate change impacts were considered, drawing on current science, and considering both positive (i.e. opportunities) and negative (i.e. risks) effects. 

We are already experiencing some of the headline risks: river and surface water flooding; sea level rise with coastal flooding and erosion; reduced water availability due to summer drought; temperature change with both extreme heat and cold. The impacts from these will land on our infrastructure; our eco-systems; human health; food security; travel and many aspects of our lives that we take for granted. 

While the purpose of the report was collaboration between public services, county councils and regional councils across the South West, it is also a good basis for local action within a smaller region. Bioregional Learning Centre (BLC), based in South Devon, has taken up the challenge of opening up a conversation in the South Hams as to how communities can become solutions-focused. Sustainable South Hams is delighted to be working with the BLC,  and as a first step we will be co-hosting the February Change Makers meeting online on Wednesday February 21st, 2024 at 7.30pm. 

At this stage we are looking at examples of adaptation innovation and forward thinking that already exist here. How are communities organising to cope with flooding? Or retreat from the sea? What local food systems are coming into play to make sure we can feed ourselves? We may need cool centres for hot summers as well as warm centres for cold winters. 

We want to support change makers of all kinds and will be putting together a learning journey for May and an exhibition that can travel around towns and parishes for this coming autumn of 2024. We don’t have all the answers... but the answers are out there. Through all of us talking, learning, designing, asking questions and experimenting together we will be putting in place pathways to action that will stand us in good stead in the coming decades.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, book on for the free online event on 21st February here.