Publications > Technical reports > Technical report (CCRA3-IA)

Chapter 5: Health, Communities and the Built Environment

Published:
16 June 2021

Assessment:
CCRA3-IA

Country focus:
UK

About this document

This chapter summarises the evidence regarding the key risks and opportunities of climate change for the UK population, with a particular focus on health and wellbeing, and on the built environment.

Lead authors: Sari Kovats, Rachel Brisley

Contributing authors: Matthew Baylis, Claire Belcher, Philip Bennett-Lloyd, Richard Betts, Sally Brown, Hannah Fluck, Rajat Gupta, Katherine Knox, Valentina Marincioni, Andy Morse, Dan Osborne, Catherine Payne, Jonathan Taylor, Grace Turner

Additional contributors: Neil Adger, Amy Bell, Jade Berman, Kathryn Brown, Gemma Holmes, Martin Hurst, Jane McCullough, Alan Netherwood, Catherine Payne Andrew Russell, David Style

This chapter should be cited as: Kovats, S. and Brisley, R. (2021) Health, communities and the built environment. In: The Third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Technical Report [Betts, R.A., Haward, A.B., Pearson, K.V. (eds.)]. Prepared for the Climate Change Committee, London

CCRA3-IA - Chapter 5

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Key Messages

  • High temperatures are increasingly affecting health and wellbeing, but there has been little progress in addressing the increasing risks from overheating through building standards or incentives to retrofit. Heatwaves in recent summers (2018, 2019, and 2020) have caused significant impacts on mortality and morbidity, and disruptions to public services (including hospitals, care homes, schools and prisons), particularly in England. The frequency and duration of extreme heat episodes is very likely to increase, and high temperatures are likely to exceed tolerance thresholds for many systems. There is more evidence since CCRA2 about the risks of overheating in buildings and the effectiveness and limitations of strategies for passive and space cooling.The installation of passive measures through retrofit are likely to be sufficient to address overheating risks in all regions except London under high rates of warming. However, there is still little preventative action being taken to address health risks from overheating in new or existing homes. Housing policies to address Net Zero may increase the risk of overheating and there is a need to tackle the full range of housing interventions (mitigation, damp, flooding, overheating) in a holistic manner. There is better understanding of the effectiveness of health protection strategies, particularly for actions linked to heat alerts. [Sections 5.2, 5.13, 5.14, 5.15.2, 5.15.3]
  • Flood risk to people from rivers, surface water and coastal flooding remains a high magnitude current and future risk across the UK. Advances have been made since CCRA2 in flood risk management policy, investment and adaptation action, though challenges remain in relation to understanding the resilience of development on the flood plain, limited mandatory management of surface water flooding in parts of the UK and the low take up of Property Flood Resilience. The majority of the total present and future flood impacts are in England with its larger population, but economic impacts on a per capita basis (Expected Annual Damage per person) are higher in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Risk of flooding from rivers is the dominant source in terms of annual damages, but assuming that current levels of adaptation continue, surface water and coastal risks increase their relative contribution to UK flood risk. Groundwater flooding continues to have a limited contribution at national scale, although will be important locally. Considerable advances have been made regarding the strategic management of flood risk at national and local levels since the last CCRA, and whilst flood events have occurred, a larger number of properties have been protected than affected. However, it remains unclear how far current policy ambition will go towards keeping future risk constant at today’s levels as the climate changes, particularly in relation to improving and monitoring uptake of green sustainable urban drainage and Property Flood Resilience measures, ensuring access to insurance, and avoiding lock-in from development in high flood risk areas. Our assessment is that more action continues to be needed across the UK to address these issues. [Section 5.3, 5.15]
  • Sea level rise and coastal change are likely to threaten the viability of some communities in the future. Some evidence of the vulnerability of specific communities in the South and East coasts of England and the West coast of Wales is already available, but there remains no long-term assessment of viability across the UK. UKCP18 projections suggest greater sea level rise than had been projected previously. Considerable work has been conducted to enhance both an understanding of coastal risk and policy and strategy development, particularly at the national level. The example of Fairbourne in Wales is the UK’s first community whose long-term viability is unlikely to be sustainable due to sea level rise. Whilst Shoreline Management Plans include long-term strategies to manage coastline in England, Wales and parts of Scotland, there is limited evidence of national and local governments and other stakeholders taking a long-term strategic approach to identify and support communities at risk of loss across the UK. [Section 5.5, 5.15]
  • Higher rates of warming may lead to interruptions of household water supplies which would have health, social and economic impacts, particularly for vulnerable households. Parts of the UK, particularly in South East England, are already water stressed. Private water supplies are most vulnerable to current and future climate hazards that affect water quality (contamination with pathogens or chemicals) and quantity (interruption of supply). Climate change may increase the risk of contamination of drinking water through increased runoff and flooding events, and additional actions will be required to maintain water quality standards. [Section 5.11]
  • The physical and mental health benefits of increased physical activity and contact with nature are well established, but there is limited evidence on the extent to which a warmer climate is likely to increase these activities. Policies to promote access to greenspace have been developed at local level and national levels. There remains a lack of research into the opportunities for public agencies to increase outdoor activities for health and wellbeing. [Section 5.3, 5.12]
  • The burden of ill-health from cold weather and cold homes remains significant in the UK and is a priority for public health and local government action. Climate change is likely to reduce the burden of cold-related mortality, however, the overall burden remains high, even to the end of the century. Population ageing is likely to offset some of the benefit from warmer winters for cold-related mortality. [Section 5.3, 5.7]
  • Climate change may increase damage to homes through increases in subsidence, increases in damp/excess moisture, and increases in structural damage due to high winds. The presence of at least some relevant building standards across all four UK countries means that the present-day risk is being considered for new build homes or those undergoing refurbishment. However, there is little evidence that the future risks from climate change are being integrated into planning, building design or retrofit, potentially locking in homes to some future risk. [Section 5.5]
  • Climate change will reduce future household energy costs in winter. Cooling demand in summer is likely to increase with climate change if there is significant uptake of mechanical cooling methods (air conditioning). For this combination of opportunity and risk, government intervention is important for managing energy costs for summer cooling, as well as the reduction in winter heating. Climate change is not yet being factored into government policies in future energy demand sufficiently; including in relation to the scale and type of energy efficiency, and low carbon heating measures needed to achieve Net Zero. [Section 5.1, 5.6, 5.15.3]
  • Climate change may interfere with efforts to control outdoor air pollution, and ground-level ozone may increase under some high emissions pathways. Policies to achieve Net Zero are likely to reduce emissions of key outdoor air pollutants and pollutant precursors but not in all scenarios. The impacts on particulate pollution from climate change are highly uncertain and gaps in understanding remain on how future changes in temperature and wind patterns would affect air quality. There is a shortfall in planning for future ground level ozone, pollen, and air pollution caused by wildfire. [Section 5.8]
  • Climate change will increase the risks from vector-borne diseases in the UK. Lyme disease cases may increase with climate change due to an extended transmission season and increases in person-tick contact. The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as chikungunya and dengue being present in the UK is likely to increase in England and Wales as temperatures increase. The risk that malaria may become established remains low. The risk of Culex-transmitted diseases such as West Nile Virus is likely to increase in the UK. [Section 5.9]
  • Climate change is likely to be an important risk for food safety in the UK. Foodborne illness has significant health and social costs. Increases in extreme weather patterns, variations in rainfall and changing annual temperatures will impact the occurrence and persistance of bacteria, viruses, parasites, harmful algae, fungi and their vectors. There has been a lack of progress to address current and futures risks from climate change in food systems. [Section 5.10]
  • Climate change may also affect food security in the UK through variability in access to food due to disruptions to the supply chain from climate hazards both in the UK and abroad. The UK currently is lacking in specific policies to address the implications of climate change for food security. Further action is needed to assess the implications of Net Zero and accessing a sustainable diet but also ensure food systems are resilient to climate change in the future [Section 5.10]
  • Climate change will increase the risk of disruption in health and social care services from floods and heatwaves unless additional action is taken. Disruption to critical services (water, energy, transport) may further undermine the delivery of health and care services. Impacts will be felt within institutional settings, such as hospitals, residential and nursing homes, and will have negative impacts on health workers as well as patients and residents. Climate change will also have implications for people who receive care services in their own homes. National health systems are developing methods, plans and tools to managing overheating and flood risks, but adaptation is still largely seen as being addressed by emergency planning. The fragmentation of public services could hinder future action, particularly in health and social care. Further action is needed in particular to address overheating in hospitals and residential care buildings. [Section 5.1, 5.2, 5.13, 5.15]
  • Climate change is likely to cause disruption to education and prison services unless additional action is taken. There is evidence of planning and guidance in line with future climate scenarios being developed in England and Wales, particularly for managing overheating. However, further adaptation measures are essential in each nation to avoid lock-in with building designs and to be resilient to the future risks of overheating, flooding and other climate hazards. [Section 5.14]
  • Coastal heritage is particularly at risk from climate change and heritage organisations and communities may need to accept the loss of some heritage assets, particularly on the coast. The potential risks and opportunities from climate change for both intangible and tangible cultural heritage are numerous and include the potential to discover previously unknown heritage. There is evidence of a large amount of progress in the heritage sector since CCRA2 to assess risks and adaptation strategies. Continued monitoring is essential to inform risk management and cultural loss needs to be incorporated into adaptation and resilience thinking. [Section 5.12]
  • Housing and planning policies do not sufficiently consider climate change which could create significant lock-in for many different building types. Current and future adaptation action for health, communities and the built environment has several common challenges and limitations. There is a lack of incentives for retrofitting existing properties. There is a lack of implementation of effective strategies that require changes in behaviour, and some surveys of exposed groups show low levels of awareness of their own risks from climate hazards. [Section 5.1, 5.4, 5.5, 5.15]
  • The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to place great strain on the health service for some years to come, even once the pandemic has passed, making capacity to address climate change more limited. [Section 5.12, 5.15]
  • There are synergies and opportunities to address adaptation and mitigation at the same time. Achieving Net Zero may make adaptation action harder to achieve for some risks, particularly for addressing overheating in buildings. Many Net Zero strategies have the potential to bring significant co-benefits in terms of population health and wellbeing. [Section 5.15]
Table 5.0. Urgency scores for risks and opportunities to health, communities and the built environment

Risk number

Risk/Opportunity description

Urgency scores
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
H1Risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(Low confidence)

More action needed

(Low confidence )

More action needed

(High confidence)

H2Opportunities for health and wellbeing from higher temperatures

Further investigation

(Low confidence )

Further investigation

(Low confidence)

Further investigation

(Low confidence )

Further investigation

(Low confidence )

H3Risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(High confidence)

H4Risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise

More action needed

(High confidence)

Further investigation

(Low confidence)

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(High confidence)

H5Risks to building fabric

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Low confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

H6Risks and opportunities from summer and winter household energy demand

More action needed

(High confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

H7Risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

H8Risks to health from vector-borne disease

More action needed

(High confidence)

Further investigation

(Low confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

H9Risks to food safety and food security

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

H10Risks to water quality and household water supplies

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

Further investigation

(Medium confidence)

H11Risks to cultural heritage

More action needed

(Low confidence)

More action needed

(Low confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

H12Risks to health and social care delivery

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

H13Risks to education and prison services

More action needed

(Medium confidence)

More action needed

(Low confidence)

More action needed

(Low confidence )

More action needed

(medium confidence )

5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 Scope of this chapter

This chapter summarises the evidence regarding the key risks and opportunities of climate change for the UK population, with a particular focus on health and wellbeing, and on the built environment. The chapter covers all UK populations, and risks are assessed separately for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The chapter addresses how climate change risks are likely to vary by type of settlement (urban, rural, coastal) as well by geographic region. Risks to (or managed through) the built environment apply to all communities and not just urban areas. We also consider whether the health impacts of climate change will affect some groups more than others, particularly those who are more vulnerable due to low incomes, age or disability.

The evidence in this chapter is divided into 13 climate risks and opportunities. These encompass a wide range of policy areas: communities and planning; buildings and cultural heritage; the health system, the social care system; education and prisons. Some upstream policy issues are addressed in other chapters. It is important to note that many of the wider (environmental and social) determinants of the health of the UK population are governed by ‘non-health’ government departments. (Table 5.1)

For each risk and opportunity, the assessment is divided into three parts as set out in Chapter 2 (Watkiss and Betts, 2021), an assessment of current and future risk or opportunity in the absence of further adaptation, an assessment of how far planned adaptation will manage the risk or opportunity, and the benefits of further action in the next five years.

The assessment of the magnitude of current and future risks follows criteria outlined in Chapter 2 (Watkiss and Betts, 2021), including that a range of climate scenarios must be considered spanning a 2°C increase in global temperature by 2100 (the low climate scenario), up to global temperatures reaching 4°C between 2070 and 2100 (the high climate scenario). Magnitude of risks are assessed for a diverse range of outcome measures. Few studies have quantified the impact of climate change on health or social outcomes or have estimated the economic (damage costs) of the future impacts, therefore the assessment relies on expert judgement for some risks. The magnitude of impacts from climate hazards is often estimated as annualised damages, but the impacts of extreme events or singular events (e.g. disease introduction) are also considered. Many climate-related risks are already being well managed, but climate change may still cause a ‘climate penalty’ so that the reductions in risk are less than they would be without climate change. There is very little information on health impacts of climate-driven low likelihood, high magnitude events and these are not included in the magnitude scoring (see Box 5.1).

Table 5.1. Responsibilities for adaptation by government department for each nation*.
Policy areaEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Housing and urban planningMinistry of Housing, Communities & Local GovernmentDepartment for CommunitiesLocal Government and Community DevelopmentDepartment of Housing and Local Government
TransportDepartment for TransportDepartment for InfrastructureTransport ScotlandTransport for Wales
EducationDepartment for EducationDepartment of EducationEducation ScotlandDepartment for Education & Skills
Justice and prisonsMinistry of JusticeDepartment of JusticeJustice DirectorateMinistry of Justice
Employment regulations and protectionsDepartment for Business, Energy & Industrial StrategyDepartment for the EconomyBusiness, Fair Work and Skills DirectorateDirectorate for Social Partnership & Fair Work
Social protection measuresDepartment for Work and PensionsDepartment for CommunitiesSocial Security ScotlandDirectorate for Social Partnership & Fair Work
Hazard regulation in the environment (e.g. flood risk management, regulation of chemical and microbiological hazards in the air, water and soil)Environment Agency, Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsDepartment for Infrastructure RiversScottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection AgencyWelsh Government, Natural Resources Wales
Cultural heritageDepartment for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and Historic EnglandHistoric Environment Division (DoC)Scottish Government, Historic Environment ScotlandWelsh Government, Cadw

*Health and public health agencies not included.

Box 5.1. Low Likelihood High Impact events (LLHI): Health, Communities and the Built Environment

Communities are exposed to infrequent high magnitude events. The National Risk Register (HM Government, 2020b) considers the plausible risks (climatological and technological) that can cause major harm (deaths) or seriously disrupt security in the UK. These risks do not consider the most extreme climate changes, such as the climate system tipping points and abrupt climate change described in Chapter 1 (Slingo, 2021).

This chapter considers low likelihood high impact events in terms of the catastrophic outcomes (rather than the climate causes of LLHI). Catastrophic outcomes are likely to occur when there is an extreme climate event in combination with a failure or extreme event in the human system. Very high rates of global warming, such as in climate scenarios based on RCP8.5-level emissions and/or climate models with very high climate sensitivity, would bring greater risks to health and security than those estimated under the scenario of 4°C global warming by 2100.

The most potentially catastrophic climate ‘event’ risks for the UK are major coastal and river flooding. These risk are considered explicitly in Risks H3 and H4. Loss of life would be caused by a sudden failure of defences and factors that inhibited evacuation measures such as failures in warnings, damage to roads, etc. Similarly, a storm surge leading to significant coastal erosion and loss of land could impact coastal communities. Coastal erosion is notoriously difficult to predict, with recent events including a 10 metre loss from a single storm event at Formby, Sefton in December 2013, and 12 metres from a single storm in February 2002.

Sudden failures of key infrastructure have the potential to cause major loss of life (see Chapter 4: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021), including releases of harmful chemicals or radioactive materials from industrial installations (H10). The near failure of the Toddbrook Reservoir and potential fatalities in the town of Whaley Bridge is discussed in detail in the Case Study in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021). Sudden slope failures can be triggered by heavy rainfall, and have the potential for large loss of life (such as the Aberfan disaster in 1966). Wildfires are also recognised risks in the National Risk Register and are an increasing threat in the UK (Box 5.4).

After mid-century the risk of water shortages in the South East of England becomes more apparent in the CCRA3 projections. A failure of the water supply in a densely populated area would have serious consequences both locally and nationally.

Social and economic trends are highly relevant to the impacts of climate change, and strongly influence the future magnitude of risks (See Chapter 2: Watkiss and Betts, 2021). These trends are relevant not just for the populations that may be affected by climate change, but will also reflect the capacity for adaptation action (at national and local level). Climate and socio-economic factors can act together as risk multipliers, although for some changes, socio-economic change can reduce vulnerability and thus reduce the absolute burden on health of climate hazards.

Some of the major trends are described here and summarised in Table 5.2. These are also discussed in more detail under each risk.

The UK population is increasing and ageing, and these trends are projected to continue (Figure 5.1). Population growth and age distribution estimates are updated regularly by ONS. There are major uncertainties about future immigration policies (from Europe, post EU exit, and also from non-European countries) and immigration is an important determinant of future population size.

There have been few assessments of future population distribution within the UK, particularly differences in regional population growth, and urbanisation. It is too early to know if the COVID-19 pandemic has affected population distributions within the UK, particularly the movement of people from inner cities to suburban and rural locations, and whether this is likely to be maintained long term (beyond 2050).

Table 5.2. Summary of UK future trends and policies that affect the magnitude of risks and/or the capacity to adapt.

 

Heat-related risks [H1, H2, H6]

Flood-related risks [H3, H4, H5]

Biological and chemical hazards [H3, H7, H8, H9, H10]

Cultural heritage [H11]

Delivery of key services [H12, H13]

Factors affecting magnitude of risks
Population growthPopulation growth increases population at riskDrives targets for new build houses. Population growth increases population at risk of flooding by increasing demand for housing.Increases exposure of population at riskMay increase visitor pressures on cultural heritage sites, but also income 
Population ageingIncreases in older age groups who are most vulnerable to extreme weatherIncreases in older age groups who are most vulnerable to extreme weather Potential need to improve accessibility to historic sites and buildings with an older populationIncreases in population vulnerable to extreme weather. Increased demand for services.
Economic growthCosts to households and economy. Growth will increase income for retrofitting measuresCosts to households and economy. Growth will increase income for Property Flood Resilience measures and insuranceCosts to households and economyMay increase income to help with adaptation implementationCosts to public sector and economy. May increase income to help with adaptation implementation
Key barriers and facilitators of adaptation
Urban development (urban expansion)Increased urban density increases outdoor temperatures (urban heat islands)May increase population at risk of flooding and reduce green spaces impacting on drainageMay increase exposure to some air pollutantsPotential loss of historic sites and / or buildingsChanges to profile of service delivery
Changes in urban green spaceIncreases in green space can reduce urban heat islandsIncreases in green space can support flood risk management  Opportunities for more outdoor recreation could reduce health burdens
Housing needExpansion of new build homes that do not account for overheating. Loss of green space (cooling)Expansion of new build homes in Flood Zone 3. Loss of greenspace   
Changing regulatory standards and legal frameworks (devolved and non-devolved)  Less regulation will increase risk of contaminated food and water, and polluted air  
Changes to public health surveillance systems  Reduced access to ECDC information post EU-exit will impede strategies to control vector borne diseases Focus on infectious disease management
Fragmentation of (public services)Organisational barriers to implement coherent strategiesOrganisational barriers to implement coherent strategiesOrganisational barriers to implement coherent strategiesOrganisational barriers to implement coherent strategiesOrganisational barriers to implement coherent strategies
Net Zero / decarbonisation policiesSee separate table 5.55

Note: Empty cells indicate lack of significant effect – positive or negative. Adapted from CCRA2 (Table 5.3)

The UK population was estimated to be 66.7 million in mid-2019. The UK population is projected to pass 70 million by mid-2031, reaching 72.4 million by 2043 (ONS, 2020b), with most growth in England. Projections are more uncertain beyond mid century, with long-range projections ranging from 92 million to 66 million by 2100. Population in urban areas, particularly London, is likely to increase. The UK population is ageing, with older people accounting for an increasing share of the total population. By 2100, those aged over 65 are expected to account for around 30% of the total population, compared to 18% in 2016.

The future UK population is projected to be more diverse and more people will be living alone. The number of households may increase by 4 million between 2016 and 2041, and by 14 million to 2100 (compared to 2016). The majority of growth in the number of households is expected to be caused by the ageing population, as the number of households headed by someone aged over 65 increases, and likelihood of single occupancy increases. This has implications for housing demand.

There will likely be an increase in the number of older adults requiring care (people over 75 years with co-morbidities, persons over 85 years). The number of people aged 65 years or older in England is projected to increase significantly (Kingston et al., 2018). Watkiss et al. (2019) have estimated that, assuming rates of dependency remained the same, an extra 90,000 more care home places will be needed by 2025 and 190,000 by 2035. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the net economic impact of the ageing population. Older people could be a driver of economic growth and social wellbeing, or place a significant economic burden on the younger working population (Appleby, 2013).

Health and social care systems are likely to evolve over the coming decades, due to government policies as well as advances in technology. It is likely that e-medicine will increase in the future and the current trend of treating people at home rather than in hospitals will continue. There are likely to be signficiant changes regarding social care, given rising demand. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed several limitations in the current social care system that may hasten changes in this sector. The public health system in England was re-organised in 2021 to form the national UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) to ensure improved response to future pandemics.

Chart, line chart

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Figure 5.1. Population projections for the United Kingdom by age group. Reproduced from Cambridge Econometrics (2019)

The UK Government has stated the ambition to deliver 1.5 million net additions to the housing stock by 2022 (Wilson and Barton, 2021). The number of new homes needed in England is at least 345,000 per year, accounting for both new household formation and a backlog of existing need for suitable (affordable, healthy) housing (Wilson and Barton, 2021).

Building standards for new properties do not take climate change into account sufficiently (see Risks H1, H2, H5, H12 and H13) and so new homes represent ‘locking in’ risks for health and social costs from climate change. New and existing homes also often do not perform in line with minimum standards of performance expected by law due to issues with knowledge, skills, supply chains, occupant behaviour and quality assurance. Failure to perform in line with standards means locking in cold and damp homes, higher bills and greater risks of flooding for decades (CCC, 2019a).

It is not clear if there will be an expansion in urban areas in the future and if current greenfield sites will be converted to urban or housing developments. National plans (including England’s 25 year Environment Plan) have established objectives to protect biodiversity, maintain natural environments and increase urban green and blue space. However, the current trend is that urban green space is declining, particularly green space within current urban boundaries (CCC, 2019b).

Economic growth is an important factor for facilitating climate adaptation, both in relation to what households can afford and also in relation to the level of public spending for key public services. The current pandemic is having a detrimental effect on the economy and it is not yet clear how long the economic impacts will continue.

At the time of writing, the regulatory standards and legal frameworks (devolved and non-devolved) for air and water quality and food safety are uncertain following the UK’s exit from the European Union. The UK will no longer be obligated to implement several key EU Directives for health protection and currently there is no agreement on what will be implemented after the transition period (from 1st January 2021) with particular concerns for health regarding food safety and security (Benton et al., 2020). A Health Impact Assessment by Public Health Wales described mechanisms by which Brexit may undermine the control of chemical and biological hazards for human health by weakening regulations and responsibilities for polluters (Green et al., 2019) (see Table 5.2). In addition, the EU exit may entail reduced access to data, intelligence and evidence sharing mechanisms (devolved and non-devolved) and reduced access to EU research funding that has been important for improving the evidence based for climate risk management.

There are a range of pathways and specific strategies that can be adopted to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions; some of these will benefit adaptation, some may impede adaptation if additional action is not taken. Many Net Zero strategies have the potential to bring significant co-benefits in terms of population health and wellbeing. The implications of Net Zero strategies are addressed explicitly in each risk and also summarised at the end of the chapter (Section 5.15.3).

5.1.3 Fair adaptation: assessment of the distributional effects of risks and responses

Environmental health inequalities refer to general differences in environmental conditions important for human health and wellbeing. Socioeconomic and demographic inequalities in exposure to environmental hazards exist everywhere and can be expressed in relation to factors that may affect the risk of being exposed, such as income, education, employment, age, sex, race/ethnicity and specific locations or settings. In addition to these differences in exposure, environmental health inequalities are also caused by social or demographic differences in vulnerability/susceptibility towards certain risks. Certain groups may also have differential recovery after an extreme event, and that can excerbate inequalities when a population is exposed to repeated climate hazards.

Adaptation planning needs to consider who benefits and who is potentially disadvantaged by specific measures. It is well established that certain policies, for example, those that rely on behaviour change, can lead to selective uptake and thereby exacerbate inequalities in health (Marmot et al., 2020). Adaptation policies may therefore require additional effort to ensure that low income households are sufficiently prepared for climate change.

Protected characteristics of individuals and equality of opportunity are those factors covered by the Equality Act 2010 to prevent discrimination, and they include age, gender, race, disability, religion, beliefs and being pregnant. However, discrimination by individuals and organisations is only a part of the wider causes of health and social inequalities. Structural causes of inequalities are manifested in terms of differences in access to housing, income, employment, and basic services. Thus, opportunities for adaptation are unlikely to be evenly distributed across the UK population.

The UK has a geographically unequal developed economy, and this is reflected in differences in health/wellbeing indices like life expectancy between high and low income locations (ONS, 2019). The gap between economic growth in London and the South-East and other regions has increased: between 2006 and 2016, London was the only region to improve its position relative to the UK average. However, differentials in household income across the UK are more complex, and also the relationship between household incomes and wellbeing. The South West of England and Northern Ireland ranked the highest for personal well-being indicators such as life satisfaction, feeling worthwhile and happiness. Urban areas in the South East area of England are among the most productive and economically prosperous places in Europe, but areas in the North and Midlands and the Southwest are the least economically prosperous in the UK. The Government has policies to address this inequality through infrastructure development, and investment in education, skills and scientific R&D.

Local and neighbourhood issues are also important for health and wellbeing. In England, deprivation is widely distributed (61% of local authority districts contain at least one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England). However, Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Knowsley, Kingston upon Hull and Manchester are the local authorities with the highest proportions of neighbourhoods among the most deprived in England. Deprivation is measured by ONS using Indices of Deprivation based on census data (ONS, 2019). Areas with high deprivation in Scotland include those in Inverclyde, Glasgow City, North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Dundee City. In Wales, there are locations of high relative deprivation in the South Wales cities and valleys, and in some North Wales coastal and border towns (Statistics for Wales, 2019). Northern Ireland has higher levels of multiple deprivation than the rest of the UK, with locations of high relative deprivation in urban areas of Belfast and Derry City and Strabane (NISRA, 2017).

The distributional aspects of climate change (who is most affected) are discussed within each risk, and how this may change over time. For most risks, the most affected groups vary geographically, by local neighbourhood factors, and by individual characteristics (age, gender, household income, housing tenure). For many risks, particularly flooding and heatwaves, low income households are likely to be more affected in terms of health impacts (Table 5.3). Poor households will also bear a disproportionate burden of the the social and economic costs of extreme weather. However, it is worth stressing that these risk differentials are currently not large. All populations will be affected by climate change. The impacts of climate change will not be confined to poorer locations.

The Marmot Report (Marmot et al., 2020) promotes two strategies to reduce inequality in the UK: consideration of equality and health equity in all policies (across the whole of government, not just the health sector) and effective evidence-based interventions and delivery systems. Adaptation strategies and measures need to be evidence based and promote equity – that is, to not disadvantage particular groups or individuals. The evidence regarding the equity implications of adaptation options are discussed within each risk. There are some strategies that have a particular risk of disadvantaging poorer households, such as insurance and housing interventions (Table 5.3).

Table 5.3. Dimensions of inequality that are reviewed in this chapter in relation to the risks and responses
Category of disadvantageImpacts of climate hazards (current and future)Impacts of intervention and policy measures

Individual factors

  • Age (older people, children)
  • Gender
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Pregnant women
  • People on low income
  • People with disabilities
  • Housing tenure (e.g. private renters)
  • Other

Who is flooded – distribution of flood exposures.

e.g. High income households more likely to be affected by river flooding; Low income households more ‘at risk’ of coastal flooding.

Who is most affected by floods.

Little evidence that there is a socio-economic gradient in the impact of heat on mortality.

Flood risk management and selective retreat in coastal populations.

Retrofitting of dwellings less affordable for poorer households. Risks for private renters.

Air conditioning and energy costs affordable for more affluent households

Local/neighbourhood factors.

  • Urban poor
  • Poor coastal communities/seaside towns
  • Rural poor

Deprived communities may be more risk of coastal flooding.

Inequalities in access to emergency responders during flooding

Deprived communities in urban areas are less likely to have access to green space.

Investment in public services.

Engagement and community involvement in coastal management plans.

Spatial planning to reduce urban heat islands.

Wider inequalities within the UK

  • England (North vs South)
  • Northern Ireland (East vs West)
  • SW and Cornwall
  • Islands in Scotland
Geographical remoteness means that communities are more dependent on transport and ICT infrastructure.Regional priorities for investment for infrastructure and local government funding.

5.2 Risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures (H1)

High temperatures affect a very wide range of health, wellbeing and social outcomes. England experienced heatwaves in 2018, 2019 and 2020 which caused significant excess mortality. There has been increased understanding of the impacts of heat other than acute mortality. Public health activities to prevent heat risks to health have been evaluated and shown to be largely effective for preventing deaths on the hottest days. The risks from combined exposures from heat, air pollution, drought and wildfires are increasingly recognised.

Temperatures have increased in the UK and are higher than have been experienced previously. A new UK record for maximum daily temperature of 38.7°C was set during a brief but exceptional heatwave in July 2019. All the top 10 warmest years for the UK in a series from 1884 have occurred since 2002. Temperatures are projected to increase significantly, particularly in the scenarios with higher emissions (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021).

There is more evidence about the risks of overheating in buildings and the effectiveness and limitations of strategies for space cooling. There have been improvements in how to design buildings and use technology that could deliver homes which have high levels of thermal efficiency (staying warm in winter while cool in summer), while being moisture-safe and with safe levels of indoor air quality.

There is still little preventative action being taken to address health risks from overheating in buildings. In England, it has been estimated that 20% of homes are at risk from overheating. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation in 2021 proposing to introduce an overheating standard in new residential buildings (including houses, flats, care homes, and residential educational settings) as part of the Future Buildings Standard (MHCLG, 2021). The Welsh Government have proposed something similar for dwellings. If brought into policy these changes would help tackle the risk of overheating in new buildings in England and Wales. For existing dwellings, there remains little incentive to retrofit adaptation measures to reduce overheating across the UK.

The potential benefits of higher temperatures are considered in Risk H2 ‘Opportunities for health and wellbeing from higher temperatures’, together with the benefits from reduced exposure to cold. Heat is a widespread risk that affects many sectors, and there is consideration of heat (particularly overheating and indoor temperatures) in other risks in this assessment: H12, Risks to health and social care delivery; H13, Risks to schools and prisons; and B6, Risks to business from reduced employee productivity due to infrastructure disruption and higher temperatures in working environments.

5.2.1 Current and future level of risk (H1)

5.2.1.1 Current risk (H1)

5.2.1.1.1 Current risk – UK wide

All areas in the UK have experienced warmer summers and milder winters, consistent with global trends (see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021). The number and length of heatwave events have increased throughout the UK (Sanderson et al., 2017). England has experienced heatwaves of public health importance in 2018, 2019 and 2020 which were associated with significant impacts on daily mortality. There is also more evidence regarding the non-fatal impacts of heat on maternal health, mental health and occupational health.

Several systematic reviews of heat-health studies have been published since the CCRA2. The impact of high tempertures on acute mortality (daily deaths) is very well described with all populations showing that the risk of acute mortality increases at high temperatures (Guo et al., 2018). Hajat et al. (2014) estimated that there are 2,000 heat-related deaths per year across the UK. This estimate is supported by a more recent analysis of nation-wide estimates of temperature-mortality relationships which also shows little change in the effect estimates over time (Williams et al., 2019).

High temperatures have a range of impacts on health and wellbeing that affect all ages:

  • Maternal health: High temperatures can adversely affect the health of pregnant women, particulary increasing the risk of preterm birth (Chersich et al., 2020).
  • Mental health: There is a lack of evidence of impact on mental health effects, although there is some evidence that high temperature can worsen symptoms, and there is some evidence that high temperatures increase the risk of suicide (Thompson et al., 2018).
  • Unintentional Injury and accidents: There is good evidence that high temperatures can increase the risk of injury, particularly injuries in children (Otte im Kampe et al., 2016).
  • High temperature can impair labour productivity and lead to heat injuries and accidents in workers (Binazzi et al., 2019) (see risk B5 in Chapter 6: Surminksi, 2021).

These studies are relevent for all populations in the UK. The sections below describe observed impacts and projected impacts that are specific to the national populations, although this evidence is limited.

There has been more research to characterise urban heat islands for individual cities but a comprehensive UK-wide assessment on urban heat islands has not been published.

5.2.1.1.2 Current risk in England

There is more information since CCRA2 about the impacts of heatwaves in England. England has experienced severe hot weather episodes in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Public Health England reports regularly on mortality attributed to heatwaves (PHE, 2020b).

  • 2018: England experienced four heatwaves (three Level-3 heatwave alerts and one heatwave where the mean Central England Temperature (CET) was greater than 20°C). The total impact over the summer 2018 period was 863 deaths, with impacts highest in the London region. A period of high temperature in spring (April 2018) was also associated with a mortality excess but analyses of this has not yet been published. The air quality was low in 2018, particularly with high levels of ground-level ozone (see Risk H7).
  • 2019: England experienced three heatwaves (two Level-3 heatwave alerts and one heatwave when mean CET was greater than 20°C). The estimated impact was 892 excess deaths over the summer 2019 period. There is evidence of an excess in the 0-64 year age group for the heatwaves in 2019 at the regional level (in London and the West Midlands).
  • 2020: England experienced three heatwaves in July and August. The total cumulative all-causes all-ages excess mortality was 2,556 (taking out the effects from COVID-19), with the majority of deaths in the 65+ age group (2,244 deaths) (Figure 5.2). Statistically significant excesses were observed in all regions of England, except for the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, but impacts were greatest in London and the South East.

The impact on mortality in 2020 was much greater than in previous years, and comparable to that observed in England during the 2003 pan-European heatwave (2,234 deaths) and 2006 heatwave events (2,323 deaths) (PHE, 2020b). The cumulative excess all-cause heatwave mortality in summer 2020 was the highest observed since the introduction of the Heatwave Plan for England in 2004.

Figure 5.2. Daily Mortality in England in Summer 2020. Heatwave periods are shown in grey. Reproduced from PHE (2020b)

The built environment is an important determinant of heat-health risk. Heat risks are a combination of housing factors (indoor temperatures), urban density and heat islands (outdoor temperatures) and individual vulnerability factors. These factors can all help to identify areas of elevated heat mortality risk during hot weather. The impact of urban heat islands and the mapping of ‘hotter’ neighbourhoods have been assessed in London (Wolf and McGregor, 2013; Taylor et al., 2015), Birmingham (Tomlinson et al., 2011) and Sheffield (Liu et al., 2017).

There is new evidence on variations in overheating risks between dwellings of different characteristics. Evidence from both monitoring (Beizaee et al., 2013; Lomas and Kane, 2013; 2015) and building physics modelling (Mavrogianni et al., 2012) studies point to an increased risk of overheating in flats and more energy efficient dwellings. Subsequent studies have confirmed variations in overheating risk between dwellings, isolating characteristics which may increase the risk of exposure to elevated temperatures. There is new evidence regarding the risks of overheating in low energy dwellings (that is buildings specifically designed to have low carbon emissions, such as Passivhaus dwellings (see Net Zero section below) due to increased airtightness and lack of ventilation.

According to large sets of indoor monitored data, the rates of overheating in English dwellings are around 20% (Beizaee et al., 2013; Hulme et al., 2013; Lomas and Kane, 2013) to 26% (Petrou et al., 2019), although this will likely depend on the overheating metric and the weather conditions when the monitoring took place. Overheating has been found to be higher in bedrooms and dwellings that have high levels of insulation which were observed to overheat twice as frequently (Gupta et al., 2019), although the correlation between dwelling characteristics and indoor overheating is complex as loft and wall insulation can also help prevent increased risks by keeping heat out. An analysis of monitoring data collected during the Energy Follow-Up Study (EFUS) found that the main heating system, tenure and occupant vulnerability all had statistically significant associations with indoor temperatures (Petrou et al., 2019). In general, dwellings with higher energy efficiency ratings (Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating >70), those that were built more recently, and those with communal heating had higher summertime indoor temperatures. A modelling study indicated that loft conversions are at particular risk of high temperatures due to their position under a roof and relatively low thermal mass (Li et al., 2019).

Evidence also indicates the key role that occupant behaviours can play in indoor heat exposures. For example, failure to open windows can significantly increase overheating risk in dwellings (Taylor et al., 2018), however a monitoring and questionnaire study found around 70% opened only one or two windows at night in London for security reasons (Mavrogianni et al., 2017). Internal gains – including those from poorly-insulated pipes or ductwork – are also significant sources of indoor heat (McCleod and Swainson, 2017).

Poor indoor environments may contribute to a reduction in work performance in adults (Lan et al., 2011). Occupational risks from high temperatures are still rare under the current climate. The HSE reports work injuries for England but heat injuries were not separately reported. Below the threshold of a demonstrable case of heat injury (heat exhaustion, heatstroke, heat syncope), there are negative impacts on wellbeing and comfort, leading to staff absence and dissatisfaction, as well as directly on productivity. High temperatures can also increase the risk of accidents at work (Otte im Kampe et al., 2016; Binazzi et al., 2019). Occupation heat risks are also of concern for workers in the health/social care sectors (see Risk H12) and prison/educational sectors (see Risk H13).

5.2.1.1.3 Current risk in Northern Ireland

There has been limited epidemiological analysis of the health impacts of hot weather in Northern Ireland. Hajat et al. (2014) estimated that in 2020 there would be around 1.6 heat-related deaths per 100,000 population (which with a population of 1.89 million equates to approximately 30 heat-related deaths per year).

Evidence from studies on housing indicates that some dwellings are at risk of overheating (Porritt et al., 2012) but the overall prevalence of overheating risk is unknown. An observational study in four NI dwellings found that found that retrofitting for energy efficiency did not increase the risk of overheating (McGrath et al., 2016) but more research is needed.

5.2.1.1.4 Current risk in Scotland

There is very little evidence of the current impacts of high temperature on mortality and morbidity in Scotland, although it is a reasonable assumption that impacts in southern Scotland may be similar to those observed in northern England.

Hajat et al. (2014) estimated that in 2020 there would be around 1.3 heat-related deaths per 100,000 population (which with a population of 5.5 million equates to approximately 70 heat-related deaths per year).

There is limited evidence regarding overheating in dwellings in Scotland. One study estimated that upwards of 54% of new build properties experience overheating in the current climate (Morgan et al., 2017).

5.2.1.1.5 Current risk in Wales

There have been no official reports of the impacts of the recent heatwaves and so the impact on mortality in Wales is unclear. However, Hajat et al. (2014) estimated that in 2020 there would be around 3.5 heat-related deaths per 100,000 population (which with a population of 3.15 million equates to 110 heat-related deaths per year).

We have also been unable to identify any studies that look specifically at current overheating in homes in Wales in particular. The Welsh Government commissioned research to assess the risk of overheating of new homes in Wales (using weather data from Cardiff for 2011-2040). This research is discussed below in the future risk risk section [Section 5.2.1.2.5].

5.2.1.2 Future Risk (H1)

5.2.1.2.1 Future risk – UK

UKCP18 projections for the UK show increases in average summer temperatures and increases in the number of hot days and heatwave events (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021; Section 1.5.6.) All regions in the UK will experience more frequent and more severe extreme daily high temperatures. These projections includes better representation of the landscape and urban areas including urban heat island effects. There is a very small chance of exceeding 40°C by 2040; by 2080 the frequency of exceeding 40°C is similar to the frequency of exceeding 32°C today. Night-time urban heat island effects are expected to be more intense, leading to more ‘tropical nights’ in major cities.

As temperatures increase, the frequency and intensity of heatwave events is projected to increase (Figure 5.3). The Met Offices estimates that a ‘hot’ summer such as 2018 had a probability of approximately 10% in the period 1981 to 2000, which is now somewhere between 10% and 20%, but this will increase to probabilities of the order of 50% by mid-century irrespective of emissions scenario (Met Office, 2019). Therefore, such changes could still occur even with low emissions. The ‘heatwave’ season will increase in length, meaning that heat risks may become significant in early summer and spring. There is currently a regional difference in the impact of heat, with London and the south east experiencing the highest summer temperatures.

Projections of overheating in buildings (Taylor et al., 2016) modelled the overheating risk in dwellings across Great Britain, find that many of the housing types will be at increased risk of overheating.

Figure 5.3. Annual likelihood of at least one heatwave event by country, under UKCP18 projections constrained to pathways to 2°C, and 4°C global warming at 2100. Top. “Met Office Heatwave” events defined as at least 3 consecutive days with daily maximum temp meeting or exceeding a location-specific threshold, ranging from 25°C in north England to 28°C in London and southeast (McCarthy et al. 2019). Bottom. “Heat health alerts” heatwaves defined using regional thresholds from Public Health England for England; heatwaves in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use threshold from neighbouring English region. Source: Arnell et al. (2021).

Few studies have modelled the impact of climate scenarios on heat related mortality and no UK or country-specific estimates have been published since the last CCRA (since the publication of Hajat et al. (2014). The estimated increase in heat-related mortality has therefore not changed since CCRA2 and the figures still reflect the magnitude of the risk. Increases of approximately 260% by the 2050s and 540% by the 2080s are projected with a scenario of 4°C global warming by 2100, compared with the 2000s baseline of around 2,000 heat-related deaths across the UK assuming no adaptation occurs (Hajat et al., 2014) (Figure 5.4 and Table 5.4). These estimates include population growth.

Figure 5.4. Heat-related deaths in the UK per year for all ages based on an ensemble of nine climate model realisations. Mean estimates across the nine models are shown, and upper and lower limits of arrows, represent the maximum and minimum of these. Reproduced from Hajat et al. (2014)

The estimates are also likely to be an an underestimation of future impacts considering the higher temperatures in the UKCP18 climate projections. Projections of future temperature mortality show that heat-related mortality is likely to increase in all populations modelled, however large uncertainties about the rate of adaptation remain (Vicedo-Cabrera et al., 2018). Studies for northern Europe (including the UK) indicate that climate change is likely to increase heat-related mortality significantly, with the greatest effects under the higher emissions scenarios (such as RCP8.5) (Gasparrini et al., 2017; Guo et al., 2018). A review of published temperature-mortality projections found that such studies generally did not report the uncertainties associated with these projections (Sanderson et al., 2017).

Table 5.4. Mean, minimum and maximum estimates of heat-related deaths in UK regions/year/100,000 population of all ages based on an ensemble of nine climate model projections consistent with approximately 4°C global warming at the end of the century[1]. Source: Hajat et al. (2014)
 2000s2020s2050s2080s
 MeanMinimumMaximumMeanMinimumMaximumMeanMinimumMaximumMean MinimumMaximum
North East1.20.52.12.11.32.93.92.27.86.74.010.0
North West1.30.33.12.00.83.93.71.89.06.23.09.8
Yorks & Hum1.40.52.82.31.13.84.42.09.87.63.812.1
East Midlands4.41.48.16.53.310.211.54.821.018.410.228.1
West Midlands4.21.18.36.13.010.011.15.022.017.28.825.9
East Midlands3.91.17.45.62.98.89.93.971.615.58.123.8
London4.40.98.86.12.810.811.34.321.417.58.427.9
South East6.31.511.48.64.614.115.36.726.122.912.834.1
South West3.50.77.65.12.48.79.64.318.915.37.823.7
Wales2.40.75.73.51.65.86.53.114.310.65.316.2
Scotland0.70.21.51.30.32.22.41.35.24.42.67.2
Northern Ireland0.90.32.31.60.62.62.91.56.14.92.97.2
Total UK3.30.96.04.82.47.88.83.916.814.07.421.5
5.2.1.2.2 Future risk – England

The UK projections of current and future mortality presented above (Hajat et al., 2014) (Table 5.4) include values for all regions in England and are the main source used when considering future risks of mortality. Increases in heat-related mortality are likely to be greatest in the Southeast Region.

A comprehensive assessment of overheating risk in new build homes (Research into Overheating in Homes) has been published by MHCLG in response to the last CCRA2 and the National Adaptation Programme. Phase 1 assessed the risk of overheating of new homes in England against the new CIBSE TM592 overheating criteria (MHCLG, 2019b, 2019c). Phase 2 assessed the cost-benefit analysis of different options for space cooling. The study demonstrated that during warm years, overheating will occur in most new homes in most locations in England, particularly London. The research also showed that mitigation techniques, such as solar shading and increased ventilation, are highly effective at reducing indoor temperature, which in turn reduces the risk of mortality and the impact on productivity assiciated with sleep loss.

5.2.1.2.3 Future risk – Northern Ireland

Climate change is projected to increase heat-related mortality in Northern Ireland (Table 5.4). Hajat et al. (2014) estimate that heat related deaths will increase to around 30–115 per year by 2050 and 55–135 per year by the 2080s in the scenario of 4°C global warming at the end of the century, assuming no population growth.

A modelling study of indoor conditions in Belfast under future climates found that there was a risk of increased overheating from the 2050s, assuming no changes in occupant behaviour or retrofitting (McGrath et al., 2016). It was suggested that some houses would require mechanical cooling or other housing interventions (shading) to ensure comfortable internal temperatures.

5.2.1.2.4 Future risk – Scotland

Climate change is projected to increase heat-related mortality in Scotland (Table 5.4). Hajat et al. (2014) projections estimate that heat related deaths would increase to around 70-285 per year by 2050 and 140-390 per year by the 2080s in the scenario of 4°C global warming at the end of the century, assuming no population growth. Modelling by Arnell et al. (2021) indicates considerable uncertainty in the temperature projections for Scotland (see Figure 5.3) indicating that an assessment of future heatwave risks in Glasgow is likely to be an over-estimate for future risks (O’Neill and Tett, 2019).

5.2.1.2.5 Future risk – Wales

Climate change is likely to increase heat-related mortality in Wales (Table 5.4, Figure 5.3). The health impacts of heat risks are discussed in the UK section. Hajat et al. (2014) estimate that heat related deaths will increase to around 100–450 per year by 2050 and 170–510 per year by the 2080s in the scenario of 4°C global warming by 2100, assuming no population growth.

The Welsh Government, as part of a Building Regulations review, commissioned research to extend MHCLG’s overheating study to new homes in Wales (Welsh Government, 2021a). This assessment was carried out using the CIBSE TM59 methodology, using future weather files for Cardiff. The weather data adopted represented the time period 2011-2040 under a high emissions, 50th percentile climate scenario. This aimed to represent a moderately warm summer with around a 1-in-7 chance of a similar weather event occuring. The overheating risk was assessed on buildings classified as being occupied by vulnerable and fragile persons, resulting in the risk criteria being more stringent. The research showed that two dwelling types are at particular risk of overheating: flats (due to inherent limitations in removing heat gains) and homes that do not have adequate cross-ventilation to remove heat gains.

5.2.1.3. Lock-in and Thresholds (H1)

There is considerable risk of lock-in for this risk because a significant part of the built enviroment in the UK is not adapted to future climates (CCC, 2019a). There is a potential lock-in for dwellings and other buildings that are not adapted. Most countries have targets for building new homes (a significant number in England) (see Table 5.2) and it is important that these are designed appropriately for future climates to avoid lock-in. New homes often have high levels of insulation and air tightness, low thermal mass and large glazing areas. In addition, new build flats are often high density, single-aspect with a lack of effective and/or secure ventilation.

There are lock-in risks for poor refurbishment and reuse of older or non-residential buildings that do not adequately consider overheating and the nature of the existing building fabric and building use. There are also lock-in risks for urban areas that enhance rather than reduce urban heat islands.

Heat responses are subject to a range of thresholds – both in relation to the observed relationships between mortality in specific populations and in relation to tolerable risks for indoor overheating. WHO guidance on thermal comfort states that temperatures above 24°C can cause discomfort, particularly in the more vulnerable and susceptible members of the population.

It is difficult to establish a definition of thermal comfort that applies to everyone as many environmental factors affect an individual’s thermal comfort (including air temperature, radiant temperature, air speed and humidity, personal factors (such as age, gender and state of health), clothing and activity levels). For assessing the overheating risk in buildings, CIBSE have developed an adaptive methodology to assess the predicted level of thermal comfort within a building (CIBSE TM52: The Limits of Thermal Comfort: Avoiding Overheating in European Buildings). The adaptive thermal comfort model is based on the principle that an individual’s thermal expectations and preferences are determined by their experience of recent (outdoor) temperatures and a range of contextual factors, such as their access to environmental controls.

The heatwave plan in England has developed regional thresholds for triggering actions; for example, Level 3 alerts are triggered when the maximum temperatures exceeds 32°C for two days in London, and approx 30°C in other regions (PHE, 2018b). These thresholds are currently under review.

5.2.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H1)

Heat risks, particularly in relation to high indoor temperatures, are important for other risks:

  • Risk H6 on future demand for space cooling to manage heat risks.
  • Risk H12: Risks to health and social care delivery.
  • Risk H13: Risks to schools and prisons.
  • Risk B6: Risks to business from reduced employee productivity due to infrastructure disruption and higher temperatures in working environments.

Heat impacts should be considered in the context of multiple hazards.

  • High temperatures are likely to coincide with pollution issues, particularly ground-level ozone (see Risk H7).
  • High temperatures are a factor that increase the risk wildfires and associated pollution episodes (H7) (Box 5.4).
  • High temperatures and prolonged heatwaves are likely to occur with drought events and possible limitations in access to household water supplies (H10).

In terms of adaptation response (cross-chapter issues):

  • Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) discusses the potential for greenspace and other green infrastructure (nature-based solutions) to lower outdoor temperatures by moderating urban heat island effects.
  • Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) describes the risk of high temperatures to infrastructure, including transport (roads, rails) and risk to energy supply (power outages).

The COVID-19 pandemic may have increased risks associated with high temperatures in the UK. Many individuals are more susceptible to both COVID-19 and heat stress, such as older persons and those with chronic health conditions, and persons living in residential care. Epidemiological research to understand how these risks may have affected population health has not been completed. However, the larger than expected impacts of the heatwaves in the summer of 2020 indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic may have excerbated heat risks (PHE, 2020b).

5.2.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H1)

There is new evidence regarding the risks of overheating in low energy dwellings (e.g. Morgan et al., 2017; Gupta and Gregg, 2018; Mitchell and Natarajan, 2019). The reduction of emissions from the housing sector is a key part of the government’s Net Zero strategy. Policy measures that increase household energy efficiency, that both increase air-tightness and reduce ventilation, have implications for overheating risks (Mulville and Stravoravdis, 2016), poor indoor air quality and moisture-related damage unless designed appropriately. Thus, a focus on Net Zero without adequate consideration of adaptation measures can cause climate risks to increase due to energy efficiency programmes. The CCC’s sixth carbon budget pathways for reducing emissions in the UK take into account the need to assess ventilation and passive cooling alongside energy efficiency measures when retrofitting existing residential buildings (CCC, 2020).

The implications for using air conditoning for achieving Net Zero are discussed in Risk H6.

5.2.1.6 How will Heat Risks affect Health and Social Inequalities? (H1)

Overheating was found to occur disproportionately in households with vulnerable occupants (Vellei et al., 2017). There is also good evidence that older persons and persons with pre-existing conditions are most at risk of heat-related mortality. Heat risks are very high for persons in residential care (see Risk H12). Additionally, these groups of people tend to spend more time in their homes, possibly with reduced capacity to adapt their circumstances and their environment in order to become more comfortable.

There is little evidence that heat risks are concentrated in low income households. A study of heat-related mortality in London found some evidence that heat risks were higher in low income areas but this effect was relatively small (Murage et al., 2020). Any large scale increase in future reliance on mechanical cooling would potentially increase the inequality in heat risks (as currently seen in the US). Low income households may be unable to afford retroffiting measures, or installlation and maintenance costs associated with space cooling measures to reduce heat exposure (Sanchez-Guevara et al., 2019). Future summer household energy costs are discussed in more detail in Risk H6.

5.2.1.7 Magnitude scores (H1)

Heat risks are assessed as high across the UK based on the estimated heat-related mortality in each country. The estimates of heat-related mortality are robust and consistent with estimates from other countries. Heat-related mortality estimates do not provide a measure of number of life-years lost, and more evidence is needed on the social and morbidity impacts of hot weather, as well as the economic costs. In England, the impacts of heatwaves are also significant (see above) but it should be noted that most heat-related deaths occur outside recognised heatwave periods.

Modelling studies indicate that heat-related mortality is likely to increase significantly in the future under high temperatures with no additional adaptation. Estimates for future heat-related mortality in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reflect both their relative smaller populations, less exposure to high temperatures, and also less sensitivity to hot weather. However, the impacts are still significant and, based on Table 3 in Chapter 2 (Watkiss and Betts, 2021), have a high magnitude. Estimates for Scotland and Northern Ireland are assessed as low confidence as there is less confidence in these estimates and very few observational studies on heat impacts. Projections of future heat-related risk are sensitive to the projections in temperature, therefore high temperature projections will entail larger heat risks.

Table 5.5. Magnitude score for risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures

Country

Present Day

[heat-related mortality]

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Northern Ireland

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

Scotland

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

Wales

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

5.2.2 Extent to which the current adaptation will manage the risk (H1)

5.2.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitment on current and future risks (H1)

5.2.2.1.1 UK-wide – potential adaptation responses for overheating

There are three main policy strategies for addressing heat risks in the community:

  • Public health activities that encourage behavioural change for high risk groups and care-givers for vulnerable individuals, both long term preparedness and acute actions associated with heatwave alerts. Public health interventions include weather-based advisories (heat alerts), health education, and provision of cooling shelters (Bundle et al., 2018).
  • Designing new houses and housing developments to take account of overheating risks and increasing incentives for retrofiting existing houses.
  • Planning guidance and methods for urban cooling (reducing outdoor temperatures), including nature-based solutions, and changes to building materials.

In addition, robust EPRR (emergency preparedness, response and resilience) arrangements are an adaptation measure, led by local interagency partnerships. The occurrence of major heatwave events in Europe, the US and Australia has led to significant developments in measures to reduce heat impacts in the general population, in high risk groups (see Social Care, Risk H12) and in workers (see Chapter 6: Surminski, 2021) (WHO, 2021). The evidence on the effectiveness of some heat-health interventions has also increased, particularly for heat alert systems, health education and risk communication, and Heat Health Action Plans (WHO, 2021).

Currently, there is little accesible information for the general public on how to manage overheating in buildings (Power et al., 2020). There is a lack of information on how people can operate their building effectively or guidance on what they could have done to their home to reduce overheating risk.

Passive cooling measures (as opposed to mechanical) consist of reducing internal heat gains, utilising thermal mass, enhancing natural ventilation and reducing solar gain through the windows and fabric of the building. When installed and operated correctly, some low-regret passive adaptations can provide significant reductions in indoor temperatures with relatively small installation and operating costs (Mavrogianni et al., 2014; Wood Plc, 2019). Adaptations to counter overheating may be applied sequentially to reduce or eliminate overheating at the lowest potential costs (which can be assessed using Marginal Abatement Cost Curves) (Li et al., 2019). The efficacy of a number of heat adaptations for passive cooling has been tested for buildings to reduce overheating risks, based on modelling studies in individual dwellings:

Loft and wall insulation can help to prevent heat penetration through roofs and walls. However, once heat has entered a home, insulation can reduce heat loss through the building fabric at night. The marginal increase in overheating risk from internal solid wall insulation were shown to be mitigated against with the use of shading using internal blinds and night ventilation (Tink et al., 2018). Similarly, external shutters were able to mitigate the increase in overheating risk caused by a full retrofit of dwellings, including additional insulation and air tightening (Taylor et al., 2018a).

Mechanical cooling options, such as air conditioning, may be increasingly used in the future. The implications for increased penetration of air conditioning for summer energy costs to households are discussed in detail in Risk H6.

There are some questions about the practicality of certain adaptation measures for dwellings. In the UK, many windows open outwards, meaning that external shutters may not be practical (De Grussa et al., 2019). Similarly, the roof structures of the existing housing stock may not be capable of withstanding the additional weight of green roofs. Changing the reflectivity of roofs may help to reduce summertime indoor temperatures, but may do so with a wintertime space heating penalty (Taylor et al., 2018a). It is also worth noting that some passive cooling measures become less effective at higher temperatures. Fans are less effective at very high temperatures although this is still subject to some debate.

Planning guidance for enhancing green space and urban cooling measures, including nature based solutions, has the potential to reduce urban heat islands and moderate outdoor temperatures. Adaptation to climate change is part of planning policy and guidance (see more detailed discussion in section 5.2.3. There has been extensive research describing and modelling urban heat islands (UHI), particularly in London and Birmingham. There is also evidence regarding the effectiveness of specific building modifications (e.g. green roofs, trees, green and blue space) on outdoor cooling. For example, a simulation study of cool roofs in the West Midlands estimated that the introduction of cool roofs reduced population-weighted temperature by 0.3 °C, and could potentially offset 25% of heat-related mortality due to the UHI during heatwaves (Macintyre and Heaviside, 2019). A study in London also found that implementing cool roofs could reduce maximum air temperature by 1 °C in summer (Macintyre and Heaviside, 2019). A review on effectiveness of greenspace interventions found that there was relatively little published information on reducing heat islands (WHO, 2017).

Green infrastructure has the potential to reduce urban temperatures. Increasing green infrastructure also has multiple benefits (these ecosystem services are described in detail in Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021) and can include water quantity and quality benefits, potentially reducing negative air quality issues for human health (Risk H7), and the amenity value or broader cultural and health benefits (Risks H11 and H2) from contact to nature. However, as with risks to landscape features (Risk N18), climate change risks in combination with other pressures (e.g. from pollution) may act to degrade these benefits without further planned adaptation.

Across the UK, housing policy and planning policies that could enforce or incentivise changes to new housing designs are devolved. The current policies and evidence of effectiveness are reviewed in each country separately below and also summarised at the end of the chapter (section 5.15.3).

5.2.2.1.1 England

There is new evidence since CCRA2 on the effectiveness of housing interventions to address overheating. However, progress in policy change has been slow. The CCC’s forthcoming 2021 progress report has found that polices to address overheating risk through building design and orientation are generally not included in Local Plans that are used to assess planning applications and it is not known the extent to which overheating is being included in recently refreshed local plans (CCC, 2021).

Overheating could be addressed in the design of new homes (and in major refurbishments) through building regulation and other statutory measures to enforce housing quality. There is provision within Part L of the Building Regulations 2010 for limiting heat gains in new dwellings, which already applies to solar gains in summer. Part L requires energy efficiency standards and puts in places rules to ensure that solar gains are not excessive and heat gains from uninsulated pipes are controlled, in order to help minimise fuel and power use (rather than to protect health or thermal comfort per se).[2]

In early 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published the Future Buildings Standard consultation, proposing a new legal requirement as a new part of Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations (MHCLG, 2021). The functional requirement would require that the person carrying out work on new residential buildings must reduce overheating risk by limiting solar gains and removing excess heat through passive cooling measures. If brought into policy this would help tackle the risk of overheating in new buildings. However, the outcome of the consultation will only be published following the CCRA Technical Report publication.

The London Plan (GLA, 2016) encourages passive cooling in major developments by requiring developers to demonstrate “…how they will reduce the potential for overheating and reliance on air conditioning systems”. A detailed CIBSE TM 52 or CIBSE TM 59 overheating assessment is required when applying for planning permission. Overheating assessments using dynamic modelling are more difficult to pass than those in the SAP (Bateson, 2016).

The above measures could compel changes to new build dwellings. However, existing buildings will require retroffiting to address overheating, alongside measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are currently no incentives to include overheating measures via retrofit. There is also little evidence of changes in behaviour in response to heat, for example how occupants can operate their building effectively or guidance on how to reduce impacts of overheating (Power et al., 2020). Retrofitting options that address overheating will need to be tailored to each building (type, construction), occupancy pattern, location, and orientation. Options also need to consider other concerns, including low carbon, but also cold, flooding/moisture and fire risks. The ARCC project concluded that no single solution fully addresses the overheating risk so a combination or package of adaptation options is likely to be needed to reduce the risk of overheating (ARCC, 2012).

There has been little progress in addressing outdoor heat management through planning. The National Design Guide includes multiple references to climate change and risk mitigation. Several modelling studies have quantified the changes in temperature exposure associated with aspects of building design (e.g. green space, green roof, white roof, etc.) (Mavrogianni et al., 2012; 2014). The effect on indoor or outdoor temperatures are generally modest compared to housing interventions discussed above.

The Heatwave Plan for England (HWP) was first implemented in 2004 and has then been regularly updated to take account of new research. The NHS and Public Health England update the Heatwave Plan for England on a regular basis. It was most recently refreshed in 2018 (PHE, 2018b). The heat and cold alert systems/weather plans are currently (2020) being revised into a single year-round plan. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) commissioned an independent evaluation of the implementation and potential effects of the HWP in 2019 (Williams et al., 2019). The evaluation looked at both mortality outcomes and interviewed health staff about implementation. The key findings confirmed that hot weather does cause an increase in deaths and hospital admissions. However, heat-related death rates had been generally falling before the Heatwave Plan was introduced, and were continuing to go down (the most recent heatwaves were not included in the analysis and no updated estimates are available). There was insufficient evidence that the Heatwave Plan itself made a difference to this. Evidence did suggest that the Heatwave Plan was good at protecting people during the alert periods (the hottest days), but less effective in hot weather where no alert was issued. It also highlighted that people were not always taking heed of the advice about hot weather. Overall, the general public felt positive about warm summer days and most did not feel that hot weather was a risk to their health, including people over the age of 75. As a consequence, many people, including the most vulnerable, were not taking all of the Heatwave Plan’s recommended actions to protect themselves and others.

The second National Adaptation Programme (NAP2) highlighted actions to increase green infrastructure in urban areas, implement green infrastructure standards, undertake research in overheating in homes and further develop the Heatwave Plan.

5.2.2.1.2 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland does not currently have a heatwave plan.

The Department of Communities is developing a new Housing Strategy that will set out targets for new homes. The NI Strategic Planning Policy Statement states that “the planning system should help to mitigate and adapt to climate change”. However, there is little evidence regarding specific actions for managing heat risks (indoor or outdoor). Belfast City Council and many other bodies are exploring how to deliver an urgent and ambitious housing retrofit programme which is driven by Net Zero carbon targets. The focus on Net Zero could easily cause climate risk to be missed within such a programme unless they are included explicitly.

Northern Ireland has its own Building Regulations, the most recent of which were published in 2012. Part F relates to limiting internal thermal gains and Part K to adequate ventilation but currently there is no building standard to specifically address overheating. The NI building regulations are currently under review by the Northern Ireland Building Regulations Advisory Committee convened by the Department for Finance. Retrofitting is also being supported by activities at the city level (e.g. Belfast City Council).

5.2.2.1.3 Scotland

Public Health Scotland does not currently have a heatwave plan. However, Scotland is part of the extreme weather system that now includes heatwaves. The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Scottish Government, 2019a) recognises the risks to homes in Scotland from overheating, and that the building stock will need to adapt to future changes in the climate. It has specific actions to continue support for urban greening through the Green Infrastructure Fund and Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund.

The Building (Scotland) Act 2003 mandated Building Regulations that are specific to Scotland. The Building Standards System sets out the essential standards to be met when building work or a conversion takes place. The application of these standards is verified at building design stage and on completion by Scottish local authorities who are appointed as ‘verifiers’ of the building standards system. Responsibility for compliance with regulations rests with the ‘relevant person’, commonly the building owner or developer. The CCC’s progress report to the Scottish Government reported that there are up to date Building Standards are in place for flood resilience, moisture penetration from heavy rain, heating and ventilation, but there is no strategy for retrofitting existing buildings with adaptation measures and only limited guidance is available on overheating in buildings (CCC, 2019c).

As part of the UK decarbonisation strategy, a review of energy standards is underway. This review will include further consideration of how standards may increase or decrease overheating risks in new buildings in the future and considering climate change. The next set of standards and supporting guidance will be introduced in late 2021.

National Planning Framework 3 does make reference to the role of green infrastructure in enhancing climate resilience, although not heat islands specifically.

5.2.2.1.4 Wales

Welsh Government’s second adaptation plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (2019) includes an action to ‘increase understanding of the risk increased temperatures bring to public health and well-being’ (Welsh Government, 2019f). The adaptation plan sets out Public Health Wales’ (PHW) intentions to improve knowledge and use of trend data to increase understanding of the risk and improve collaboration to ensure effective sharing of this information.

PHW has a strategy for extreme weather events, and it provides public health guidance to the general public in hot weather and for those caring for children. The public health advice is available for different target grops and is available year-round on the PHW website. A commitment has been made in Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales for PHW to revise this advice. Interviews with stakeholders revealed a need not just to plan for winter, but to take an approach of continuous preventative planning and long-term planning for increasing incidence of extreme weather events caused by climate change (Azam et al., 2019). Public Health Wales is in the process of undertaking a health impact assessment of climate change but this is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Area Statements published by Natural Resources Wales look to urban green infrastructure as a means to reduce outdoor temperatures in urban areas (NRW, 2020a).

Building regulations for Wales do not currently address overheating risks. The Welsh government ran two consultations in 2020 on Building Regulations. The first on changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for new dwellings. The second consultation covered Part L and F proposals for existing dwellings and proposals to mitigate overheating in new dwellings (Welsh Government, 2021a). At the time of writing (April 2021), the consultation had closed and the Welsh Government were reviewing responses. The consultation proposed that a new part of the Building Regulations (Part S) is introduced which is focussed on overheating risk. If brought into policy, this would require dwellings to be designed and constructed in a way to reduce summertime overheating and ensure mitigation measures are safe, secure and reaonsably practical for occupants. Developers would also be required to provide information ot occupants about the dwelling’s overheating strategy.

The Welsh Government also commissioned research on heat effects on employee productivity (see Risk B5, Chapter 6: Surminski, 2021) to inform guidance from Business Wales on how to adapt to increasing temperatures and keep employees safe. Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales states the Welsh Government is working with PHW to develop extreme weather guidance under the Llwybr Newydd: Wales Transport Strategy 2021 (Welsh Government, 2021b), and that contracts for new rolling stock will also consider overheating on trains.

5.2.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H1)

In our view, the shortfall in housing policy to address overheating that was identified in the CCRA2 Evidence Report remain. These gaps have been highlighted by the Environmental Audit Committee (2018a). At the time of writing there are currently no policy levers to address the health effects of overheating through passive cooling or other means in new homes and no incentives to address overheating in existing homes through retrofitting adaptation measures.

There is some evidence of work underway in England and Wales to develop policy further to address overheating through amendments to Building Regulations, but at the time of writing this has not yet come to completion and been introduced into policy.

Further, there is evidence that new homes may be at greater risk of overheating due to changes in energy efficiency regulations that are part of the interventions needed to achieve Net Zero, if appropriate ventilation and adaptation measures are not considered at the same time.

England has a Heatwave Plan that has been evaluated to be somewhat effective in relation to heat warnings. The devolved administrations do not currently have specific heatwave plans, though they do have severe weather alert systems and information about what actions to take during a heatwave.

There is very little evidence that the risks from increasing extreme heat in urban heat islands are being addressed through planning and nature based solutions, although there is good evidence that some specific interventions are effective with regard to localised shading and cooling effects, and have significant co-benefits (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). There are various actions underway to increase and improve urban greenspace across the UK, but as yet a lack of evidence to show that the proportion of urban areas made up of greenspace is increasing.

There remains uncertainty regarding the need for near-term heat adaptation plans in Scotland and Northern Ireland and this will be depend on future rates of warming.

5.2.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H1)

The adaptation scores are assessed on the two key aspects of policy and practice: building standards that address overheating and having a national heat health action plan. Athough building regulations and standards are in the process of being revised, these have not yet been updated into policy in any country. England and Wales have public health strategies in place (England has the Heatwave Plan for England) and therefore have been assessed as partially managing future risks.

Table 5.6. Adaptation scores for risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(High confidence)

No

(Medium confidence)

No

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.2.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H1)

5.2.3.1 Additional planned adaptation that would address the adaptation shortfall (H1)

There are benefits of adaptation in the next five years, particularly to avoid lock with housing and urban designs that are not adapted to future temperature extremes.

The requirements for housing to be suitable for future climates require coordinated action and optimisation of outcomes against the range of objectives (climate and non-climate related). The evidence indicates that currently decarbonisation (Net Zero) and adaptation policies and strategies are not well aligned (CCC, 2019d). The EAC (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018a) highlighted the need for cross-departmental policy and it is important that overheating risks are addressed in all types of buildings where people spend significant time.

The CCC have made a number of recommendations to Government in relation to housing across the UK (CCC, 2019a):

  • A legal standard or regulation should be introduced to address overheating risk for current and future climates at design stage of new-build homes or renovations.
  • Ensure that passive cooling measures are prioritised over mechanical cooling where a risk of overheating is identified.
  • Further action is needed to better understand when overheating occurs in existing homes in order for passive cooling mesaures and behviour change programmes to be targeted effectively.

Climate change presents several risks for housing alongside overheating, such as flooding and damp risks. It is likely to be more effective and less expensive (especially for social housing landlords) to address these risks at the same time through retrofitting to address overheating. In our view, there is a need for increased guidance and incentives to address overheating in existing homes through retrofitting, given the lack of information available on what measures are effective for householders (CCC, 2019a; Power et al., 2020).

Based on the assessment above, our view is that continuous preventative planning to include long term risks would have benefits in the next five years, including consideration of longer term risks within current emergency preparedness planning.

Air conditioning (or mechanical space cooling) has additional benefits and potential harms, in additon to the increased household energy costs (see Risk H6 for a more detailed discussion). There may also be other health dis-benefits from air conditioning; there is some evidence regarding the negative effects of using air conditioning, including the understanding that it can limit acclimatisation (Yu et al., 2012). The presence of air conditioning in housing is currently low in the UK (at about 3% of homes) (Khare et al., 2015). Although uptake may increase autonomously in the future, relying on air conditioning to deal with the risk is a potentially maladaptive solution, and it expels waste heat into the environment – thereby enhancing the urban heat island effect.

5.2.3.2 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H1)

The quantified benefits and costs of addressing overheating in buildings involves a range of assumptions about mortality risks associated with overheating.

Several studies have compared the costs of mechanical vs. passive methods of space cooling in new houses and retrofits (Grant et al., 2011; Frontier Economics, Irbaris LLP and Ecofys, 2013; Adaptation Sub-Commitee, 2014; Li et al., 2019; Wood Plc, 2019). These generally report positive benefit to cost ratios or high cost-effectiveness (£ / % reduction in temperature). This indicates the potential for low regret options but also that there is a need (and opportunity) to address further risks in climate smart design to address lock-in risks and co-benefits.

This is a complex area to assess costs (to households) given the multiple co-benefits and potential harms for each housing intervention. No-cost options to manage overheating can be effective to some extent, such as utilising increased natural ventilation (opening windows), using existing blinds and curtains during the day to limit heat gain and changing behaviours. Shading is the most cost-effective option for cooling houses (Wood Plc, 2019). Many low-carbon retrofit options share commonalities with adaptation options and so could potentially share the cost and reduce overall costs.

There is also analysis of the benefits and costs of heatwave warning systems. Several studies report high benefit to cost ratios for future heat related mortality (Bouwer et al., 2018; Chiabai et al., 2018) including analysis in the UK for the Heat Health Watch System (HHWS) (Hunt et al., 2017). Benefit to cost ratios are high and increase significantly under climate change.

The studies assume that the cost of operating the warning system increases under future climate change, but this may not be the case as the health system response may become more efficient, and the costs to the provider (e.g. the Met Office) are assumed to be fixed. As discussed above, the heat alert systems alone do not fully manage the health risk in the population (Watkiss et al., 2019b).

5.2.3.3 Urgency Scores (H1)

This assessment of current evidence indicates that risks to health and wellbeing from heat may be higher than previously understood (in CCRA2). In addition, there has been little progress in addressing these risks through changes to building policy across the UK, and an adaptation shortfall is present in all UK countries. For both these reasons, this risk has been scored as more action needed for each UK country. Confidence in the score is high in England and Wales due to more evidence regarding heat impacts on health and also the higher absolute exposures to high temperatures now and in the future.

Table 5.7. Urgency scores for Risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures
Country England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
Urgency scoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
Confidence HighLowLowHigh

5.2.4 Looking ahead (H1)

Key uncertainties remain regarding the health burden and avoidable burden from high temperatures, and there is a need to understand non-fatal and long term impacts on health and wellbeing.

Projections of future impacts do not adequately consider adaptation either through behaviour change (acclimatisation) or changes to the built environment. Several key measures for overheating (e.g. fans) are not effective at very high temperatures and these also need to be considered in more detail in conjunction with the likelihood of higher rates of warming (Taylor et al., 2018a; 2018b).

Adaptive management approaches in the built environment have received less attention in the UK with respect to heat risks. There may be benefits from greater investment in early planning to start preparing for long-term heat risks, particularly as there are potentially large future risks and the large differences in potential action that might be needed across different pathways (eg. for pathway to 2°C or 4°C global warming by the end of the century). Examples of pathway approach (RAMSES, 2017) include planning in London (Kingsborough et al., 2017) but this does not address integrated policy across the health, buildings and land-use domains.

5.3 Opportunities for health and wellbeing from warmer summers and winters (H2)

The physical and mental health benefits of increased physical activity and contact with nature are well established, but there is limited evidence on the extent to which a warmer climate will increase these activities. There are no current policies in the public sector to increase these opportunities, but the case for government intervention specifically as a climate change adaptation response is also uncertain. The burden of ill-health from cold and cold homes remains significant in the UK and is a priority for public health and local government action. Modelled estimates show that climate change is likely to reduce the burden of cold related mortality, however, the overall burden remains high, even to the end of the century. Population aging is likely to offset some of the benefits from warmer winters for cold-related mortality.

5.3.1 Current and future level of opportunity (H2)

Note: It has not been possible to split the evidence by UK country for this opportunity. The evidence regarding health benefits applies to all countries.

5.3.1.1 Current and future opportunity – UK wide (H2)

There are benefits and opportunities associated with higher temperatures. Climate change is increasingly recognised as a factor that may influence the recreational use of outdoor space and the natural environment. Chapter 1 (Slingo, 2021) reports an overall warming trend in the UK, including a reduction in cold days and extreme winters. Extreme cold daily temperatures still occur, such as in March 2018, but have become less frequent (Stott and Christidis, 2020). Climate change may affect the risk of future winter storms.

Estimates of future cold-related mortality under climate change indicate that there will be a reduction in cold related mortality. Approximate 3% of total mortality per year is attributable to cold (Low temperatures) (Arbuthnott et al., 2020). There have been few published estimates of reductions in cold under climate scenarios specifically for the UK but estimates for nothern Europe (Gasparrini et al., 2017) show significant reductions when temperature alone is considered. Winter excess mortality is a reflection of both cold exposures and also seasonal infections, along with other factors, and is therefore a poor indicator of the burden associated with cold (Hajat et al., 2016). Reductions on cold are discussed in Risk H6 on energy costs. Damp homes are discussed in Risk H5 on building fabric – it is likely that the increase in heavy rainfall may offset any benefits of temperature increases in terms of moisture damage to dwellings – but these effects may vary regionally. A minor benefit associated with milder winters is potential reduction in the risk of mould growth, provided there is sufficient ventilation to remove moisture from the indoor air.

UK summer temperatures are expected to rise with a longer summer season. Possible outcomes of this may be an increase in use of outdoor space for both physical activity, leisure activities, cultural activities, and domestic tourism (Elliott et al., 2019). A key positive impact of population health would be an increase in physical activity, particularly in individuals who have limited access to formal exercise spaces such as gyms and leisure centres due to cost or mobility constraints (Elliott et al., 2019). The evidence for improvements in mental health through use of green and blue space is robust (Braubach et al., 2017). It should be noted that warmer, wetter summers will limit the future benefits and opportunities (see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021).

Increased time outdoors may increase Vitamin D exposure which is important for bone health and the immune system (SACN, 2016). The primary source is through exposure to sunlight, thus an increase in use of outdoor space may lead to an increase in Vitamin D concentrations and incur positive physical health benefits (SACN, 2016). There is currently some debate about recommendations for Vitamin D exposures and supplementation (including the fortification of flour). Advice regarding increased sun exposure are still being formulated given the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) has health risks (cancer, immunosuppression and sunburn).

A further opportunity of climate change is the benefits for agriculture and implications for nutrition (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021) (Food Standards Agency, 2015). Northerly soils typically produce wheat that is higher in selenium concentrations. The UK population on average fall below the recommended daily intake of selenium (Low intake is linked to some cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and thyroid disease (Food Standards Agency, 2015)). The introduction of new crops such as soya, lupins, borage and evening primrose may also have potential to improve nutrition (Office of Science and Technology, 2019).

5.3.1.2 Lock-in and thresholds (H2)

It is not clear what the risk of lock-in are for this opportunity. The potential interventions are largely focussed on changing people’s behaviour. However, there are some issues that relate to designing the built environment that encourage physical activity and contact with nature.

There is no evidence for clear thresholds in relation to the opportunities from warmer winters. Thresholds for cold-related mortality are not well defined.

5.3.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H2)

This risk overlaps with other risks on heat (H1) in relation to the development of urban greenspace and co-benefit to health and the environment. The management of risks from cold (and cold homes) is discussed in detail in the risks on household energy use and future winter heating demand (H6).

5.3.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H2)

Reductions in cold homes can be achieved through household energy measures which are a key part of the Net Zero strategy. These issues are discussed in more detail in H6 on winter heating demand and energy efficiency.

Net Zero policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as tree planting and active transport (e.g. walking and cycling corridors) could also provide opportunities for increased green space.

5.3.1.6 Inequalities (H2)

There is an increasing evidence base about the differences between groups about accessing outdoor space (disability; access and perception of access). A review of access to greenspace by Public Health England (PHE, 2020d) found that people from ethnic minorities and lower income households access greenspace less and live in less green neighbourhoods compared to wealthier groups or those with a higher percentage white population.

5.3.1.7 Magnitude scores (H2)

The magnitude score for this risk (Table 5.8) only applies to the opportunity from warmer summers and winters, and relates to health benefits. Scores are based purely on expert judgement given the lack of evidence.

Note that the opportunity from reductions in home heating costs are assessed separately in RiskH6 on household energy.

The benefits of less cold-related mortality are not scored in this table but it should be noted that the magnitude of the benefit is medium to high in all UK countries. Hajat et al. (2014) estimated current cold-related mortality as approx 41,000 deaths per year for the UK and this declines by 2% by 2050 with climate warming. Cold extremes and winter storms will still occur in the future although their frequency is expected to decline (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021; Box 5.2).

Table 5.8. Magnitude score for opportunities for health and wellbeing from warmer summers and winters

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Box 5.2. Increased risks from cold?

There are some concerns that if cold events (such as the “Beast from the East” in 2018) are going to become less frequent in the future, it is possible that planning for cold risks will become deprioritised as a risk. The management of cold events requires investment and resources (for example, training, exercising and equipment procurement). Any decrease from current levels may therefore increase vulnerability to such future events.

It is important that activities to prevent cold deaths are maintained or strengthened. The burden of ill-health from cold, and cold homes, remains significant in the UK. Issues relating to cold remain a high priority with public health and for local government. Further, there has been concern from Local Authorities and public health agencies that the increased emphasis on managing heat risks might detract from actions to address impacts from cold.

Climate projections indicate a decline in very cold days (and other cold metrics) even at 1.5oC warming [see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2020: Figure 1.6.]. There is currently no evidence that changes in the Jet Stream will affect the frequency of cold events in the future (see section 1.8.2.)

5.3.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the opportunity (H2)

5.3.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H2)

Note: This section does not address policies to reduce cold-related deaths. Cold homes are a major determinant of cold-related mortality and morbidity (NICE, 2016). The potential benefits in terms of indoor temperatures are discussed in detail in Risk H6 on winter and summer household energy demand. The UK countries have public health strategies to reduce excess winter mortality, e.g. the Cold Weather Plan in England (PHE, 2018a) and the Public Health Wales (PHW) strategy for winter health and well-being (Azam et al., 2019). It is important the actions to prevent cold related mortality and morbidity are maintained (see Box 5.2).

5.3.2.1.1 UK-wide

The benefits of increased outdoor activity are many – the key mechanisms are thought to be:

  • Increased active travel (walking and cycling) reduces the risk of non-communicable diseases and improves mental health.
  • Increased physical activity from increasing or improving greenspace. A review by NICE on the environment and strategies to increase physical activity (NICE, 2018) found evidence that interventions in parks and the built environment have the potential to improve health.
  • Increased mental health from contact with nature (PHE, 2020d).

There have been several studies that looked at the effect of weather (temperature and rainfall) on active travel in adults and children. Overall, rainfall and snow tend to reduce physical activity (walking and cycling) in adults and childen, but temperature may have a small positive effect (Chan and Ryan, 2009). A cross sectional analysis of 28 European countries found that a 1°C increase in annual mean temperature was associated with -0.94 (fewer) minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week (95% CI: -1.66 to -0.23) but it should be noted that this effect could be driven by the very high temperature exposures experienced in southern European countries (Laverty et al., 2018).

There is some scope for policy intervention to capitalise on the opportunities of warmer winters and hotter summers to encourage physical activity. There is a growing evidence base regarding interventions to increase physical activity through changes to the built environment which include increasing green infrastructure (NICE, 2018). It has been argued that a broader approach which recognises the role of supportive environments that can make healthy choices easier is required, and that both changes to the built environment and changes to behaviour are required (WHO Euro, 2017).

It can also be argued that whilst use of outdoor spaces has positive health benefits, there are also some disbenefits or risks to health. Other risks associated with more common use of the outdoors and green spaces is possible, e.g. increased contact with ticks and biting insects, higher rates of alcohol consumption from more social gatherings outdoors, and possible implications for skin cancer risk due to sun exposure and sunburn (Bruine de Bruin et al., 2016; Howarth et al., 2019).

5.3.2.1.2 England

The 25 Year Environment Plan for England has a commitment to help people improve their health and wellbeing by using green spaces including through mental health services.

The National Planning Policy Framework sets out that planning policies and decisions should aim to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places which enable and support healthy lifestyles, especially where this would address identified local health and well-being needs, for example through the provision of safe and accessible green infrastructure, sports facilities, local shops, access to healthier food, allotments, and layouts that encourage walking and cycling.

The Environment Bill, if enacted as is currently drafted at the time of writing will require developers to deliver at least a 10% improvement in biodiversity value (Biodiversity Net Gain). This could be through measures such as an on-site nature reserve adjacent to a new housing development which could provide an opportunity to increase green space for occupants.

Public Health England has recently published a report on improving access to greenspace (PHE, 2020d). PHE argues that local authorities can address several local issues through improving access to greenspace, including improving health and wellbeing, managing health and social care costs, reducing health inequalities, improving social cohesion and taking positive action to address climate change. There are many initiatives as the local level, including the London Plan and the Birmingham Green Living Spaces plan, that are not possible to review in detail here.

The second National Adaptation Programme’s (Defra, 2018c) actions related to improving green infrastructure relate to this opportunity as well as Risk B1. Currently however, there are no specific strategies (national or local) that use climate information to optimise current plans regarding physical activity or accessing greenspace.

5.3.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The second Northern Ireland Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Daera, 2019) includes an acknowledgement of the potential health opportunities from warmer temperatures, though the actions listed are focussed on reducing fuel poverty (see risk H6). Daera is currently developing Northern Ireland’s first overarching Environment Strategy with a view to seeking Executive endorsement at the time of writing. The Strategy will form part of the multi-decade ‘Green Growth Framework’ and is intended that the Strategy will be adopted as NI’s first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) under the UK Environment Bill. The Environment Strategy/EIP will include short, medium- and long-term targets to improve the natural environment including health and well-being.

5.3.2.1.4 Scotland

The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Scottish Government, 2019a) includes references to the health benefits from warmer temperatures and lists actions related to the Physical Activity Delivery Plan, the Natural Health Service Programme and the Walking and Cycling network as policy levers to encourage more outdoor recreation. SCCAP2 contains somewhat more information for this opportunity compared to the other UK adaptation programmes.

The Scottish Government also has several policies on greenspace and healthy neighbourhoods. Green infrastructure and active travel feature strongly in Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework 3. The Green Exercise Partnership (NatureScot, Scottish Forestry, NHS National Services Scotland, and Public Health Scotland) coordinates the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project that promotes access to greenspace in NHS assets.

5.3.2.1.5 Wales

Prosperity for All; A Climate Conscious Wales (Welsh Government, 2019f) includes an acknowledgement of the potential health opportunities from warmer temperatures, though the actions listed are focussed on reducing fuel poverty (see risk H5). Public Health Wales has developed a resource to improve access to greenspace and improve health throught the built environment: Creating healthier places and spaces for our present and future generations (PHW, 2018). However, it doesn’t specifically address the implications of future climates.

5.3.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H2)

It is not clear what additional policies may be needed to fully realise the benefits from warmer summers and winters to health and wellbeing across the UK. Some policies that are linked to this opportunity exist, but it is not clear how much additional government intervention may be needed in the future.

This assessment relates specifically to policies that look at the health opportunities of warmer weather and not for the health benefits of greenspace in general (for which there are an increasing number of activities).

5.3.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H2)

The current state of adaptation opportunity is assessed on the potential for government to intervene to improve health and wellbeing. In our view, the adaptation is being partially addressed in all countries because the opportunity will not be fully realised in absence of government intervention and only some elements of the enabling environment are in place. The progress on increasing contact with nature (in terms of government policies in targets) is considered part of the enabling environment for this opportunity.

Table 5.9. Adaptation scores for opportunities for health and wellbeing from warmer summers and winters
Are the opportunities going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

5.3.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H2)

There are clearly benefits from further investment in strategies to increase physical activity and mental health – and the opportunities for outdoor recreation and active travel.

There is little information on the costs and benefits involved in additional interventions to help address opportunities for health and well-being, but there is likely to be the potential for low-regret and low-cost interventions to help raise awareness and ensure opportunities are fully realised. There are well established interventions for public health communication and awareness raising although these have largely been targeted at impacts rather than opportunities in the health and adaptation domain to date. Interventions to enhance opportunities could lead to large economic benefits (Hunt et al., 2017) in terms of societal welfare from three components: (i) lower resource costs, i.e. avoided medical treatment costs; (ii) increased opportunity costs from gains in productivity; and (iii) the avoided dis-utility, i.e. pain or suffering, concern and inconvenience to family and others. A no-regret option would be to investigate these potential benefits and look at the possible interventions to help deliver these.

5.3.3.3 Urgency scores (H2)

The urgency score for each UK nation for this opportunity is further investigation because there is some uncertainty about the potential benefits that can be achieved through policy intervention – but the potential benefits are very large. Although there is insufficient policy action to address obesity, lack of physical activity and poor mental health in the UK, that is not the focus of this opportunity which relates to additional actions in response to climate change only.

Table 5.10. Urgency scores for opportunities for health and wellbeing from warmer summers and winters
CountryEngland Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
Urgency scoreFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
ConfidenceLowLowLowLow

5.3.4 Looking ahead (H2)

More research is needed on understanding behaviour for engagement with nature and how to increase physical activity (NICE, 2018). There are also evidence gaps regarding the multi-benefits of greenspace interventions (type and quality of greenspace). Research is needed to better understand how, when and where natural environments could be best used to improve health outcomes, and what the role of government should be, if any, in encouraging the public to take the opportunities of warmer conditions for increased outdoor activity.

5.4 Risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding (H3)

The risk of flooding to people, communities and buildings is one of the most severe risks from climate hazards for the UK population – both now and in the future. The magnitude of the current risk may have increased since the last assessment report although this not certain. Most of the present and future flood risk is in England, given its larger population. When risks are normalised by the flood exposed population (that is, the average Expected Annual Damage (EAD) per individual), people and communities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are, on average, exposed to a higher EAD than those living in England.

This risk encompasses flooding from all sources – from rivers (fluvial), the sea (coastal), surface water (pluvial) and groundwater. Risk H4 contains related information on sea level rise induced catastrophic coastal flooding or erosion of a scale that threatens the viability of coastal communities.

Flooding from rivers is the dominant source in terms of potential damage but surface water flood risk accounts for a greater number of properties at risk. Coastal flooding is the most dangerous in terms of impacts for life and property but accounts for a lower number of properties at risk than those affected by surface water or river flooding. Groundwater risk dominates flood risk in some areas but has a limited contribution to the scale of national risk.

Considerable advances have been made regarding the strategic management of flood risk at national and local levels since the last CCRA, including the promotion of a cultural shift from protection to resilience, and whilst flood events have occurred, a larger number of properties have been protected than affected. Conventional flood defences (requiring both capital and revenue investment) remain the most important management approach whilst Natural Flood Management (NFM) and Property-level Flood Resilience (PFR) also contribute significantly to reducing flood related damages. Flood forecasting and warning provide an underpinning response across all portfolios. Effective spatial planning remains the only measure that can avoid flood exposure due to development. The residual risk managed by insurance reduces with a more ambitious adaptation portfolio (Enhanced Whole System) reflecting the reduction in risk achieved by other measures (Sayers et al., 2020a).

Coastal risk is the most serious source of flooding, in terms of potential threat to life, due to the depths and velocity of flooding. From the analysis in the CCRA3 future flood risk report (Sayers et al., 2020a), coastal flood risk is likely to continue to result in increased EAD in a scenario of global warming reaching 4oC in 2100 with high UK population growth, even with the Enhanced Whole System approach to adaptation. The analysis suggests an increase in direct EAD to residential property from £82 million today to £247 million by the 2080s. As detailed further under Risk H4, long term integrated development planning is needed to manage the current and future costal risk to coastal communities. Coastal flood risk is a particular threat to England and Wales.

Surface water flood risk is also projected to increase rapidly with residential (direct) EAD increasing from £139 million today to £312 million by the 2080s under a scenario of 4oC global warming in 2100 with high population growth and Enhanced Whole System adaptation. Continued promotion of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and introducing stonger requirements in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland is needed to manage the increasing risk of flooding from surface water.

The risk magnitude remains high now and in the future for all parts of the UK with more action needed due to the scale of the risk. Key areas of challenge relate to the resilience of development in flood risk areas, the limited mandatory management of surface water flooding via SuDS, the low take up of PFR and associated concerns regarding the perception of flood risk by households, and the need to implement an effective and integrated approach supporting a shift from protection to resilience.

5.4.1 Current and future level of risk (H3)

5.4.1.1 Current risk (H3)

5.4.1.1.1 Current risk – UK wide

The risk to people and communities from increased flood risk due to climate change is significant. It was ranked as a high risk that required further action in CCRA2 with approximately 1.4 million people across the UK at risk of frequent flooding (Sayers et al., 2017a). There are now known to be just under 1.9 million people, across all areas of the UK, exposed to frequent flooding from either fluvial, coastal or surface water flooding (at a 1 in 75-year risk (1.3% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP)) or greater) (Table 5.11). Approximately 82% of those at risk are in England, 8% in Wales, 8% in Scotland and 2% in Northern Ireland (Sayers et al., 2020a). It should be noted that the increase of 0.5 million people at risk of flooding since CCRA2 (2017) does not necessarily show evidence of increased risk, as there have been a number of changes to the assessment methodology.

However, recent research has identified that climate change is causing more frequent and intense flooding in northern parts of Europe, suggesting that this increased level of risk might, in part, be attributed to climate change (Tabari, 2020).

The Future Flood Projections research commissioned to support the CCRA identifies that surface water is the dominant source of risk in terms of people affected (Figure 5.5; Sayers et al., 2020a). However, when considering EAD for residential properties (direct), fluvial is the dominant source as shown in Table 5.11.

Table 5.11. Present day number of people at significant risk of flooding Source: Sayers, et al., 2020c
 FluvialCoastalSurface WaterAll Sources
England476,000102,000976,0001,554,000
Scotland46,00013,00095,000155,000
Wales46,00010,00091,000148,000
Northern Ireland10,0001,00022,00033,000
UK Total578,000126,0001,185,0001,889,000
Chart, pie chart

Description automatically generated

Figure 5.5. Present day number of people at significant risk of flooding by country (left) and source of flooding (right) Source: Sayers et al. (2020a)
Table 5.12. Present day expected annual damage: residential (direct) (£m) Source: Sayers et al. (2020a)
 FluvialCoastalSurface WaterAll Sources
England172.059.559.8291.3
Scotland44.36.417.868.5
Wales31.616.046.994.5
Northern Ireland6.90.214.121.2
UK Total254.882.0138.7475.5

EAD is the expense that would occur in any given year if monetary damages from all flood probabilities and magnitudes are spread out equally over time. It is not expected that each year will provide the same damages, some years will be much higher and some lower, this is the average. Direct damages relate to property damage whilst indirect damages cover losses assocated with emergency services and provision of temporary accommodation, risk to life and physical injury and impacts on infrastructure, transport, schools and leisure. Indirect damage also includes the intangible damages associated with mental health impacts assessed through a proxy of the additional costs associated with treatment and the economic impact of people being unable to work. Indirect costs are estimated at 90% of the value of direct damages in the Future Flood projections.

Since CCRA2 (2017), there have been significant advances in the development of evidence, the refinement of policy and the delivery of adaptation actions with respect to flood risk. There have also been further flood events.

Flooding is a threat to life as well as to health and wellbeing, the economy and the environment. The main risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding are:

  • Death or injury from flood events.
  • Long term and severe impacts on mental health and wellbeing from flooding, displacement, and being affected by flooding.
  • Damage to property:
    • Structural damage and the costs of rebuilding and repair.
    • Upheaval and financial implications of cleaning up.
    • Further upheaval and financial implications if residents have to move out.
  • Loss of and damage to possessions.
  • Disrupted access to employment, education, health services and wider facilities (see also Risk H12 in this chapter).
  • Illness from biological and/or chemical contaminants arising from floods (PHE, 2014, Box 5.5).
  • Loss of recreational and leisure amenity and cultural heritage (covered in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Risk H11 in this chapter respectively).

Deaths may occur from drowning and physical injury. Mortality attributable to flooding can also include car accidents and falling into fast flowing water, hypothermia, and injuries or death associated with cleaning up (including carbon monoxide poisoning). The total annual impact is uncertain as data on UK deaths resulting from flooding are not routinely reported in health or vital registration data systems. Deaths are reported within post-flood event reporting. The greatest burden of ill health from flooding is likely to be due to the long term impacts on mental health. Flooding increased the risk of mental disorders (anxiety and depression) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in people whose homes have been flooded and who experienced disruption as a result of flooding (Waite et al., 2017). The impact on mental health is formally recognised as an intangible loss and valued at 20% of the direct residential damages from flooding (Sayers et al., 2020a).

Qualitative research on flooded communities has also shown that flooding can have both positive and negative effects on community cohesiveness with implications for how to maintain the resilience of communities (Walker-Springett et al., 2017).

Flooding has major implications for local economies in terms of damage to households and commercial properties, and potential closure of individual companies (with some micro/small businesses never reopening) and impacts for future insurance premiums. ABI indicated that insurance claims resulting from the 2015-16 floods were around £1.3 billion. Future insurance premiums can also be affected for properties that are not covered by the Flood Re insurance scheme.

Disruption includes households and communities not directly flooded but experiencing the practical challenges resulting from disruption to utilities, transport infrastructure and local services; this is explored further in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) and Risks H12 and H13.

Around 28 percent of caravan and camping sites (permanent and non-permanent) in England and Wales are at flood risk from rivers and the sea, with over two-thirds of these being at either significant (1 in 75 years or 1.3% AEP) or moderate flood risk (between 1 in 75-years and 1 in 200-years or 1.3% AEP and 0.5% AEP) (Defra, 2012a).

Since CCRA2, there have been a number of flood events with the most significant incidents occurring in August 2017, May 2018, June 2019, November 2019, February 2020 (Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis), December 2020 (Storm Bella) and January 2021 (Storm Christoph). Over 10,000 properties were flooded during these events across the UK (Table 5.13), causing a significant number of people to be displaced from their homes for more than 6 months.

Table 5.13. Flood events across UK Source: Environment Agency, Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Northern Ireland, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), NRW
Event/dateNo. properties floodedLocation
August 2017400Northern Ireland – Foyle and Faughan River Catchments
May 2018520England – South East, Midlands
October 2018302Wales – Lampeter, Llanybydder, Llechryd, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul
June 2019380England – East, Midlands, South East
November 20191,100England – Yorkshire, Northern England

Storm Ciara – Early February 2020

1,350England
224Wales

Storm Dennis – Mid February 2020

1,570England
160Scotland
2,765Wales
Late February 2020520England
Storm Jorge – February/March 2020141Wales
Unamed convective storm – August 2020Over 190Central and Eastern Scotland
Storm Francis August 202055Northern Ireland – County Down near Newcastle and Draperstown, County Londonderry – Derry and Strabane

Storm Bella

December 2020

400Across England
70Dinas Powys, South Wales

Storm Christophe

January 2021

675Northern and Central England
5.4.1.1.2 Current risk – England

The EA’s Annual Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management report (2018/19) for England identifies that there are 2.5m properties at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea, 3.2m at risk of surface water flooding and 660,000 properties at risk of all three[3] for a 1 in 1000-year return period or 0.1% AEP. In addition, between 122,000 and 290,000 properties are at risk of flooding from groundwater – these properties may also be at risk of surface water flooding (EA, 2019b). It is important to note that most flood risk management activities aim to reduce flood risk but recognise that it is not possible to eliminate it completely – there is always an element of residual risk. Therefore, it is unlikely that these totals would decrease significantly over time.

Direct damages (EAD) from flooding in England for residential properties are currently around £291.3 million (all sources of flood risk), which equates to a high magnitude score.

Estimates of the economic losses from the winter 2019/20 flooding are around £333 million (all losses, not just residential), but the economic damage avoided from the protection provided is at least 14 times greater (EA, 2020e). The Environment Agency estimates that the economic damages from the winter 2015-16 floods in England were £1.6 billion, with £350 million related to residential damages (EA, 2018b). This is similar in scale to the 2013-14 winter floods, which had estimated economic damages (all losses) of £1.3 billion (EA, 2016c). The summer 2007 floods remain the largest in terms of economic damages (all losses), at an estimated £3.9 billion (EA, 2018a).

Evidence of the mental health impacts of flooding has increased since CCRA2 (2017) as the English National Study of Flooding and Health has reported results, including three years of follow up (PHE, 2020a).

The key findings of the research, funded by Public Health England (PHE, 2020a), include:

  • The prevalence of probable depression amongst those whose homes were flooded was 20.1%, anxiety 28.3% and PTSD 36.2%. This compares with the general prevalence of depression amongst adults in Great Britain of 10% in 2019/20 (pre-COVID-19 pandemic) (ONS, 2020a).
  • Three years after flooding, the prevalence of negative mental health outcomes in affected persons is reduced but still significant (Mulchandani et al., 2020).
  • Evacuation and displacement, particularly without warning, increases the risk of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (Munro et al., 2017).
  • Factors that increase the risk of adverse mental heath impacts include loss of utilties and problems with insurance.
  • Many people experience persistent flood-related damage to their homes and this is associated with worse mental health outcomes (Mulchandani et al., 2020).

There is also evidence that children’s mental health is severely affected by flooding and the subsequent loss of familiar surroundings and friends, as well as witnessing the stress and strain affecting adults. This highlights the importance of policy responses considering the impacts for all affected groups (Mort et al., 2016). Further, the research on mental and physical health risks is relevant for all parts of the UK.

5.4.1.1.3 Current risk – Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Flood Risk Assessment (NIFRA) (2018) estimates that just over 25,000 or approximately 3% of the 861,000 properties in Northern Ireland are located within the 1 in 100-year (1% AEP) fluvial floodplain or 1 in-200 year (0.5% AEP) coastal floodplain (Department for Infrastructure, 2018). In addition, the surface water flood map indicates that around 24,500 or 3% of properties in Northern Ireland are sited in areas shown to be at risk of flooding from a 1 in 200-year (0.5% AEP) surface water event with a depth greater than 300 mm. Overall, approximately 45,000 or 5% of the properties in Northern Ireland are located within either the 1% AEP fluvial floodplain or in areas at risk of flooding from a 0.5% AEP surface event with a flood depth greater than 300 mm (Department for Infrastructure, 2018). Note that this is less than the total sum of properties affected by flooding from rivers or surface water, as some properties are at risk from both sources.

Direct EAD from flooding in Northern Ireland for residential properties are currently around £21.3m (Sayers et al., 2020a), which equates to a high magnitude score. The Department of Infrastructure, Northern Ireland Executive estimated that the clean-up costs of the August 2018 floods exceeded £30m.

5.4.1.1.4 Current risk – Scotland

The National Flood Risk Assessment for Scotland, 2018 estimates that 284,000 properties are at risk of flooding (1 in 200-year return period or 0.5% AEP) (SEPA, 2018). At least some of these may be properties constructed since 1st January 2009 and are therefore not eligible for insurance through the Flood Re scheme (Scottish Government, 2015b).

Direct EAD from flooding in Scotland for residential properties are currently just over £68.5m, which equates to a high magnitude score. Estimates of the cost of flood damages to property (all types and including indirect costs) in Scotland vary from £200m to £250m per year. The storms of early 2016 were estimated to have cost the Scottish economy £700m.

A three year study of flood-affected communities in Scotland identified mental health impacts for people affected by flooding resulting from the long-term use of temporary accommodation, and sustained involvement in the reinstatement or refurbishment of their own properties. Further upset and anxiety arose from flood-related experiences and frequent communications with insurance companies and associated parties, and dealing with unforeseen costs (Currie et al., 2020).

5.4.1.1.5 Current risk – Wales (H3)

Across Wales over 245,000 properties are at risk of flooding from rivers, the sea and surface water (Flood Risk Assessment Wales, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) 2019) at a return period of 1 in 1000 years (0.1% AEP).

Flooding in February 2020 across Wales resulted in the flooding of 3,130 properties. The month was recorded as the wettest February since records began in 1862. During Storm Dennis, 22% of NRW’s river gauges recorded their highest water levels ever. NRW’s flood review of the February storms found that many structures and systems worked well and as expected to protect thousands of properties across Wales from the impacts of the extreme rainfall (NRW, 2020b). Yet the scale and speed of the rainfall was such that some flooding was unavoidable, resulting in considerable long-term impacts on individuals and communities.

EAD from flooding in Wales for residential properties are currently around £94.5m, which equates to a high magnitude score. Flooding in Wales cost an estimated £71 million between November 2011 and March 2014 (NRW, 2015). The wider costs of flooding include to defences. For example, an estimated £8.1m of damage was caused to coastal defences in Wales during the storms in December 2013 and January 2014 (NRW, 2014a).

5.4.1.2 Future risks – UK (H3)

Climate change is projected to increase the number of properties at risk of flooding, from all sources, and including in areas that have not previously been at risk of flooding (Sayers et al., 2020a). In addition to climate change, housing need and economic growth requiring more development are also projected to exacerbate flood risk (Table 5.2). Strategies to avoid increasing the population at risk of flooding include: (i) minimising new building in areas at risk of flooding; (ii) ensuring that such properties incorporate appropriate resilience and/or resistance measures; and (iii) installing sustainable drainage design for the lifespan of the development (Rowland et al., 2019).

Figures 5.6 and 5.7 detail the projected increase in the number of people at significant risk (1 in 75-years or 1.3% AEP) and in EAD for residential properties (direct costs only) for the 2050s and 2080s for scenarios of 2oC and 4oC global warming by 2100 and low and high future population growth scenarios for the reduced whole system (RWS) adaptation scenario for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales[4].

Figure 5.6. Increase in people at significant risk of flooding (all sources) for the 2050s and 2080s with the Reduced Whole System (RWS) scenario, for low population growth and a pathway to 2oC global warming by 2100 and high population growth and a pathway to 4oC global warming by 2100. Source: Sayers et al. (2020a)
Figure 5.7. Increase in EAD (direct residential damages) for the 2050s and 2080s with Reduced Whole System (RWS) adaptation, for a pathway to 2oC global warming by 2100 with low population growth, and a pathway to 4oC global warming by 2100 with high population growth. Source: Sayers et al. (2020a)

England accounts for the greatest increase in the number of people at significant risk of flooding (and has the largest baseline) for all climate futures and sources of flooding, other than for fluvial flooding in the 2080s with a +4oC, high population future where Northern Ireland has a higher proportionate increase (noting that the latter’s baseline is just under 10,000 people compared with almost 476,000 for England). Current risk is most prevalent for surface water flooding and therefore future increases here result in substantial numbers at risk. However, the impacts for households are generally lower for surface water flooding compared with river and sea flooding due to the depths and velocities involved.

Decreases are shown in the numbers of people at significant risk of fluvial flooding in the 2050s and 2080s for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the low population scenario, which is due to estimated decreases in population living in areas at significant risk from fluvial flooding, cancelling out the effects of climate change in the scenario of 2°C global warming by 2100.

Coastal flooding accounts for the greatest increases with England and Northern Ireland showing four, five and six fold multiples of the current population at significant risk.

Regarding potential damages, under a 4oC (increase in Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST)) future with high population growth, there is likely to be a rapid increase in damages to the 2050s and then on into the 2080s. Most present day and future flood risk is in England with direct residential EAD projected to rise by 137% by the 2050s and 269% by the 2080s under a pathway to 4oC global warming by 2100 and a high population scenario. Note these future values only consider population growth; they do not include allowance for economic growth and the associated increase in value at risk, and thus will likely underestimate actual future damages. When risks are normalised by the flood exposed population (the average EAD per individual) then a different picture emerges, with those living in flood risk areas in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales exposed to a higher EAD than those in England. This has implications for adaptation.

At the local level, the largest future flood risk is evident in coastal areas including the top three risk locations of Hull, the City of Portsmouth and Sedgemoor District Council (noting that planned flood risk alleviation measures are not taken into account). In some locations, the influence of climate change on flood risk is much less, including areas at risk of fluvial flooding where decreased peak flows are expected.

When future flood risk is mainly driven by climate change, rather than population increase, this influence is felt most keenly in coastal areas. By the 2080s the combination of a climate change scenario of 4oC global warming by 2100 and high population growth with no additional adaptation action leads to an increase in direct EAD for residential properties of around £1.5 billion; including indirect damages would bring this to around £2.9 billion. This bleak future requires both adaptation and mitigation activity to prevent its realisation (Sayers et al., 2020a).

5.4.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H3)

Lock-in will arise if development in flood risk areas is not resilient to current and future flood risk and where flood risk management measures are currently, or will become, insufficient to manage the risk. There is also the potential for lock-in to occur through local plan allocation, although this should be avoided through the use of up to date local authority-wide strategic flood risk assessments (SFRAs) that take account of climate change.

New development in areas at highest river and coastal flood risk (Flood Zone 3b – the functional flood plain) in England increased from 7% of all new development in 2013/14 to 9% in 2017/8 (17,580 properties). It should be noted that the Environment Agency flood zones do not take account of existing defences such as the Thames Barrier. If this 7–9% range continues from 2018/19 until 2022/23, and the Government meets its target to build 300,000 new homes in England per year, then between 105,000 and 135,000 more homes could be built in Flood Zone 3b in total over the five-year period (CCC, 2019b). Similar figures are not available for the devolved administrations. It is possible that properties could move to a higher risk flood zone as a result of climate change, but climate change allowances are built into planning policy guidance.

Planning policies permit development in areas at risk of flooding providing floor levels are raised, and/or household resistance or resilience measures are incorporated (resistance measures prevent water entering a building whilst resilience measures aim to minimise damage once water has entered). Planning applications for development in areas at risk of flooding need to be supported by independent evidence that flood risk from all sources, including surface water, has been assessed and mitigated and takes account of the implications of climate change.

The risk of surface water flooding is likely to increase with climate change and increased intensity/frequency of precipitation as well as declining urban greenspace. Data available for England show greenspace has declined from 63% of urban areas in 2001 to 55% in 2018 (CCC, 2019b) . The proportion of impermeable surfacing in towns and cities, which can increase flood risk, has risen by 22% since 2001 (CCC, 2019b). However, the 25 Year Environment Plan has targets to reverse this and increase urban greenspace (Defra, 2018b) and policy initiatives such as the requirement for Biodiversity Net Gain linked to planning permission should also help.

Lock-in will also be affected by the extent to which flood risk management measures are adequately maintained to withstand flooding. Recent research conducted by the Environment Agency suggests that current budgets for maintenance and repairs may need to increase annually by between 30% and 80%, some £30 million to £75 million per year, to address the greater potential for deterioration (EA, 2020c). In addition, upgrading and improvements will be needed for the most affected assets. This research focuses on England, but it is likely that the devolved administrations will also face considerable increased maintenance costs to address future deterioration and the need for increased protection as a result of climate change.

Thresholds are likely to vary by time and place depending on the state of the assets, levels of investment to address climate change risks and/or maintain or improve the state of the assets, and the changing level of risk spatially over time. Raising defences will become technically and socially challenging with climate change, and will involve increasing costs to provide the same levels of absolute protection (e.g. to a 1 in 75-year event). This may challenge the long-term sustainability of Flooding and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) assets. Whilst flood defences can be refurbished, there are thresholds (which vary by defence type) which if exceeded mean defences require full re-engineering.

An unknown policy related threshold is the extent to which the expected withdrawal of Flood Re in 2039, and return to fully risk reflective pricing for household insurance, could affect housing markets, particularly as extreme events are expected to increase. This would dramatically impact on insurance affordability, with projections of rising unaffordability across many areas of the UK. However, part of Flood Re’s purpose is to plan for the return to a risk reflective market and its Quinquennial Review (QQR) sets out proposed changes to the scheme to enable and accelerate the transition process (Flood Re, 2019).

5.4.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and interdependencies (H3)

Interactions are evident between levels of flood risk and the wider socio-economic context. Meeting housing development targets in areas that are not at flood risk and without increasing flood risk elsewhere will continue to be a challenge. There may be interactions between flood risk and risks to the economy if there is a destabilising effect on housing markets in future (though this remains unclear). Increasing social vulnerability, for example, due to an ageing population and potential changes in poverty rates, may exacerbate the negative impacts of flooding for health and wellbeing.

Flood risks are also considered within other risks in this chapter:

  • Risk H4 on coastal risks
  • Risk H5 on risks to building fabric
  • Risk H11 on risks to cultural heritage
  • Risk H12 on risks to health and social care delivery
  • Risk H13 on risks to schools and prisons

Flood risks are also described in Chapters 3 (Watkiss and Betts, 2021), 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) , 6 (Surminski, 2021) and 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021) in this report. Failure to adapt in these sectors, e.g. to address risks to infrastructure, will have cascading social impacts, for example, bridge closures may prevent people getting to work or children to school. A combination of flooding and electricity failures can disrupt services to people in hospitals and care homes and in receipt of home care (see Chapter 4: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021).

5.4.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H3)

The UK Net Zero target in itself is not likely to increase or decrease the level of flood risk across the UK. However, management of the risk could have an impact on the target. Flood defences have high embodied carbon, and thus could be a factor for a Net Zero transition. The Environment Agency has developed a Carbon Planning Tool to assess carbon over the whole life of built assets aiming to make carbon part of the decision making process throughout the delivery cycle of its assets (EA, 2016a). Application of this tool suggests that across the whole flood risk management programme between 40,000 and 84,000 tCO2e[5] (27–57% of total capital/construction carbon emissions) could be saved by using low carbon materials and approaches (Mott McDonald, 2018). Natural Resources Wales is in the process of implementing the use of the same carbon planning tool and in Scotland, there is a requirement under the 2019 Planning (Scotland) Act to understand the impact of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of national development on meeting emissions reductions targets. There is no evidence of similar requirements in Northern Ireland.

In addition, NFM has the potential to sequester substantial amounts of carbon, particularly if undertaken on a large scale involving woodland planting, soil carbon improvements and land use change. The use of SuDS where these involve an increase in blue/green infrastructure, noting that some use structural solutions such as underground concrete storage, also provide the opportunity to enhance shading and cooling, and sequester carbon. The Working with Natural Processes Evidence Directory provides some case study examples, such as how creating an extra 50 ha of floodplain (Norfolk Broads) provides £1 million carbon sequestration benefits and £27 million recreational value over 100 years (EA, 2018e).

The Net Zero agenda also provides an opportunity for the retrofit of properties to improve energy efficiency in combination with enhancing flood resilience. This requires increasing awareness amongst property developers and estate managers as well as upskilling within the construction industry regarding the management of moisture and flood risk.

5.4.1.6 Inequalities (H3)

Research conducted in 2017 regarding Present and Future Flood Vulnerability, Risk and Disadvantage (Sayers et al., 2017a) highlighted significant variation in flood disadvantages across the UK. Flood disadvantage is a combination of geographic disadvantage (living in an area at flood risk) and systemic flood disadvantage (the degree to which socially vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by flooding). Ten local authorities account for 50% of the socially vulnerable people living in at areas at flood risk; these are Hull, Boston, Belfast, Birmingham, East Lindsay, Glasgow, Leicester, North East Lincolnshire, Swale District and Tower Hamlets. Coastal areas, declining urban cities and dispersed rural communities are highlighted as representing the greater concentrations of flood disadvantage. When income and insurance penetration are considered, the Relative Economic Pain (ratio between uninsured loss and income) is significantly higher in vulnerable communities than elsewhere. In addition, sea level rise will impact disproportionately on disadvantaged coastal communities, which is investigated in further detail in Risk H4.

In many rural towns and villages and smaller urban cities and towns, the most socially vulnerable communities are exposed to higher flood risk, on average, than those that are less vulnerable. In rural towns and fringes in sparse settings the present day EAD is around £150 per person in flood risk areas, but rises to £280 for the most socially vulnerable neighbourhoods. This trend continues into the future, but it is socially vulnerable neighbourhoods in urban cities and towns that are likely to experience the most disproportionate increase in risk, with EAD per person increasing by an average factor of 2.8; this figure falls to 2.5 for the whole population (Sayers et al., 2020a).

Housing developments in areas prone to frequent coastal and surface water flooding (1 in 75-years or more frequent) across the UK have disproportionally taken place in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods. By the 2080s, while all these developments are expected to experience a significant increase in exposure to flooding across all sources, the increase is greatest in those developments built in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods, particularly at the coast (Sayers et al., 2017b). The report which set out this finding did not consider the implications of erosion enhanced flooding and therefore the number of properties affected on the coast may be larger.

At the national scale, social disadvantage measured through Relative Economic Pain is greater in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales than in England. There is also considerable spatial variation within countries due to the lower penetration of insurance in the most socially vulnerable neighbourhoods compared to others which, when combined with lower household incomes and exposure to more frequent flooding, leads to significant disadvantage.

The wider social impacts of flooding are increasingly being quantified for particular flood events and encompass lack of access to services, including health and social care, loss of school and workdays, travel disruption and displacement from home, sometimes for prolonged periods (Szönyi et al., 2016). All income groups are at risk of adverse consequences, but lower income households may suffer more severe adverse effects, particularly as they have less resources for coping in the short term and long-term recovery from the impacts (Sayers et al., 2017b).

Socio-economic status and pre-existing health conditions are recognised as factors that increase the risk of adverse outcomes from flood events. Risk perception and coping capacity also affect the ability of communities to prepare for and manage flood risk (Rufa et al., 2015).

Research has recently been published by Flood Re regarding geographic flood disadvantage and systemic flood disadvantage now and in the future with a focus on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (Sayers et al., 2020b). The analysis reveals that the most socially vulnerable of all ethnicities experience systemic flood disadvantage (experiencing risk that is greater than the average), with Black, African and Caribbean Ethnic Groups particularly disadvantaged (Figure 5.8) (Sayers et al., 2020b). It also reinforces previous findings that those living in rural towns, smaller urban settlements, and at the coast often experience more frequent flooding than others.

Disadvantage Exposure is higher than would be expected given no social disadvantage
Figure 5.8. Ratio of the 20% most socially vulnerable households exposed to frequent flooding (surface water, fluvial and coastal) compared to all households broken down by ethnicity (Sayers et al., 2020b)

5.4.1.7 Observations regarding the impact of COVID-19 (H3)

Pandemic response measures will affect households displaced by flooding in 2020 and 2021. Social distancing is challenging in evacuation situations, increasing the chance of infection. It is too early to assess the mental health implications of the combined affect of flooding and the pandemic.

It is likely to be the time and resources required by local authorities and other risk management authorities to conduct emergency planning to manage the virus and its implications that leaves less resources available for flood risk management. This includes diverting officers from usual day-to-day duties to emergency planning due to the scale of the impacts. Obtaining contributions to match Government funding for flood risk management schemes is also likely to become more challenging as both public and private sector organisations will have far less resources available.

5.4.1.8 Magnitude Scores (H3)

Current risk is considered to be high for all countries of the UK based on national flood risk assessments and the Future Flood Risk Research Project with EAD currently all at a high level across the UK. Future risk is similarly high across the UK; confidence for both is high due to multiple sources of evidence highlighting the severity and extent of flood risk for health, communities and the built environment.

Table 5.14. Magnitude scores for risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(high confidence

High

(High confidence)

Northern Ireland

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Scotland

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Wales

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

5.4.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H3)

5.4.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H3)

5.4.2.1.1 UK-wide

There are four main strategies for addressing flood risks which are discussed for each UK country, other than insurance which is discussed at the UK level.

  • Planning policy and guidance to minimise new dwellings and assets in flood risk areas.
  • Flood risk management policy, investment and interventions, including:
    • Structural measures
    • Natural flood management (NFM) and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS
    • Property flood resilience (PFR)
  • Emergency planning and preparedness.
  • Flood insurance provision.

HM Government’s National Risk Register, 2020 identifies coastal and river flooding as the two highest impact risks facing the UK after pandemics and large scale Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear attacks. It is not known whether consideration is yet being given to whether climate change is beginning to change the risk profile for major flood events in the national assessment.

Planning policy is a devolved issue and therefore differs across the UK at the national and local levels including measures put in place to manage and alleviate flood risk. Flood risk management policy and investment is also a devolved issue. Key flood risk management interventions include structural measures, natural flood management (NFM), and property flood resilience (PFR). NFM involves the use of natural processes to help alleviate flood risk (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021) and can complement other structural defences. PFR requires a package of measures, some of which prevent water entering the property (resistance measures) e.g. flood doors, and others that minimise the impact should water enter the house (resilience measures) e.g. using flood proof plaster, or other measures to speed up the recovery process.

Given that policies and plans related to planning, flood risk management investment and emergency preparedness are devolved, they are covered for each UK nation below. Insurance is applied UK-wide and covered at the end of this sub-section.

5.4.2.1.2 England
5.4.2.1.2.1 Planning policy

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that local plans should take a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change, taking into account the long-term implications for flood risk, coastal change, water supply, biodiversity and landscapes, and the risk of overheating from rising temperatures. In addition, Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) provides detailed guidance for developers and planners regarding flood risk assessment to avoid development in areas at flood risk, and the Environment Agency is a statutory consultee to all applications for development that could be at current risk of flooding from rivers and the sea or are in a critical drainage areas. It is important to note that guidance regarding climate change allowances for new development includes sensitivity testing up to an extreme H++ scenario (EA, 2016d).

In 2019/20, 96% of planning applications were determined to be in line with the Environment Agency’s flood risk advice and 98% of new homes included in planning applications were determined in line with the Agency’s advice. There is no evidence regarding the degree to which conditions regarding the resilience of development in areas at greatest flood risk (Flood Zone 3) have been met, however.

SuDS policies vary in local plans with differing levels of prescription on their use and examples of policies being either strengthened or weakened at examination stage by the Planning Inspectorate. Where weakened, this included removing references to ‘multi-functional’ benefits, adding ‘feasibility’ caveats and removing references to the green infrastructure role of SuDS from ‘bold type’ policy (TCPA, 2016).

In 2018, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government conducted a review of the application and effectiveness of planning policy for SuDS (MHCLG, 2018). This concluded that current arrangements for SuDS in planning have been successful in encouraging the take-up of sustainable drainage systems in a cross-section of new developments with almost 90% of all approved planning applications sampled featuring SuDS. The review concluded that whilst national planning policy has a clear role to play in facilitating the delivery of SuDS, other factors, such as arrangements around sharing good practice and innovation, can also influence their uptake in new developments. The review’s evidence was informed by a survey of adopted and emerging local plans and adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance from all 338 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) in England.

However, evidence for the implementation of planning policy was obtained from just twelve LPAs and their respective Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), so may not be representative. Following the review, the National Planning Policy Framework was updated in 2019 to include stronger wording on sustainable drainage (MHCLG, 2019a). It is not yet clear what impact this is having at the local level. There is also concern about the extent to which green as opposed to grey SuDS are being used in practice, as data are not available on actual levels of uptake (CIWEM, 2016; TCPA, 2016).

5.4.2.1.2.2 Flood risk management policy and investment

In England, there are various plans to tackle different sources of flooding and increasingly these are more holistic and long-term, helping to overcome previous concerns regarding the lack of a statutory, long-term strategy that addresses the likely climate change risks, and their differing time and spatial scales (CCC, 2019b).

In 2020, Defra published a Policy Statement on Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management. This sets out the government’s long-term ambition to create a nation more resilient to flood and coastal erosion risk with key objectives to upgrade and expand national flood defences and infrastructure, manage the flow of water more effectively, harness the power of nature to reduce flood and coastal erosion and achieve multi-benefits, better prepare communities, and enable more resilient places through a catchment-based approach. The policy statement, supported by additional funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management, states that every area of England will have a more comprehensive local plan that drives long-term action and investment.

The National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy (2020) updated and published by the Environment Agency sits alongside the Policy Statement and has a vision of ‘a nation ready for, and resilient to, flooding and coastal change – today, tomorrow and to the year 2100′ (EA, 2020e). The strategy strongly promotes a shift from protection to resilience through a basket of measures and describes what needs to be done by all risk management authorities (RMAs) involved in FCERM for the benefit of people and places. It also promotes the use of adaptive pathways that enable local places to better plan for future flooding and coastal change and adapt to the future climate. All FCERM activities conducted by RMAs, including plans and strategies, must be in alignment with the Strategy. Long-term delivery objectives are set out that should be implemented over the next 10 to 30 years. It also includes shorter term, practical measures RMAs should take working with partners and communities. The strategy has a greater focus on addressing climate change than the previous version with its three objectives being (i) climate resilient places; (ii) today’s growth and infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate; and (iii) a nation ready to respond and adapt to flooding and coastal change.

In 2020, alongside its new Policy Statement and Strategy, the UK Government announced that it would double its current capital investment in flood and coastal defences in England to £5.2 billion over the next six years – 2021–2027. This doubling was comparing with £2.6 billion in the funding programme from 2015–2021 (Defra, 2020b). The new investment is intended to ensure that a further 336,000 homes and non-residential properties such as businesses, schools and hospitals are better protected from flooding and coastal erosion. The investment also aims to avoid the disruption caused by flooding to the daily life of over 4 million people, avoid £32 billion of wider economic damages, create or improve 5,440 ha of natural habitat, and enhance 830 km of rivers.

The Government’s previous FCERM investment programme has improved protection for 242,343 homes between April 2015 and April 2020 in England, in line with its target to provide better protection for 300,000 homes by 2021. A review conducted in 2017 (Wingfield and Brisley, 2017) focused on those schemes that accounted for a large proportion of the homes better protected. This revealed that based on an improved Standard of Protection (SoP), most of the schemes were taking households from very significant risk to low or moderate risk – the schemes assessed were improving the SoP for households. Furthermore, most of the schemes were increasing the existing SoP and incorporated an increase in risk due to climate change in the design. The Environment Agency’s National Flood Risk Assessment (NaFRA) estimates that EAD Annual Damages avoided (properties and public infrastructure) from rivers and sea (annually) is £664 million (EA, 2018d).

The long-term investment scenarios (LTIS) are an economic assessment showing what future FCERM could look like over the next 50 years in England. LTIS sets out the total national level of investment if there is investment in all the places where the benefits are greater than the costs; the optimum level of FCERM investment. LTIS estimates that the overall economic optimum level of investment to reduce the risk from climate change is a long-term annual average of over £1 billion (EA, 2019c). LTIS uses NaFRA for the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea. NaFRA was updated in 2018 and provides a new estimate of present day expected annual damages (EAD). The output for NaFRA is also one of the input datasets used by the Future Flood Explorer (FFE) model to estimate future projections of flood risk (Sayers et al., 2020a). The representation of climate change, population growth and adaptation are represented differently (to a greater or lesser extent depending on the specific combination of the three) in the FFE and LTIS.

A £200 million Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation programme was announced in the 2020 Budget (HM Treasury, 2020). This aims to help meet the intended outcomes of the Government’s Policy Statement and the National FCERM Strategy and will support projects in particularly vulnerable areas that demonstrate how practical, innovative action, such as NFM, SuDS, PFR and building the capacity of the community and voluntary sector to respond and recover, can work to improve resilience to flooding and coastal erosion.

The overall level of investment into flood defences in England will also include revenue investment (such as strategy and plan development, research and modelling, and emergency planning compared with capital investment in physical interventions), and contributions from others via the Partnership Funding process. Therefore, it is likely (but not yet determined) that the overall level of investment over the six years from 2021 will meet the required £1 billion per year identified by LTIS , allowing for faster progress towards the long term adaptation required (EA, 2019c).

In 2020, the Partnership Funding approach (the main public sector source of funding for FCERM interventions) was revised (Defra, 2020b) to better reflect the wider benefits that flood alleviation projects can facilitate. The changes include:

  • updated payment rates to reflect inflation and new evidence on flood damages since 2011 (including people impacts such as mental health).
  • a new intermediate risk band for moving properties and other assets between high and medium risk to help manage surface water flood risk, meaning more surface water schemes are likely to receive Defra grants in the future.
  • improved payment rates for environmental benefits to better capture the wider environmental benefits achieved by some flood schemes and encourage environmentally beneficial design.
  • recognition of the benefits for properties that will become at risk in the lifetime of flood defences due to the impacts of climate change.

Partnership Funding continues to prioritise investment to protect properties in deprived communities. Additional funding streams should also mean that more investment is available for flood risk management schemes that help to protect critical infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, roads and railways, and more money should be available to upgrade existing Environment Agency flood risk assets (EA and Defra, 2020).

Following the Flood and Water Management Act (FWMA) of 2010 (England and Wales), unitary authorities and county councils have become the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for their areas. A Government-commissioned evaluation of the implementation of the FWMA found that the new strategy requirements had led to a more comprehensive understanding of local flood risk and to more proactive, coordinated management of this risk (Maiden et al., 2017). All LLFAs now have strategies in place but no evaluation has been conducted regarding their effectiveness. Government has committed to work with the Environment Agency and LLFAs to develop new guidance on their local flood risk management strategies, which reflects the revised national strategy, shares best practice on content and use, and explains how they fit with other plans and strategies (Defra, 2018d).

Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) aim to identify the most sustainable approach to managing the flood and erosion risks to the coastline in the short-term (0 to 20 years), medium term (20 to 50 years) and long term (50 to 100 years). SMPs are non-statutory documents that provide a broad assessment of the long-term risks associated with coastal processes, providing guidance to coastal engineers and managers to identify and recommend strategic and sustainable coastal defence policy options for particular lengths of coast to reduce these risks to people, the developed and natural environments. A SMP Refresh project is currently underway in England (and Wales) to review what has changed since SMP2 in terms of legislation, policy and climate projections and provide coastal groups with advice on how to take account of this in their SMPs. It does not constitute a fundamental review of all SMPs. Informed by the Environment Agency’s current refresh of technical evidence supporting Shoreline Management Plans, national policy for Shoreline Management Plans will also be reviewed to ensure local plans are transparent, review outcomes and enable local authorities to make robust decisions for their areas.

5.4.2.1.2.3 Flood risk management interventions

In England, NFM continues to be widely promoted by Government and can help schemes benefit from funding through the revised Partnership Funding formula in England (Defra, 2020b). Outcome Measure 4 (OM4) within the formula focuses on habitat and biodiversity enhancements and supports FCERM projects that reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion in ways that provide additional environmental benefits and support wider policies, including the 25 Year Environment Plan and the FCERM Strategy (2020) (Defra, 2018b; EA, 2020e).

Defra’s Property Flood Resilience Action Plan (2016) is the main mechanism promoting PFR (BRE, 2016a). This aims within five years to achieve an ‘environment where it is standard practice for properties at high flood risk to be made resilient’ and, within two years, to have made ‘significant progress towards developing the systems and practices within the insurance, building and finance sectors that normalise the uptake of property level resilience within existing activity’ (BRE, 2016a). The plan does not quantify the number of properties or locations to target, and neither NAP2, nor Defra’s Action Plan, quantify the ambitions for the role of PFR in managing vulnerability or offer a strategy to drive the large-scale implementation of these measures (CCC, 2019b). The Government Policy Statement set out government’s commitment to further boost uptake of PFR in homes and businesses, and the new National Strategy on FCERM includes a strategic objective and associated measures to help mainstream PFR by removing the policy, financial and behavioural barriers, encourage building back better after flooding and increase the uptake of PFR in high-risk communities (EA, 2020e). Additional initiatives include £2.9 million extra funding from the 2018 budget, which is supporting three PFR pathfinder projects and the Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme (Defra and EA, 2019, 2021; EA, 2020g). Defra is (at the time of writing, April 2020) consulting on whether there is more that the Flood Re Scheme could do to accelerate uptake of PFR to support the transition to a risk reflective home insurance market for those at risk of flooding by 2039.

The CCRA2 Evidence Report reported only 3,174 properties taking up publicly funded property PFR measures in the reporting period to 2015, with 3,074 either planned or in the works for 2016–2021. Since April 2015, it is reported that a further 1,245 homes have implemented PFR measures, at a rate of around 415 properties per year (Ffoulkes et al., 2019), slightly less than the 500 households per year proposed in the Government’s FCERM investment programme (CCC, 2019b). However, this reported data has limitations, as other centrally funded schemes, such as the PFR repair scheme, do not necessarily report how many properties are adapted and individuals may install measures independently. In addition, recovery grants issued following floods may or may not be used for property resilience works. It is therefore not possible to know accurate numbers of uptake, but these are likely to be higher than those quoted.

A UK-wide Code of Practice for PFR was launched in February 2020 and published in January 2021 (Kelly et al., 2021) following years of work through the industry led PFR Round Table set up by Defra following the publication of the PFR Action Plan in 2016. The purpose of the code is to help individuals and businesses understand the practical measures they can implement and restore properties more quickly post flood events. It sets out a clear process and standards for PFR which should support increased take-up.

Continually increasing awareness of flooding amongst public and private sector stakeholder organisations as well as the public and businesses is essential to ensure that responsibility for flood risk management is shared beyond RMAs and that individuals and businesses know what actions to take to minimise their own risk and manage the impacts should events occur. The Environment Agency conducts annual market research surveys with people that they know live in areas at risk of flooding in England.

The results from the 2020/21 flood survey (EA, 2021a) are below:

  • Approximately half of those surveyed believe the area where they live is at risk of flooding, but fewer (around 4 in 10) think that their property is at risk.
  • Perception of risk is lower among 18–34 year olds and those in rented accommodation. Although 70% have undertaken some flood prevention action overall, young people and renters are less likely to take action.
  • Just under a fifth have received advice/support in the last year but this was lower among young people and renters.

These results are very similar to the most recent published findings from 2013/14 (Langley and Silman, 2014).

Research commissioned to support the CCRA regarding the impact of behaviour on climate risks identified the key importance of education and awareness-raising regarding levels of risk and information on the effectiveness of adaptation measures. This could help overcome the misconception that adaptation only includes structural or property adjustments which may be deterring greater action. Case study respondents also highlighted that they would be more likely to undertake personal protective measures if they received financial support from the government or private sector. Respondents from one case study also stated that they would be more willing to take action if there was evidence of government taking climate impacts seriously, for example with less or better designed floodplain development (Power et al., 2020).

Research has also highlighted how social factors, heuristics (mental shortcuts or ‘rule of thumb’) and choice overload affect willingness to act (EA, 2020a). Further research is required to facilitate behaviour change as part of flood risk management.

5.4.2.1.2.4 Emergency planning and response

Community resilience involves working with local people and businesses to assess, plan for emergencies and act to manage flooding. In England and Wales, Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) develop emergency plans and provide information on what to do before, during and after a flood at the local level, which should support recovery from flood events. Other bodies (such as the Environment Agency/NRW, National Flood Forum, local councils, utility companies, Highways England) also provide advice on how to prepare for and recover from flooding events. There is little data to assess the effectiveness of the work of LRFs in emergency responses when floods occur. However, analysis of emergency responder (ambulance and fire services) times under various flooding scenarios identifies how even low magnitude floods can lead to a reduction in mandatory response times, which is particular marked in large cities (Yu et al., 2020). This is explored further in Risk H12: Risk to Health and Social Care Delivery.

The Defra Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder scheme from 2012-2015 was set up to enable and stimulate local people and businesses at high risk of flooding to work with key partners to develop innovative local solutions (Twigger-Ross et al., 2015). Key findings from this work include evidence that social resilience and community capital can be enhanced through improving the accessibility of information and knowledge of flood risk and roles and responsibilities. Economic resilience was enhanced through support to SMEs in particular and institutional resilience has been achieved through the establishment of over 100 flood groups across England.

Flood warnings in England (and Wales), are provided through the joint Met Office/Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre. The Cabinet Office ResilienceDirect platform also provides street-level surface water flood forecasts to authorities and Category 1 and 2 responders (Cabinet Office, 2018). In January 2019 the response to the Multi Agency Flood Plan Review was published (Defra and EA, 2018). The Review identified that existing emergency planning processes and arrangements were effective in responding to small and medium sized flood events, but the response to major events affecting multiple local authorities and thousands of people, such as the winter 2015/16 floods, needed improvement. It also resulted in updated guidance for developing multi-agency flood plans better reflecting the needs of LRFs, acknowledging technological developments such as ResilienceDirect, and providing a more consistent framework for developing Multi-Agency Flood Plans enabling ease of transfer across LRFs, and including provision for the Environment Agency to conduct three year health-checks on the plans (Defra, 2020d).

There are also measures in place to support local authorities, communities and businesses when major flood events occur. MHCLG activates the emergency Bellwin scheme on the first day of flooding (Sandford, 2019). Under Bellwin, local authorities dealing with the flooding can apply to have 100% of their eligible costs, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government. This could be for items including rest centres, temporary accommodation and staff overtime.

The Flood Recovery Framework sets out a core package of business and community recovery support, which is made available by Ministers when severe weather has significant impacts across multiple authorities (DCLG, 2017). The package comprises several schemes that are deployed to local authorities to help communities and small and medium businesses return to normality.

5.4.2.1.3 Northern Ireland
5.4.2.1.3.1 Planning policy

Northern Ireland’s latest Strategic Planning Policy Statement was published in September 2015 (Department of the Environment, 2015) and contains requirements on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The main adaptation provisions include avoiding development in flood risk areas, retaining and restoring natural floodplains and promoting integrated flood risk management. DfI Planning and local Council Planning Authorities are advised by DfI Rivers, who are the custodians of flood mapping, flood risk management and suitability of land for development. Climate change is a factor that is taken into consideration in the provision of that advice.

The use of SuDS in new developments is promoted as the preferred approach under ‘Planning and Flood Risk’ within the Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS). The Regional Development Strategy 2035 (RDS) also proposes that SuDS should be encouraged as part of significant development proposals. In particular, it is proposed that ‘all new urban stormwater drainage systems should incorporate measures to manage the flow of waters which exceed design standards (exceedance flows) in order to help protect vulnerable areas’ (DRD, 2012). Local Authority Local Development Plans (LDPs) are required to take account of the RDS and to conform to the SPPS, both of which encourage the use of SuDS for new developments. However, this has not translated into widespread uptake of SuDS. Local authorities, such as Belfast City Council, are working to address the gap between the policy aspirations and take-up on the ground.

5.4.2.1.3.2 Flood risk management policy and investment

Northern Ireland legislation to enact the European Floods Directive was introduced in 2009 via The Water Environment (Floods Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 (Department for Infrastructure, 2020b). The legislation requires the following elements of the 2nd cycle to be completed by the following dates:

  • Northern Ireland Flood Risk Assessment – December 2018 (published) (Department for Infrastructure, 2018).
  • Review of flood risk and flood hazard maps for Areas of Potential Significant Flood Risk – December 2019 (published).
  • Flood Risk Management Plan – December 2021. The plan will set out objectives and measures for managing the risk of flooding (under development).

Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) were produced under the 1st cycle for each of Northern Ireland’s three principal river basin districts (North Eastern, Neagh Bann and North Western) in 2015 (Department for Infrastructure, 2015). The Plans highlight the flood hazards and risks in the 20 most Significant Flood Risk Areas in Northern Ireland from flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water and reservoirs, and set out a framework in which measures to manage flood risk will be delivered or planned for at a local level over the next six years. The aim of the Plans is to manage the adverse consequences that flooding could have on human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity. The Plans focus on the ‘3 Ps’ in relation to managing aspects of flood risk: prevention, protection and preparedness. They also set out how relevant authorities will work together and with communities to reduce flood risk.

A draft Flood Risk Management Plan (FRMP) for the period 2021–2027, aimed at managing and mitigating the risk of flooding in Northern Ireland, has been published for a six-month public consultation (December 2020 until June 2021); the FRMP will be finalised by December 2021 (Department for Infrastructure, 2020a). The Plan focuses on 12 APSFR identified in the 2nd cycle NI Flood Risk Assessment (Department for Infrastructure, 2018). In addition, nine ‘Transitional Areas of Potential Significant Flood Risk’ (TAPSFR), previously identified as APSFR in the 2011 PFRA, have been determined to ensure continuity between 1st and 2nd cycle FRMPs and to facilitate implementation of any outstanding measure commitments from the 1st cycle FRMPs.

The Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland is primarily responsible for arterial drainage and flood protection and implementation of the Water Environment (Floods Directive) Regulations (NI) 2009. In 2013–14, some £6 million was spent on flood defence schemes (Priestley, 2017). Total capital expenditure on flood and coastal erosion risk management in 2015/16 was £24.7m, an almost 20% increase since 2010/11 (£20.7m) (NIAO, 2016). Social vulnerability is not specifically included as a parameter in assessing prioritisation in relation to DfI Rivers Flood Alleviation / Flood Risk Management schemes although health impacts have been monetised in NIFRA 2018.

5.4.2.1.3.3 Flood risk management interventions

The Homeowner Flood Protection Grant Scheme in Northern Ireland is a government funded flood grant scheme which entitles homeowners to get 90% funding of flood protection measures up to a value of £10,000. The additional 10% of the cost and any extra cost above £10,000 must be funded by the homeowner themselves. The grant is not means tested and all successful applicants have to contribute 10% of the cost of the works. Eligible properties will have to have been flooded in the past or are located in a known flood area. Any properties that were initially granted planning approval from 1st January 2009 are ineligible. In addition to this, any homes owned by the Housing Executive, any registered housing association or other third party are also ineligible from the flood grant. Finally, any properties that are likely to benefit from a government backed flood alleviation scheme in the next five years will also be ineligible. A review of this grant scheme is currently underway.

5.4.2.1.3.4 Emergency planning and response

In Northern Ireland there are three Emergency Preparedness Groups that comprise multi-agency partnerships. These have dedicated working groups to manage natural hazards such as flooding (Executive Office, 2011). The Met Office and its partners provide the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting Service (UKCMF) for the DfI Rivers in Northern Ireland (Met Office and EA, 2020). In Northern Ireland, DfI NI has a key role in the provision of a fast and effective flood emergency response with a view to mitigating any threat to life or property and responding where possible to requests for assistance from the public whose property has suffered or is threatened by flooding. DfI also discharges Lead Government Department (LGD) responsibilities for the co-ordination of flooding emergencies. While the response to and recovery from an emergency will require many organisations, each delivering their own responsibilities and functions, the role of the LGD is a key one as it provides detailed and specific flood risk expertise that assists the wider overall multi-agency response to flooding. The Civil Contingency structures in Northern Ireland provide an effective mechanism to deliver co-ordinated emergency flood response with the Civil Contingencies Group (Northern Ireland) (CCG (NI)), providing strategic leadership. There are three regional level multi-agency Emergency Preparedness Groups (EPGs), with the purpose of ensuring an appropriate level of preparedness to enable effective multi-agency response to emergencies which have a significant impact on the public. Flooding and severe weather working groups are established for matters specific to flood risk management, and these groups facilitate the preparation of emergency plans which provide a structure for government preparation, response and recovery from flooding or other severe weather events. Exercises are carried out to test the plans and debriefs are held to identify improvements in the preparedness, response and recovery phases.

In Northern Ireland, the Regional Community Resilience Group (RCRG) was established in 2013 to help local communities prepare for and respond to weather related emergencies. The RCRG develops a consistent approach to community engagement to help individuals and communities to be better prepared and more self-reliant during emergencies. The group includes partners from government departments, local government, emergency responders, utility providers and the voluntary sector, and works on this multi-agency basis to facilitate adequate planning and preparation for community response and recovery, to cope with emergency incidents in ‘at-risk’ communities.

In addition to helping local communities to develop community emergency plans, resilience groups are advised of relevant weather information and provided with alert information, where available, and resources so that they can make appropriate preparations to ‘self-help’ for incidents that may affect property, the highway network and their community. The group is currently working with over 30 communities across Northern Ireland to provide an additional layer of support for those communities at risk from severe weather.

5.4.2.1.4 Scotland
5.4.2.1.4.1 Planning policy

The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 state that planning authorities must, before determining an application for planning permission, consult with SEPA where the development is likely to result in a material increase in the number of buildings at risk of being damaged by flooding (SEPA, 2017). Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) (Scottish Government, 2014b) includes a section on Managing Flood Risk and Drainage highlighting the Third National Planning Framework (NPF)’s support for a catchment-scale approach to sustainable flood risk management (Scottish Government, 2014a). The SPP promotes a precautionary approach to flood risk from all sources, taking account of the predicted effects of climate change; flood avoidance and flood reduction. The policy highlights the importance of the planning system preventing development in areas at flood risk or where flood risk could be increased elsewhere.

The NPF and SPP are currently under review. A Position Statement on the fourth NPF was published in November 2020, highlighting the need for a fresh approach and significant investment in infrastructure to address climate change (Scottish Government, 2020a). Specific issues that need to be addressed to achieve this ambition are identified as (i) reducing communities’ exposure to flooding by future-proofing the design of the built environment and investing in natural infrastructure; (ii) promoting natural flood risk management and strengthening policies on the water environment and drainage infrastructure; (iii) restricting development in flood risk areas; (iv) adapting existing infrastructure where climate change may increase vulnerability to flooding; and (v) placing greater importance on flood risk management and coastal protection, as the interface between planning on land and at sea is important.

A study was published in 2016 to assess the effectiveness of Scotland’s local planning authorities in implementing national planning policy in both planning for flood risk and the effects of climate change, and ensuring new development is avoided in areas at risk of flooding (LUC, 2016). This identified that whilst awareness of climate change in general across local authorities was very good, understanding of the likely tangible effect on the risks posed by flooding was poor. Policies were also generally weaker in terms of translating the avoidance principle (not developing in areas at flood risk), which is afforded additional significance in the context of climate change. Spatial strategies showed little evidence of having been influenced by the outcomes of flood risk assessment, with almost no clear consideration of climate change. Land allocations were particularly problematic, with proposals frequently at significant risk of flooding even before the effects of climate change were taken into account. 12 out of 16 plans had allocations with outstanding flood risk objections (usually from SEPA) dealt with at Examination.

Under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, it is a general requirement for SuDS to be installed where new developments produce surface water that drains into the water environment in order to protect water quality. Where legally required, SuDS should also manage surface water drainage up to a 1 in 30-year rainfall event and protect water quality. Not all SuDS are required to manage surface water flooding. Surface water drainage in Scotland falls under water company and road authority responsibility for sewers and roads respectively, while surface water flooding falls under the flood authorities.

5.4.2.1.4.2 Flood risk management policy and investment

The Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 created a general duty for Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and responsible authorities to exercise their functions with a view to reducing overall flood risk. Responsible authorities include local authorities, Scottish Water and other public bodies designated by Scottish Ministers (Priestley, 2017). The second edition of statutory guidance to SEPA, local authorities and Scottish Water on fulfilling their responsibilities under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 was issued by the Scottish Government in 2019 (Environment and Forestry Directorate, 2019). The changes the Government wishes to bring about are set out in the following six long term key outcomes: (i) a reduction in the number of people, homes and property at risk of flooding; (ii) rural and urban landscapes with space to store water and slow down the progress of floods; (iii) coasts and estuaries managed in a way which aims to reduce flood risk; (iv) sustainable surface water management that decreases burdens on sewer systems, whilst also delivering reduced flood risk and an improved water environment; (v) a well-informed public; and (vi) flood management actions undertaken that are effective in the long-term and adaptable to future climate change.

SEPA is producing a new national Flood Risk Management Strategy, which will help to steer and focus its statutory role and responsibilities for flooding, and embed adaptation as a key principle to ensure flood risk management plans and actions tackle future flood risk. The Strategy aims to support individual and community resilience to flooding and take forward flood risk management, involving a wide range of powerful partnerships working to increase Scotland’s flood resilience now and in the future. It is intended that the Strategy will be published in 2021, dependent on COVID-19 implications and other associated capacity issues.

The latest Scottish Programme for Government (PfG) states that Scottish Government will invest an additional £150 million for flood risk management over a five‑year period from 2021/22, as well as continuing to provide £42 million per year to local authorities (Scottish Government, 2020c). The Scottish Flood Forum received a grant of up to £193,000 from the Scottish Government in 2020-21. Scotland takes deprived communities into account in its prioritisation matrix used to rank schemes. Within its six outcomes for flood risk management, two specifically focus on vulnerability: FR4 considers social vulnerability and FR6 is concerned with vulnerable receptors.

Flood Risk Management Strategies have been developed for each of the 14 Local Plan Districts in Scotland (SEPA, 2015). They are approved by Scottish Government and published by SEPA as Scotland’s strategic flood risk management authority. These strategies have been produced in collaboration with all 32 local authorities, Scottish Water and other organisations with a responsibility or interest in managing flooding. The strategies are supplemented by local flood risk management plans, which set out detailed actions and how these will be delivered by local authorities and their partners.

5.4.2.1.4.3 Flood risk management interventions

The Scottish Government’s PfG commits to reviewing the approach to Blue-Green Cities and bringing forward proposals to deliver this by the end of 2020, and taking action to progress climate adaptation including Scottish Water pursuing further partnerships to create natural blue-green infrastructure. A policy document ‘Water Resilient Places – A Policy Framework for Surface Water Management and Blue-Green Infrastructure’was published early in 2021. This aims to improve the management of surface water flooding by complementing and supporting existing policy and organisational responsibilities as set out in the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. The policy objectives aim to make surface water management relevant to all sectors and make it a core consideration in designing for climate adaptation, sustainable placemaking and delivering great blue-green places to live.

In addition, Forestry and Land Scotland’s climate emergency commitments are working to ensure that, as storms, floods and droughts become more common, their “forests and land are part of the solution and not part of the problem” (Forestry and Land Scotland, 2021). Scotland has a NFM network and currently there are just under 100 NFM actions identified in Scotland’s Local Flood Risk Management Plans.

Scotland’s Living with Flooding Action Plan is starting to prepare for the transition from Flood Re with insurance companies and Flood Re involved with the Property Flood Resilience Delivery Group (Scottish Government, 2019b).

A commitment to address PFR was included in the 2018 PfG. The Property Flood Resilience Delivery Group (PFRDG) brings together a range of stakeholders to work together to ensure that Scotland is better prepared for flood events. The PFRDG developed the Living with Flooding Action Plan in 2019 to help raise awareness of the benefits of PFR and encourage property owners, the construction and insurance industries and the general public to implement PFR measures (Scottish Government, 2019b). Research commissioned by ClimateXChange, on behalf of the Scottish Government and the PFRDG (Pettit and Kerr, 2020), found that take up in Scotland was low, (estimated to be 1,400-1,500 properties). It also found that approximately 81,000 properties could benefit from some flood resilience measures. A second research project is currently investigating the barriers to take up and will make recommendations for actions to increase uptake. This will feed into the PFRDG’s review of the Living with Flooding Action Plan in 2021.

5.4.2.1.4.4 Emergency planning and response

Multi-agency co-ordination in Scotland, for the management of emergencies such as flood incidents. is undertaken through three Regional Resilience Partnerships (RRPs – North, East and West) which are disagreggated into 12 Local Resilience Partnerships (LRPs).

With support from the Scottish Government, the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service (SFFS) brings together SEPA’s expertise in flood warnings and Met Office expertise in weather forecasting to provide accurate flood forecasts for key responders (Met Office and SEPA, 2020). The Met Office also provides the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting Service (UKCMF) for SEPA (Met Office and EA, 2020).

5.4.2.1.5 Wales
5.4.2.1.5.1 Planning policy

In September 2020 the Welsh Government asked Senedd Cymru (the Welsh Parliament) to scrutinise the draft National Development Framework (Welsh Government, 2019e). This sets a strategy for addressing key national priorities through the planning system, including sustaining and developing a vibrant economy, decarbonisation, developing resilient ecosystems and improving the health and well-being of communities across Wales. The review highlighted the importance of the planning system in ensuring development is not at risk of flooding and the importance of natural solutions to manage flood risk. The draft National Development Framework was finalised in 2021 to become the Future Wales: National Plan 2040 (Welsh Government, 2021c).

National planning policy regarding planning flood risk in Wales is set out in Technical Advice Note (TAN) 15: Development and Flood Risk (Welsh Assembly Government, 2004). This guidance was published in 2004 and an updated draft was published for consultation in 2019 (Welsh Government, 2019c). The revised TAN15 is due for publication in 2021 and will incorporate the previous TAN14 (coastal erosion), with the revised guidance providing a greater focus on climate change. The review includes an updated guidance document and a new Flood Map for Planning, to replace the existing Development Advice Map. As elsewhere, development in Wales can be permitted in Flood Zone 3 subject to acceptability tests/flood free thresholds.

In Wales, inclusion of a SuDS is a mandatory condition to secure planning permission under the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) Schedule 3; this requirement has been in place since 7 January 2019 (Welsh Government, 2019h). SuDS must be designed and built in accordance with Statutory SuDS Standards published by the Welsh Ministers and SuDS Schemes must be approved by the local authority acting in its SuDS Approving Body (SAB) role, before construction work begins (Welsh Government, 2018b).

5.4.2.1.5.2 Flood risk management policy and investment

The new National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales (Welsh Government, 2020c) clarifies roles and responsibilities around FCERM, and is developed around the following objectives: (i) improving understanding and communication of risk, preparedness and building resilience; (ii) prioritising investment to the most at risk communities, preventing more people becoming exposed to risk; and (iii) providing an effective and sustained response to events. This sets the overall policy framework for Local Flood Management Strategies delivered through Natural Resources Wales and local authorities. The strategy highlights the importance of building resilience to climate change including through adaptive approaches and stresses the importance of understanding climate change projections to improve understanding around risk. It is the first National Strategy to incorporate Welsh legislation on the environment, wellbeing and sustainable drainage.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Welsh Government invested £390 million into helping manage flood risk, reducing risk to more than 45,000 properties across Wales. Following flooding in 2020, the Welsh Government provided over £4.4m to repair flood defences (Welsh Government, 2020d). Recent changes to funding include full support for preparing and designing new flood schemes, raising grant rates for the construction of coastal defences to 85%, and the introduction of a new £2m natural flood management programme (Welsh Government, 2020d). The determination of investment for flooding is influenced by NRW’s Communities at Risk Register which uses outputs from flood models to consider the number of people at risk, the hazard they are exposed to over a range of probabilities, the speed of onset of flooding and their ability to respond in terms of social vulnerability to flooding. It also uses factors such as availability and standard of flood warnings and flood defences.

5.4.2.1.5.3 Flood risk management interventions

The Welsh Government, NRW and partners across Wales strongly support and promote the use of NFM across Wales as detailed in the new national strategy (Welsh Government, 2020c). In 2020, the Welsh Government awarded £2 million to NFM projects across Wales intended to help Risk Management Authorities – such as local authorities and NRW combat the impacts of climate change as flood risks intensify, using natural methods. As part of the NFM programme, RMAs will work together on monitoring outcomes and sharing best practice to improve understanding of what works well in different environments, which should help encourage greater take up of NFM in future (Welsh Government, 2020b).

The new national strategy supports the use of PFR in Wales and a code of practice to standardise the UK provision of PFR. Welsh local authorities can also access the Environment Agency’s supplier framework for PFR but there is currently no national scheme to implement PFR.

5.4.2.1.5.4 Emergency planning and response

Flood warnings in England and Wales are provided through the joint Met Office/Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre. A number of different organisations are involved in coordinating flood response and recovery; including the RMAs who lead the response to flooding from different sources, but lead local flood authorities and infrastructure agencies also have a role alongside NRW. In very severe situations (such as following Storm Dennis), the Emergency Coordination Centre Wales (ECCW) is convened. Response and recovery work has included:

  • Supporting communities and partners through the challenges posed by these significant flood events.
  • Assessing and repairing damage to flood assets and land assets on the Welsh Government woodland estate that NRW manage.
  • Responding to large numbers of requests for information.
  • Understanding the immediate equipment replacement or enhancement needs, including to ICT systems and services.
5.4.2.1.6 Flood insurance UK-wide

The UK Government introduced the UK-wide Flood Re re-insurance scheme in 2016, working with the insurance industry to support access to insurance for households at high flood risk for whom premiums might otherwise be unaffordable. In 2019/20, Flood Re provided cover for over 196,000 household policies. Since its introduction, Flood Re has reported that 96% of households that had previously flooded could access flood insurance quotes from five or more insurers whereas before the scheme only 9% could get quotes from two or more insurers. Four out of five households were reported to have seen more than a 50% reduction in their insurance premium (Flood Re, 2018). Recent research commissioined by Defra identified that 88% of households in high flood risk areas (83% in 2015) have a policy which covers both buildings and contents insurance whilst 6% have separate policies for contents and buildings insurance (Defra, 2018a). However, this was lower for those living in rented properties, with 34% stating that they did not have a contents insurance policy, which had declined from 41% in 2015.

Flood Re’s second Transition Plan in 2018 (Flood Re, 2018) envisions a market with affordable, risk-reflective household insurance. A review for flood insurance cover following flooding in South Yorkshire found the vast majority of owner occupiers had building and contents insurance but tenants were less well protected (Blanc, 2020). At least 6% of owner occupiers and 11% of tenants had insurance which excluded cover for flooding but there was no evidence that any of the affected properties were ineligible for Flood Re. The review states that ‘If replicated across the country, this could mean tens of thousands of vulnerable households who are unnecessarily unprotected against flooding and missing out on the support that has been set up to help them.’

Flood Re was established to promote the availability and affordability of household insurance for eligible homes and, over its lifetime, enable a transition to affordable risk-reflective pricing for household insurance for those at risk of flooding. The QQR was conducted in 2019 to identify how to make Flood Re more efficient, responsive and flexible, and also to recommend any changes required to enable and accelerate the transition process (Flood Re, 2019). Key recommendations include working with insurers to ‘build back better’ homes after a flood enabling the payment of claims to include an additional amount for resilient or resistant repair and rewarding householders who proactively install flood resilience measures with discounted premiums on their home insurance policies. These recommendations should further support increased take up of PFR.

The Government estimated that Storms Desmond and Eva led to almost 16,000 residential properties being flooded, but the ABI reported only 9,700 residential insurance claims, suggesting low levels of cover could be a factor, particularly in Carlisle, where there were fewer claims than expected (EA, 2018b). Local reports also suggest problems of insufficient insurance in Cumbria, in part relating to previous flood experiences, which affected premiums and excesses for residents (Cumbria Community Foundation, 2018), but also reluctance to make claims, due to fears that properties would become uninsurable or that claims could result in high premiums and make trying to sell property difficult. They suggest many flood victims did not inform their insurance companies and some did not apply for resilience grants to which they may have been entitled (Cumbria County Council, 2018), indicating ongoing questions about how best to address insurance gaps. Clear progress is being made in facilitating the transition from Flood Re to risk-reflective, affordable home insurance.

5.4.2.2 Adaptation Shortfall (H3)

Current flood risk to people is already assessed as high magnitude across the UK, hence we consider here whether there is an explicit goal of ‘no increase in risk’, if future actions will manage the risk back down to present day levels in the face of climate change, whether lock-in is being adequately managed, and whether recent climate trends are well accounted for in policy (see Chapter 2: Watkiss and Betts, 2021; Table2.7).

Accounting for recent and future trends in climate. Whilst policy is accounting for recent climate trends and future climate projections in England, Scotland and Wales, further action is required in Northern Ireland which does not have a national strategy to manage flood risk.

Managing the risk down to present-day levels in the future and avoiding lock-in. In relation to these criteria, our assessment is that further action is required across all UK nations. Specifically, none of the policies as yet have quantified evidence to show that actions will keep the risks at today’s level in the future as the level of hazard from flooding increases. Even in the enhanced adaptation scenario (Sayers et al., 2020a), increases in flood risk are seen for many of the metrics considered, suggesting that either further innovation beyond current flood risk management measures is needed, or an explicit goal for managing flood risk, that allows for residual risk to increase in the future, is required across the UK. This sort of explicit goal, which could involve consideration of the relocation of some communities, is not currently featured in UK flood policies.

Our assessment suggests there are also some evidence gaps or questions about implementation of policy, identified below.

  • Lock-in from new development. Housing development continues to occur on the flood plain e.g. in England (the latest data suggests that this accounts for 9% of all new development in England (MHCLG, 2020)) and in Scotland. Research conducted in 2016 regarding the effectiveness of Scotland’s local planning authorities in implementing national planning policy suggested that the outcomes of flood risk assessment and climate change were not sufficiently influencing spatial strategies (LUC, 2016), which could lead to inappropriate development. Whilst climate resilient homes can be built on the flood plain, either with community level defences in place or with PFR measures, further evidence regarding the degree to which resilient measures are being incorporated is required and whether these homes are resilient to future changes in flood risk.
  • Uptake of green sustainable urban drainage. There is insufficient evidence regarding the implementaion of SuDS, and particularly green SuDS, as this is not monitored (e.g. CCC (2019a)).
  • Flood insurance. Across the UK, while Flood Re is providing support to increase access to affordable insurance for households at high risk of flooding who seek support, there are still many households that do not have insurance, or have insurance that does not include flood cover. While flood insurance can play a protective role and a safety net in the event of a flood, household take-up rates vary by income and tenure, and some groups are less well protected.
  • PFR. The rate of PFR installation is almost certainly well below the optimum, which is certainly the case in England (CCC, 2019b), and there are a lack of incentives across the UK to increase take up of property level flood resilience measures where these are an appropriate household response. Some well-known barriers include lack of motivation from householders, lack of familiarity and access to information, costs and behavioural biases to taking action, and lack of professional skills and knowledge (CCC, 2019a). The new FCERM Policy Statement commits to encouraging a faster transition of the market place for PFR, providing more advice, products and incentives to enable this transition.
  • Responsibilities and accountability. There is a public expectation that risk will be managed by the UK Government, devolved administrations and national environmental regulation agencies, as well as other public bodies such as local authorities (e.g. Power et al. (2020)). This may hinder individuals and communities’ own involvement in taking steps to improve their preparedness. Governments and other national agencies across the UK are keen to enhance greater individual and organisational responsibility by setting out expectations and roles and responsibilities for managing flood risk now and in the future. This area is likely to remain a continued challenge requiring continual awareness raising and knowledge sharing. Behavioural science insights should inform future measures to encourage a greater sharing of responsibility.
  • Inequalities. Disadvantaged communities in urban and rural areas remain at proportionally high risk of flooding now and in the future, although flood risks to health affect all populations, not just low income households (Sayers et al., 2017a). This situation is projected to continue into the future despite current Government investment regimes in England, Scotland and Wales prioritising deprived communities. Greater attention needs to be given to integrating policy objectives and delivery across agendas including preferentially selecting interventions to reduce flood risk and response measures that do not disadvantage certain population groups.
  • Maintenance budgets. Further investment in maintenance is required to ensure that flood risk management measures can continue to manage current risk and have the potential to manage future risk.This has been particulalrly highlighted for England with the Efra Committee’s flood report highlighting the need for a long-term resource budget settlement, aligned with the increased capital investment, so that the Environment Agency and other RMAs can plan for and maintain new and existing flood and coastal defences (Efra, 2021).

5.4.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H3)

Table 5.15. Adaptation scores for risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

5.4.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H3)

The types of adaptation measures required and the impacts on managing flood risk vary spatially. Figure 5.9 shows how the increase in risk is more sensitive to the adaptation choice than others. This highlights the limited opportunities for enhanced adaptation in some of the small local authorities and those in coastal settings with limited available land outside of the flood plain for new development. The difference between the alternative adaptation portfolios is also particularly marked for some local authorities, suggesting that enhanced adaptation efforts in these areas will be required to manage future risk. Importantly even with enhanced adaptation, residual risk is not inconsequential, requiring sustained action to minimise the impaxts of this risk and potentially requiring transformational solutions such as relocation.

Figure 5.9. Drivers of change in future Expected Annual Damages (total) by 2080s. Reproduced from Sayers et al.(2020a)

Whilst Defra’s Policy Statement, the English and Welsh national FCERM strategies and the proposed strategy for Scotland promote many elements of the enhanced whole system adaptation scenario, the challenge now is to move from strategic aspirations to delivery on the ground. Specific areas where our assessment suggests additional action is needed in the next five years are summarised below:

  • The shift from protection to embracing a range of measures that achieve resilience is supported across the UK. Articulating and promoting exactly what this means in practice is likely to be challenging. Whilst there is a substantial body of research being conducted to inform and facilitate this change in approach, working across the UK nations and widely sharing outcomes from case study examples and initiatives such as the Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation programme in England is needed to enable a more integrated approach. This could also generate fuller public engagement about the respective roles of different actors in reducing risk and taking adaptive measures, as well as help to promote community level responses that could build resilience.
  • There is an economic case for increasing investment in socially vulnerable areas, and whilst current funding approaches prioritise support for deprived communities in England, Scotland and Wales, introducing new metrics focused on reducing social vulnerability to flooding in UK government and devolved administration outcome measures could help further mitigate the social costs of flooding, which could improve upon current approaches (Sayers et al., 2017b).
  • It would be beneficial to understand how new developments built in at-risk areas are being made safe and resilient, for all new properties in high risk locations. This information should be publicly available by development, and should include whether properties are being protected by flood defences (and if so to what level) as well as the extent to which PFR has been implemented in new development.
  • The lack of a statutory requirement for SuDS across the UK, other than Wales, and lack of monitoring in all jurisdictions remains a continued challenge. With surface water flood risk projected to increase under all scenarios and the need to achieve biodiversity (and soon environmental) net gain in all new developments, there is a strong argument for greater enforcement.
  • Data collected for England shows that the uptake of PFR measures remains much lower than the potential cost-beneficial rate of uptake (CCC, 2019b), and there is a lack of data on uptake in the devolved administrations. Understanding of the barriers to PFR uptake has improved, informed by research in England and Scotland; subsequent recommendations now need to be acted upon.

5.4 3.1 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H3)

The three portfolios in the research report on future flood projections influence the future increase in risk to properties and associated EAD (Sayers et al., 2020a). In a scenario of 4°C global warming in 2100 with high population growth, continuing Current Levels of Adaptation is expected to offset future EAD in the 2080s by around £7.4 billion (all damages, not just residential, direct and indirect). Under the same scenario, an Enhanced Whole System is estimated to offset £8.2 billion EAD but only £6.4 billion is offset by the Reduced Whole System, meaning that the net increase in risk is much greater at around £2.8 billion. It is important to note that residual risk remains under all scenarios as it is not realistic to eliminate all flood risk. As detailed earlier, national strategies in place (or in train) aspire to many of the elements of the Enhanced Whole System, the degree to which these are effectively implemented will determine the level of flood risk reduction.

There is a very large literature on the costs and benefits of flood protection for adaptation, indeed, it is the most comprehensively covered area in the literature (OECD, 2019). These studies tend to find high benefit to cost ratios, for both hard and soft protection measures, and for grey and green infrastructure. However, values are highly site- and context-specific.

In terms of property resilience and resistance measures, there have been several studies that have investigated the costs and benefits of these measures. These include Defra (2008), EA (2015a) and Royal Haskoning DHV (2012; 2019). The most recent report from the CCC (Wood Plc, 2019) found that a number of flood resilience and resistance measures could be considered no-regret adaptation measures (i.e. a benefit to cost ratio of greater than one in cases where there is a greater than 1% chance of Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP)). In general, this literature reports that all measures are more expensive if retrofitted rather than installed in new builds. For resistance measures, the difference between costs of retrofitting vs. incorporating into new builds are more modest. However, the applicability of each of these measures depends on the type of flooding (recurrence and depth), as this alters the relative cost-effectiveness (and benefit to cost ratio).

Given the residual damage costs even with current flood management policy, this is clearly an area where there are benefits of future action, and in many cases these benefits will outweigh the costs.

5.4.3.2 Overall Urgency Scores (H3)

Table 5.16. Urgency scores for Risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding (H3)
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
Confidence HighHighHighHigh

While there has been a significant enhancement of the policy framework across all four UK countries since CCRA2 was published, an adaptation shortfall remains under a current planned adaptation scenario (and even the enhanced scenario as set out in Sayers et al. (2020a). There is a lack of evidence that implementation of the latest plans will cancel out any additional future risk from climate change in order to maintain the risk at today’s levels (the criteria as set out in Chapter 2 (Watkiss and Betts, 2021) for risks that are already high magnitude), that lock-in is being fully managed, or that the whole range of current and future risk has been accounted for. Therefore, although there is evidence of positive progress, all countries have been given a “More Action Needed” urgency score.

5.4.4 Looking ahead (H3)

This is already an area where adaptive management (and adaptation pathways) are being developed and this provides a clearer link to an iterative approach that could link successive CCRAs (and NAPs).

Further information is required with regards to the following:

  • National assessment and action regarding the scale of current and future residual risk and the degree to which this can be addressed by measures such as increased take up of PFR, or whether more transformational actions such as the relocation of communities is required.
  • Scale of adoption of SuDS and their effectiveness across the UK.
  • Impacts of the new Partnership Funding formula in England.
  • Benefits and challenges of natural flood management (NFM) across the UK.
  • Carbon neutral flood defences and their contribution to the Net Zero emissions goal.
  • Impacts of new national strategies, particularly in relation to promoting and achieving resilience.
  • More support and agency (independent decision-making capacity) provided to communities to manage their own risk and reduce reliance on government action, although this is likely to require some public sector funding support.

5.5 Risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise (H4)

Sea level rise is likely to threaten the long term viability of some coastal communities in the UK. Some small communities in the south and east coasts of England and the west coast of Wales already face risks to their viability as a result of coastal change due to the current and/or future impacts of coastal flooding and/or erosion. The UKCP18 projections, which were published after CCRA2, suggest faster sea level rise than identified in UKCP09 projections for similar scenarios. Understanding of coastal risk has been enhanced through a greater focus on its assessment, particularly in Scotland via its national coastal change assessment – Dynamic Coast. In addition, national policy and strategy development in England, Scotland and Wales has given coastal change a higher profile. Whilst the threats to the viability of coastal communities are widely recognised and Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) include (non-statutory) policies to support managed realignment, there is little evidence at the national scale of a long-term strategy that is assessing coastal community viability or planning action to support communities facing this uncertain future.

Risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise was identified as a risk in 2017 (CCRA2) and there have been developments in terms of evidence, adaptation policy and action. A range of public and private sectors reports and research have been published that look at risks globally and across the UK as well as new policy and practice at national and local levels.

This risk is focused on coastal change (physical change to the shoreline caused by coastal erosion, coastal landslip, permanent inundation or coastal accretion) that is of such severity that the long term sustainability and viability of coastal communities is threatened. Whilst coastal flooding is covered under Risk H3, it is also considered in this risk with regards to the potential for catastrophic flooding, driven by changes in sea level and storminess that can threaten the viability of coastal communities. Coastal change can be defined more narrowly as only relating to coastal erosion; it is important to be aware that in CCRA3, this risk is investigating the impacts of the wider definition of coastal change (driven by sea level rise) for people, communities and buildings. Similarly, we apply a broad definition of coastal communities meaning those living/working in or visiting coastal locations.

Viability relates to the future physical existence of a settlement, for example its potential loss from coastal erosion, the future ability for people to live and work in a settlement (which may be affected by safety issues related to flood risk), and economic viability, wherein the risk of coastal change affects the local economy to such a degree that is no longer viable to invest in the area.

There are several emerging issues for this risk:

  • The increased realisation that it is unrealistic (i.e. prohibitively expensive with major safety implications) to promote a ‘hold the line’ policy for all of the coastline. This raises the fundamental questions of how to: (i) plan our future shoreline on the open coast and along estuaries; and (ii) deliver practical portfolios of adaptation options that are technically feasible, balance costs and benefits, can attract appropriate finance, and are socially acceptable.
  • The increased realisation that there are barriers to implementing the policy of ‘managed realignment’ or ‘no active intervention’ in SMPs. For example, many historical coastal landfill sites for waste are located in low-lying coastal areas that need to be protected, but SMPs may promote Managed Realignment or Active Intervention (Brand, 2017; Beaven et al., 2018).
  • The use of adaptation pathways to manage coastal flood risks that take account of future uncertainties. The adaptive pathways approach developed for the Thames Estuary 2100 project has gained recognition but has not yet been applied more widely (Haigh and Nicholls, 2019) (See Section 2.3 in Chapter 2: Watkiss and Betts, 2021).
  • The importance of early community and wider stakeholder engagement where the future viability of communities may be threatened.

5.5.1 Current and future level of risk (H4)

5.5.1.1 Current Risk (H4)

5.5.1.1.1 Current risk – UK wide

CCRA2 highlighted that globally, the coastal zone is one of the most vulnerable areas to current and future climate change, whilst also being one of the most valuable to people for economic, social, cultural and health reasons. Coastal erosion and flooding have been reshaping the UK coastline since the last ice age, but sea level rise has been notable over the last 50 years. It is important to note that sea level rise does not operate in isolation; it is the combination of sea level rise with storminess and coastal processes such as sediment movement and erosion that creates a risk of such magnitude that it can threaten the long term sustainability of whole communities.

Since CCRA2, there have been repeated concerns world-wide highlighting the risk of rising sea levels on the world’s coasts and increasing evidence regarding the risks that climate change poses to our coastal zones. In the UK, millions of people live in low-lying coastal areas that are vulnerable to coastal flooding and erosion, and protection remains essential to reduce risk (CCC, 2018).

Consistent data is not collected across the UK on the number of properties lost to, or at risk of coastal erosion, therefore the estimates provided may be based on different methodologies.

Insurance or compensation is not currently available to mitigate against the risk of losing properties. While building surveys conducted by mortgage companies will report on erosion risk, cash buyers could complete a property transaction without knowing if a property they are purchasing on the coast is at risk of erosion (CCC, 2018).

Coastal floods are amongst the most dangerous natural hazards and are one of the most significant risks that the UK faces, as identified in the most recent National Risk Register (HM Government, 2020b). Coastal flooding results from extreme sea levels which arise as a combination of four main factors: waves, astronomical tides, storm surges and relative mean sea level. Tidal lock can also occur when the level of the incoming high tide stops river water flowing out to sea, meaning rivers cannot discharge flood waters.

SurgeWatch is a database of coastal flood events in the UK from 1915 to 2016 which documents and assesses the consequences of historical coastal flood events around the UK (Haigh et al., 2017). Each flood event is ranked using a multi-level categorisation from 1 (nuisance) to 6 (disaster) (based on levels of inundation, transport disruption, costs and fatalities). 329 events (a period of high sea levels and/or waves arising from a distinct storm, which were associated with coastal flooding) were identified from the start of 1915 to the end of 2016.

Category 5 events are those that involve either loss of life or reliable evidence that defences and/or flood warnings, and a substantial institutional response to the event, prevented multiple fatalities. Category 6 events (Disaster) are reserved for large consequence events that are associated with multiple fatalities due to drowning. Direct flood-related fatalities are linked to only six UK floods since 1915. Of the 329 events in the database, 18 were identified as Category 4, eight Category 5, and only the January/February 1953 event was was ranked Category 6. The eight category 5 floods are shown in Table 5.17 below. These, and the 18 Category 4 floods, are in various locations along the England, Scotland and Wales coastlines, but England’s east coast has seen the most catastrophic events in 1953 and 2013.

The frequency with which extreme high-water levels are exceeded has increased over the last 150 years, driven primarily by the observed rise in relative mean sea level. Furthermore, saltmarshes, shingle and sand dunes, which provide important buffering against floods, are in decline. Population growth, changes in land use and enhanced asset values in floodplain areas have also increased exposure to coastal flooding. However, overall, the frequency and consequences of flooding have reduced over time due to improvements in flood defences, together with advances in flood forecasting, warning and emergency response and spatial planning (Haigh et al., 2020).

Table 5.17. Historical severe coastal flooding events in the UK. Source: (Haigh et al., 2017)
DateCategoryLocations affectedCounty, region or country
January 19536Norfolk, Kent, Spurn Head, Humber, LondonNorth Sea (England), Thames
October 19275Mersey, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Sandylands, Cardigan Bay, Criccieth, Aberglaslyn, Porthmadog (Portmadoc)Mersey, Fleetwood, Blackpool, Sandylands, Cardigan Bay, Criccieth, Aberglaslyn, Porthmadog (Portmadoc)
January 19285London (City), Southwark, Putney, Hammersmith, Westminister, Mersea, Maldon (Essex), Norfolk, StranraerLondon (City), Southwark, Putney, Hammersmith, Westminister, Mersea, Maldon (Essex), Norfolk, Stranraer
November 19775Fleetwood, Morecambe, Pilling, Blackpool, LythamIrish Sea (England)
January 19785Grampian coastline, Wells-next-the-Sea, King’s Lynn, Cleethorpes, Wisbech, Sandilands, Mablethorpe, Trusthorpe, Ingoldmells, Walcott, Deal, Alnmouth, Amble Harbour, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Blyth, Hayling, Cowes, BembridgeNorth Sea (England, Scotland), English Channel (the Solent)
December 19815Somerset (Burnham on Sea, Brean, Weston, Uphill, Sand Bay, Wick St Lawrence, Kingston Seamoor, Clevedon, Pawlett), Portsmouth, Hayling Island, Langstone, Fareham, Ryde, Cowes, Freshwater, Yarmouth, Southampton
English Channel (the Solent), Bristol Channel
February 19905Pensarn to Kinmel Bay, Towyn, Rhyl, Ffynnongroyw, Prestatyn, ClwydIrish Sea (Wales)
January 20055South Uist, Barra (Scotland), Warkworth (River Coquet, Northumberland)Atlantic (North West Scotland); North Sea (North East)
December 20135Sunderland, Hull, Boston, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, North Berwick, Jaywick, Blackpool, Cleveleys, Walcott, Cromer, Whitstable, Portgordon, New Brighton, Rhyl, Havant, Cowes, SouthamptonNorth Sea (England, Scotland), English Channel (Kent to the Solent), Irish Sea (North Wales, England, Scotland), Atlantic Scotland
5.5.1.1.2 Current risk – England

In England, 8,900 properties are currently at risk from erosion if coastal defences are not taken into account. Environment Agency analysis of the national coastal erosion risk map (EA, 2018c) shows that about 1,800 km of England’s coastline (total coastline is 4,500 km in length) is at risk of erosion. Defra has highlighted that since 1996 around 50 permanent properties and 30 temporary properties have been lost as a result of coastal erosion, plus 100 or so beach huts (Ballard et al., 2018). Caravans would also have been lost had they not been moved back from the cliff edge.

The severe consequences of coastal flooding are illustrated by the large spatial ‘footprint’ of the winter 2013/14 floods (simultaneous flooding along extended coastline stretches during the same storm) and the temporal ‘clustering’ of the flood events (events occurring one after another in close succession) (Dissanayake et al., 2015; Haigh et al., 2020). The spatial extent of events can greatly influence the magnitude of inundation (Lewis et al., 2011). The winter flood of 2013/14 included the 5-6 December 2013 storm, during which water levels exceeded the severe storm of 1953 on the east coast. However, whilst impacts occurred (including the flooding of 803 properties in Boston, Lincolnshire), the number of people and properties protected by flood defences meant these impacts were far less than in 1953 when 307 people died (Haigh et al., 2020).

With regards to the viability of specific communities, North Norfolk is at risk of coastal erosion with villages along the coast between Cromer and Great Yarmouth particularly at risk. The second-generation SMPs for this coastline (adopted in 2010 and 2012) advocated changes in policy from continued defence to No Active Intervention meaning that in the long-term properties, local communities, environmental assets and infrastructure are at risk of loss. Recent events in the area include the evacuation of residents by the local authority from 13 properties close to eroding cliffs in Hemsby, Great Yarmouth in March 2018 and the demolition of five properties, with seven further properties were demolished in May 2018. In December 2013, three houses and a lifeboat hut in Hemsby, Norfolk were also swept into sea along with a popular cafe at Caister-on-Sea (Ballard et al., 2018).

Similarly, parts of the Essex coast (Tendring) and East/West Sussex and Dorset are already identified as being at risk of coastal change which could affect the viability of communities in the future (Royal Haskoning DHV, 2019).

The magnitude score for the current risk is low, reflecting that hundreds of people are directly affected and less than £10m annual damage is likely.

5.5.1.1.3 Current risk – Northern Ireland (H4)

19.5% of the coastline in Northern Ireland is currently at risk of coastal erosion (McKibbin, 2016). Approximately 5,675 people or 2,720 households are at risk of coastal flooding in Northern Ireland (McKibbin, 2016). No evidence has been identified in relation to communities in Northern Ireland whose current viability is threatened by coastal change, and therefore the current magnitude score is low.

5.5.1.1.4 Current risk – Scotland

Nearly a fifth of Scotland’s coastline (3,802 km – 19%) is at risk of erosion within the next 30 years, threatening some of the country’s most prized land and infrastructure. Between a half and a third of all coastal buildings, roads, rail and water networks lie in these erodible sections. 865 km of the soft (erodible) coastline has moved since the 1970s – 11% (423 km) has advanced (accreted), 12% (442 km) has retreated (eroded), and the remaining 77% (2,936 km) has remained approximately stable. Compared with the historical period (1890 to 1970 and adjusted for time period), the proportion of advancing coast has fallen by 22%, since 1970, whilst the proportion of retreating coast has increased by 39%. Larger shifts in the balance of erosion and accretion are found particularly on the east coast and Solway Firth (Scottish Government, 2017b). Since the 1970s, average erosion rates have doubled to 1 metre per year, compared with the historical baseline of 0.5 metre per year (Hansom et al., 2017). These observed changes since the 1970s are consistent with expectations of climate change (Scottish Government, 2017b).

No evidence has been identified regarding coastal communities in Scotland whose current viability is threatened by coastal change, and therefore the current magnitude score is low.

5.5.1.1.5 Current risk – Wales

In Wales, 400 properties are identified as being at current risk of coastal erosion (Welsh Government, 2019d). The December 2013 storm surge event led to estimated temporary repair costs of £80,000 in North Wales, 90% of which occurred within Conwy County Borough Council. Permanent restoration costs were estimated at over £6.9million, of which over 70% occurred within Conwy County Borough Council and over 25% within Denbighshire County Council (NRW, 2014a).

Currently, the Gwynned coast in West Wales is at risk of coastal flooding with Fairbourne being the first community in the UK whose long term viability has been recognised as unsustainable in policy terms (Royal Haskoning DHV, 2021). Porthmadog and Pwlheli are also at risk but not to the same level of severity, at least in the near term. In addition, the long term stabilty of the shingle back protecting the village of Newgale in Pembrokeshire has implications for its long term viability (Atkins, 2018a). Whilst it is known that Fairbourne’s future viability is threatened by sea level rise, on an immediate basis the threat is identified as ‘low magnitude’ with hundreds of people at risk and the potential for less than £1m annual damage (see Chapter 2, Watkiss and Betts, 2021, for quantitative definitions of risk magnitude used in CCRA3).

5.5.1.2 Future risk (H4)

5.5.1.2.1 Future risk – UK-wide

Global mean sea level rise will cause the frequency of extreme sea level events at most locations to increase. Local high-water levels that historically occurred once per century (historical centennial events) are projected to occur at least annually at most locations by 2100 under all Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios (High confidence) (IPCC, 2019). The increasing frequency of high-water levels can have severe impacts in many locations depending on the level of exposure (High confidence) (IPCC, 2019).

For the UK average, total sea level rise is slightly lower than for global mean values across all scenarios. However, the UKCP18 sea level projections (Palmer et al., 2018) are consistently larger than in the previous UKCP09 projections for similar emissions scenarios (Defra, 2009). This is because the more recent projections include ice dynamics from the Antarctic ice sheet (Palmer et al., 2018). The pattern of sea level rise across the UK can be broadly characterised by a north-south gradient, with larger sea level rise to the south and London, where between 0.53 m and 1.15 m of sea level rise is projected by 2100 relative to 1981–2000 levels, with projections partly consistent with the upper part of the range of the CCRA3 scenario of 4°C global warming by 2100[6] under a high-emissions scenario is projected. Sea level rise of over 1 m by 2100 is also projected around the Scottish coast for certain scenarios, with significant risks in low-lying islands particularly in the Western Isles (Garner et al., 2018; EA, 2019a; Bamber et al., 2019)

The Met Office has generated exploratory time-mean sea level projections that extend to 2300 (EA, 2019a). These projections are inherently uncertain due to the long time horizon; it is possible that higher values could result, potentially associated with accelerated ice mass loss from West Antarctica. For London and Cardiff, the projection ranges at 2300 are approximately 0.5–2.2 m, 0.8– 2.6 m and 1.4–4.3 m for projections driven by the extended scenarios with the RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 concentration pathways, respectively. The values for Edinburgh and Belfast are substantially lower, with corresponding ranges at 2300 of approximately 0.0–1.7 m, 0.2–2.1 m and 0.7–3.6 m, illustrating the geographic variations around the UK. While the upper estimates of sea level rise are greater than H++ values for the 21st century, they occur much later and are subject to lower confidence given the extended time horizons (Palmer et al., 2018). By 2300, sea water levels with a current probability of only 1 in 10,000 years (0.01%), could be experienced every year. There are also additional low-likelihood high-impact scenarios that have been identified by recent global expert elicitations (Garner et al., 2018; Bamber et al., 2019), which raise the possibility of even higher increases under high-emission scenarios, with conceivably 2 m increases by 2100.

In summary, the upper range for the latest UK sea-level rise projections is higher than previous estimates, implying increased risk of coastal change. The likelihood of compound effects from tidal flooding and extreme rainfall is increasing, which can greatly exacerbate flood impacts (MCCIP, 2020). Future sea level rise will increase the coastal flood and erosion risk and increase exposure (particularly infrastructure) in coastal zones (Tables 5.10) (CCC, 2018). This is explored further in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021).

5.5.1.2.2 Future risk – England

Across England, the number of residential properties at risk of coastal erosion are estimated to increase from between 3,500 and 5,500 today to between 58,000 and 82,000 by 2100 (Table 5.18; CCC, 2018).

CCRA2 highlighted that future sea level rise of less than 1 m is likely to be a major contributor to welfare losses; sea level rise of 0.5–1 m could lead to 200 km or more of coastal defences becoming particularly vulnerable to failure in some conditions and may not be cost-effective to maintain in the future. This is around 4% of the English coastline and 20% of the coastline with coastal defences (Sayers, et al., 2015).

Table 5.18. Residential properties in England at current and future risk of coastal erosion.
 Present dayMid-CenturyEnd-Century
 Mid-estimateHigh-estimateMid-estimateHigh-estimateMid-estimateHigh-estimate
No. residential properties3,5355,48921,60031,80058,000 (67.500)82,100 (167,700)
The numbers in brackets represent estimates where the erosion of complex cliffs has been included in the assessment. Source: CCC (2018).

Risk H3 sets out projected future coastal flooding risk for the Reduced Whole System adaptation scenario (do minimum). This highlights significant increases in the population at risk of coastal flooding for England. With high population increase and a scenario of 4°C global warming in 2100, the number of people at significant risk of coastal flooding (1 in 75-years or 1.3% Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP)) is projected to increase from just over 100,000 now to 757,000 by the 2080s. This substantial increase could have implications for communities that are already at severe risk, particularly along the east coast.

Defra conducted a mapping exercise of properties at risk of coastal erosion over the next 20 years using existing national datasets and assuming the interventions set out in SMPs are fully implemented across all epochs (Figure 5.10). The mapping does not include caravans which are numerous on all stretches of the coast in close proximity to the cliff edge, and which are likely to be at considerable risk (Ballard et al., 2018).

The areas identified under the current risk section will be at more threat with regards to their viability in the future due to climate change impacts, specifically sea level rise, and therefore the magnitude rises to medium and then high for the 2050s and 2080s with both +2°C and +4°C in 2100 climate futures. However, there is low confidence associated with this due to the uncertainty associated with communities reaching the tipping point where viability is threatened.

5.5.1.2.3 Future risk – Northern Ireland (H4)

Risk H3 sets out projected future coastal flooding risk in terms of the number of people likely to be affected and potential EAD for the Reduced Whole System adaptation scenario (no additional adaptation) [Figure 5.5. and Figure 5.6 in Risk H3]. This highlights significant increases in population at risk of coastal flooding for Northern Ireland. With high population increase and 4°C global warming in 2100, Northern Ireland’s risk is projected to increase by 550% by the 2080s from a baseline of 500 to almost 3,200.

50% of the coastline of Northern Ireland has a high likelihood of functional change by 2100 and over the next century, over 400 m of the dune system at Murlough could be lost (Low confidence) (Cooper and Jackson, 2018).

Table

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Figure 5.10. National Mapping of Coastal Erosion risks (Short Term) – England. Legend corresponds to properties at risk under Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) policy in next 20 years. The numbers refer to SMPs: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shoreline-management-plans-smps/shoreline-management-plans-smps Reproduced from Ballard et al., 2018

With the increase in potential risk, the magnitude score is low for the 2050s and medium for the 2080s but with low confidence as further research is required to fully understand the level of coastal change risk in Northern Ireland.

5.5.1.2.4 Future risk – Scotland (H4)

In Scotland (and Wales), for continuation of the Current Level of Adaptation scenario for low population increase and a 2°C climate future, coastal flooding risk decreases, showing the impact of minimal adaptation. With the Reduced Whole System scenario, high population increase and 4°C global warming in 2100, significant risk of coastal flooding is projected to increase by just 10% from a baseline of almost 13,500 people to 14,800 by the 2080s.

If recent erosion rates were to continue in the future then by 2050 at least 50 residential and non-residential buildings, 1.6 km of railway, 5.2 km of road and 2.4 km of clean water network as well as significant areas of runways, and cultural and natural heritage sites are expected to be affected by coastal erosion (Scottish Government, 2017a). If erosion rates increase in the future, as expected with climate change, Dynamic Coast 1 (National Coastal Change Assessment) and the National Flood Risk Assessment are likely to underestimate the extent of assets at risk from future coastal erosion and associated coastal flooding. Dynamic Coast 2 will be published in 2021 and will consider how sea level will rise with further increasing erosion rates. This will update anticipated erosion mapping considering tidal mapping updates and methodological improvements to incorporate the anticipated effects of relative sea level rise. The anticipated erosion mapping can be compared with SEPA’s indicative flood mapping, to better improve awareness of erosion enhanced flooding within Flood Risk Management Strategies. The updated mapping can also be compared with the locations of assets, e.g. infrastructure and buildings, to better inform risk assessments.

Large numbers of assets are sited close to potentially erodible coasts (including 30,000 buildings, 1,300 km of roads and 100 km of railway lines) and therefore could be affected (Scottish Government, 2017b). The future implications for infrastructure will have implications for communities if basic services such as power, water and ICT are affected as well as affecting access to employment, education, health and leisure facilities.

The future magnitude score for Scotland increases from low to medium by the 2050s and 2080s under both climate futures; this particularly relates to the projected increase in coastal erosion.

5.5.1.2.5 Future risk – Wales

In Wales, coastal flood risk is projected to decrease with a scenario of Continued Level of Adaptation, low population, and 2°C global warming by 2100. With the Reduced Whole System scenario, high population increase and 4°C global warming by 2100, the risk in Wales is projected to increase by 260% from a baseline of just over 10,000.

In Wales, 2,126 properties are estimated to be at risk from coastal erosion within a century if defences are not maintained (based on 2014 data) (Dodds, 2017).

As communities in Wales are already identified as being at risk, with their long-term viability threatened by sea level rise, the future magnitude score increases from low to medium and then high for both climate futures.

5.5.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H4)

Coastal change is the ultimate lock-in as it represents the total loss of land and property. For some areas such as Fairbourne in West Wales, the East Anglia coast, Tendring and the Thames Estuary in England, the 2050s have been identified as a crucial time period for adaptation. A range of lock-in issues related to managing coastal change risks is summarised below:

  • Development in coastal areas that are at risk of erosion or flooding.
  • Installation of defences that affect areas further along the coast.
  • Irreversible decisions, such as implementation of the decision to no longer Hold the Line in SMPs (i.e. defences not put in place) leading to irreversible change (land-use).
  • Insufficient engagement of local communities, stakeholders, policymakers and decision-makers to ensure full appreciation of the severity of the issues now, leading to making it more difficult to address in the future.

Due to the challenges of protection, some communities may not be viable places to live in the future. If these areas are not identified, development could continue in these areas, leading to stranded assets. Already, there is an increased emphasis on engagement with communities to enhance resilience and this will continue. Consideration for moving whole communities or infrastructure is slowly starting to happen now but the realisation of how to achieve this is weak and fragmented (CCC, 2018). Community relocation is also challenging when the risks are not immediate and uncertain (see Fairbourne case study).

Land use planning has a clear role to play in preventing lock in-by ensuring that development is not permitted in areas at risk of major coastal flooding and coastal erosion where protection is unlikely to be sustainable. In addition, bold steps are required to identify communities that may not be sustainable in the long term and discuss management or relocation options due to climate risks. Plans need to be put in place, as early as possible, to start transitioning development away from areas that cannot be protected without unacceptable residual risk or unacceptable cost and moved towards sections of the coast that have lower risks – these areas should be safeguarded for future development in local plans.

The consideration of thresholds and their use in adaptation pathway approaches are well established for coastal protection (Haasnoot et al., 2013). These consider different management or policy responses for a series of thresholds associated with increasing levels of future sea level rise. In the UK, such an approach was used in the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan (Ranger et al., 2013). Specific thresholds have also been identified at locations such as Fairbourne, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex (Tendring) coasts. The risks of exceeding these thresholds varies significantly between 2°C and 4°C pathways.

5.5.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H4)

Interacting risks have the potential to increase the risk of coastal change in three different ways – the interaction of climate hazards, impacts of other sectors affecting people and the built environment and the interaction between climate hazards and social policy. The following impacts have been identified:

5.5.1.4.1 Interaction of climate hazards
  • Combined sources of flooding – the combined effect of coastal and surface flooding results in significant impacts for the built environment. In addition, high river and tidal levels can also create local surface water flooding as surface water may not be able to drain away (WSP, 2020).
  • Sea level rise and wave-tide interactions is a cumulative risk rather than an interdependency. Assessments do not always consider the combination of sea-level rise with wave-tide interactions. In modelling the Irish Sea, Lewis et al. (2019) found that a combined assessment (with a sea-level rise of between 0.44 m and 2 m) could result in a 5% increase in the high-water wave height in some areas. Hence, overall flood risk (if defences were accounted for), could increase, which may have local implications for flood risk management strategies.
  • The combination of high river and tidal levels resulting in flooding will be exacerbated by sea level rise leading to increased impacts in the future.
  • For barrier island coasts (e.g. Blakeney Point, Norfolk), continued erosion (e.g. through a policy of no active intervention) could see shorelines continue to roll landwards, thus increasing mainland erosion hotspots. (See Risk [N17], Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021).
5.5.1.4.1 Interaction between the risks from climate change and social policy
  • Government policy on regeneration of coastal towns – investment and regeneration remain important but need to be in alignment with interventions to manage coastal change. The Welsh Coastal Risk Management Programme introduced in 2016 aims to achieve coastal risk management plus wider economic growth and regeneration benefits.
  • Local authorities ‘creating’ beaches to support tourism and the impact of increased nourishment on natural processes.
  • Owners of industrial assets on the coast (such as oil refineries, gas processing plants and chemical plants) implementing adaptations to sea level rise may have wider impacts for local communities.
  • Designated environmental and heritage sites along the coast and the drive to protect these where public funding for such interventions is not possible due to the focus on numbers of people affected in public funding allocation formulae.

Whilst tourism in coastal areas may increase as a result of warmer summers, there are likely to be detrimental impacts for marine and coastal habitats that could affect tourism and recreation, particularly where beaches are affected by either erosion or accretion (MCCIP, 2020). In addition, visitor pressures can affect natural habitats including those, such as dunes, that help mitigate the impacts of coastal change. For example, the draft Sefton Coast Plan in North West England refers to an Adaptation and Sand Dune Management Plan and highlights the need to reduce the impact of visitors by directing them to less vulnerable areas to increase coastal resilience (Lymbery et al., 2016). Achieving a balance between supporting a thriving visitor economy and protecting natural habitats for both climate resilience and biodiversity reasons is essential and for those local authorities where this is an issue, visitor management strategies are required to comply with the requirements of the Habitats Regulations and enhance the resilience of the coast to climate change.

5.5.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H4)

Coastal defences often involve extensive structural engineering with embodied implications in terms of its manufacture. Risk H3 provides further details on the Environment Agency’s Carbon Planning Tool, which enables the assessment of carbon over the whole life of built assets, and also refers to developments and requirements in Scotland and Wales. There is no evidence of a similar requirement in Northern Ireland.

Air travel may reduce as a result of the UK’s Net Zero commitment (as well as the implications already seen from the COVID-19 pandemic, detailed below) which could increase UK ‘staycations’ and increase visitors to coastal resorts. Increased visitor numbers – which could also happen through population growth – would support local economies including their ability to fund/contribute to resilience measures, but also could have impacts for adaptation in terms of visitor pressure affecting dunes and other natural systems that provide natural defences, as well as the need to ensure the safety of visitors, for example by ensuring that caravans are not located too close to areas of known coastal change.

5.5.1.6 Inequalities

Coastal change has particularly severe impacts for vulnerable communities due to the intrinsic deprivation that exists in many coastal communities, particularly in England and Wales. The economic and social deprivation seen in many English and Welsh coastal communities following the decline of domestic tourism in the second half of the 20th century has been the topic of numerous reports and inquiries and acknowledged by successive governments. Despite a multitude of regeneration schemes to address deprivation in English coastal communities, disadvantage has persisted and when considering a range of economic and social indicators (such as economic output, earnings and employment) many seaside towns continue to fall below the national average (House of Lords, 2019). The 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation (ONS, 2019) identifies the most deprived neighbourhood in England as being to the east of the Jaywick area of Clacton-on-Sea. This neighbourhood was also identified as the most deprived in the 2015 and 2010 indices. Six Blackpool districts also featured in the top 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in 2019. Jaywick and Blackpool are also identified as being at high risk of coastal flooding.

The report also highlighted that social deprivation puts greater financial burdens on local authority resources, with people who require new accommodation as a result of coastal erosion often being dependent on the availability of council housing. Isolated rural communities tend to be more dependent on their immediate supporting community infrastructure (e.g. transport and communications links, jobs, local shops and social activities) which may also be threatened by erosion. It also highlighted the socio-economic vulnerability of many people in coastal areas, with high proportions of older residents and transient populations, low employment rates and high seasonality of work, physical isolation and poor transport links. Furthermore, the report identified a lack of understanding in disadvantaged coastal communities of the range of possible climate change impacts they potentially face and how to respond appropriately, together with their lack of agency and capacity to take action. Concern was also highlighted regarding affluent property owners, including businesses, with more agency and capacity to engage and influence, attempting to obtain planning permission for private defences to coastal erosion that may not always be of environmental benefit.

Research into flood disadvantage in Scotland conducted in 2015 revealed that Falkirk, West Dunbartonshire, Highland and Dumfries and Galloway have the highest number of extremely/acutely flood-disadvantaged data zones in relation to coastal flooding with over 28,000 people potentially flood-disadvantaged. The report identified that coastal areas (up to 2 km from the coast) have a higher proportion of extremely and acutely vulnerable and disadvantaged data zones than areas located further inland. Therefore, coastal areas should be considered as a priority for flood risk management actions in order to reduce the impacts on vulnerable communities (Scottish Government, 2015b).

The Welsh Government has developed a coastal community typology based on their socio-economic characteristics to aid coastal planners and other users understand which particular planning developments and policy initiatives may be appropriate in particular areas (Welsh Government, 2016).

Coastal areas are not homogenous and in many areas around the UK coastline, relatively affluent populations live in expensive coastal properties. Defra’s recent scoping study (Ballard et al., 2018) concerning adaptation to coastal change highlighted areas at most risk of coastal erosion which ranged from low income rural and often isolated communities in the East Riding of Yorkshire and Scarborough to coastal locations in Norfolk and across the South and South West of England, with a mix of both wealthy villages/individual properties and deprived, low income communities.

Understanding the local context is essential in developing adaptation strategies and interventions.

Recent research highlights that recent investment has been relatively effective in addressing flood risk exposure inequality and social deprivation in the 20% most deprived areas in England (EA, 2020f). However, deprived coastal communities still experience significant inequalities for high and medium likelihood of flooding, and these inequalities are more pronounced than in inland areas. In addition, rural inequalities are higher than those identified in urban areas.

5.5.1.7 Immediate observations regarding the impacts of COVID-19

The immediate effects of COVID-19 and associated lockdown requirements will have more of a socio-economic than coastal change threat to coastal communities. The economies of many local areas are dominated by seasonal tourism, and the restrictions on movement during spring/summer 2020 will have reduced visitor numbers (both domestic and international) significantly, with an associated detrimental impact on local revenue and employment. However, the medium-term impacts of increasing staycations mean that coastal areas are likely to benefit from increased domestic visitors.

In addition, local authorities are having to focus their efforts on emergency planning regarding the virus, leaving less resources available for coastal risk management. Obtaining contributions to match Government funding for coastal risk management schemes is also likely to become more challenging as both public and private sector organisations will have far less resources available.

5.5.1.8 Magnitude Scores

Magnitude is low now, rising to high in all climate futures for England and Wales due to current risk and projections for sea level rise. It is assessed as low for Scotland and Northern Ireland, now and medium in the future. Current magnitude scores are high confidence for all countries other than Northern Ireland, related to the evidence available as set out above. Confidence for all countries and both climate futures is low for the 2080s due to the uncertainty associated with climate projections over the longer term.

Table 5.19. Magnitude score risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise
CountryPresent Day

2050s

2080s
  

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Low

(High confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Low

(High confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Low

(High confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

5.5.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H4)

5.5.2.1 Effects of current and adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H4)

5.5.2.1.1 England

Coastal flood management is driven by integrated engineering, planning, insurance and preparedness activities. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on community or individual led activities to increase resilience to coastal flooding and erosion. The role of Partnership Funding (Defra, 2011a) in England has opened up the extent that central government funds can help adaptation.

In England, a new Policy Statement (HM Government, 2020a) and accompanying Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy (EA, 2020e) were published in 2020. The Strategy has a strategic objective 1.3 to help coastal communities transition and adapt to climate change, and notes “for some coastal locations it will unfortunately no longer be technically, socially or economically feasible to continue to provide protection from flooding and coastal change. In these places, the focus of resilience both now and in the future, will be on keeping people safe from harm and to develop resilience actions that minimise the impacts of flooding and coastal change on communities”. It places an action on RMAs to facilitate this transition. It also states that looking forward to 2100, people in every place need to be able to identify the decisions for managing flooding and coastal change that need to be taken now and those that can be made in the future. The strategy also makes reference to the need for greater uptake of adaptive pathways approaches to ensure the country remains resilient to a range of future change. The Policy Statement commits to review the effectiveness of existing planning policy on Coastal Management Areas, the current mechanisms and legal powers Coastal Protection Authorities can use to manage the coast, and the availability and role of financial products or services that can help people or businesses to achieve a managed transition away from areas at very high risk of coastal erosion.

In England (and Wales – see section below), Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) provide non-statutory guidance on how to manage the coast in different areas (policy units), through four options of hold the line, advance the line, managed realignment or no active intervention (Defra, 2011b).

SMPs are applied through three epochs over a 100-year period. Where a policy change is expected to occur and significant adjustment will be required (e.g. from a present policy of hold the line to managed realignment), Coastal Change Management Areas (Royal Haskoning DHV, 2019) have been formed to help formalise this process, including better integrated planning, new developments and learning to ensure a smooth transition. SMPs are non-statutory but are intended to inform wider strategic planning. An SMP Refresh was initiated in 2019 focusing on changes since the second round of SMPs were published, such as new legislation, planning guidance and climate projections, and advising how these should be taken into account in SMPs. It does not involve developing a new set of SMPs (Coastal Group Network, 2019). Informed by the Environment Agency’s current refresh of technical evidence supporting Shoreline Management Plans Defra’s Policy Statement on Flooding and Coastal Erosion commits to a review of national policy for SMPs to ensure local plans are transparent, continuously review outcomes and enable local authorities to make robust decisions for their areas.

The planning system has an important role to play in preventing development that could be at risk from coastal flood risk and coastal change. The National Planning Policy Framework (MHCLG, 2019a) requires the consideration of flood risk over the lifetime of development, which for residential development is typically 100 years. An example of where increased flood risk due to climate and coastal change was scrutinised was at a 2019 Public Inquiry in Essex , which considered the issue of whether single storey chalets should be allowed to be occupied during the winter months when coastal flood risk is highest (Sherratt, 2019). The Planning Inspector supported the Council’s stance that winter occupation should not be permitted on the basis of flood risk over the lifetime that those developments could be occupied. Whilst currently defended against a design flood event of a 0.5% AEP, flood risk will increase as sea levels rise, meaning that there was an increased risk to life, and access and egress issues during future design flood events. On a UK basis, the degree to which these conversations about long-term future risk for coastal locations are taking place is not known, including for decisions around the winter occupation of caravan sites.

Nearly a quarter of England’s 4,500 km of coast is now defended (Sayers et al., 2015) and several new schemes are currently being built or are planned, such as the £100m Southsea Coastal Scheme which stretches for 4.5 km from Old Portsmouth to Eastney. England has two of the world’s 18 storm surge barriers; the Thames Barrier, which became operational in 1982, and a smaller barrier across the River Hull, which became operational in 1980. Both of these barriers protect low-lying land, and the associated communities, properties and assets, from coastal flooding. The Thames Barrier has been closed 195 times since it became operational in 1982 (correct as of January 2021). Of these closures, 107 were to protect against tidal flooding and 88 were to protect against combined tidal/fluvial flooding (EA, 2021b). In 2014, the Barrier was closed 41 times to protect against combined flooding and 9 times to protect against tidal flooding (EA, 2020b). The Hull Barrier has closed around 12 times a year since it was opened in 1980 (Mooyaart and Jonkman, 2017). Two smaller barriers are currently being built at Ipswich, Suffolk and Boston, Lincolnshire (Haigh et al., 2020).

The sustained period of coastal flooding over the winter of 2013/14 provided a recent impetus for further defence improvements and new schemes. Despite the 5–6 December 2013 event producing higher sea levels along the UK east coast than in 1953 in many places, damages (and loss of life) were much less in 2013 due to improvements in flood defences, and flood forecasting and warnings (Wadey et al., 2015); 720,000 properties were protected from the high sea levels by flood defences (EA, 2016b). However, flood defences were damaged during the 2013/14 season and the cost of repair (including fluvial defences) has been estimated to be approximately £147 million (EA, 2016b). The Thames Barrier was closed an ‘exceptional’ 50 times in the winter of 2013/14, the maximum recommended number, but this was predominantly due to high river flow. There is no statistically significant trend in past closures (Haigh and Nicholls, 2019).

There is evidence that major FCERM schemes are being put in place with standards of protection built in to protect against future flooding and coastal change conditions taking account of climate change (Wingfield and Brisley, 2017). Management options for coastal change focus increasingly on nature-based solutions. This approach recognises that the coastline is constantly evolving, and that climate change is one of many factors that affect habitats and species, and coastal assets and communities. In response, the coastline is now managed in a variety of ways that are sympathetic to protecting the coast and helping to conserve the natural environment (MCCIP, 2020).

Adaptive management approaches are being implemented regarding the long term resilience of recently constructed flood risk schemes (Wingfield and Brisley, 2017). The Thames Estuary 2100 (TE2100) Plan, approved by Defra in 2012, was developed to provide strategic direction for managing tidal flood risk in the Thames estuary to the end of the century. The Plan takes an adaptive approach based on a relative sea level rise estimate of 90 cm by 2100, but adaptable to differing rates of sea level rise up to 2.7 m by 2100. The TE2100 Plan is on a 5 yearly review cycle; the first review commenced in 2015 (EA, 2016e) and completed in 2017. The first full (10 year) review started at the end of 2018. The first phase of that work, monitoring and assessment of what has changed, was completed in 2020. The full (10 year) review project (including the economic case and updated version of the plan) is due for completion in 2022.

5.5.2.1.2 Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland there have been calls for a more strategic approach to coastal erosion risk management (Cooper, 2015). Northern Ireland does not have Shoreline Management Plans. Research commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and Department for Infrastructure in 2019 (Daera, 2018) identified the need to establish a coastal erosion baseline for the country to inform local development planning and development control, and allow for informed decisions with regard to the long-term management of coastal assets. This baseline analysis was published in 2019 (referenced in NICCAP2, (Daera, 2018)). It also highlighted the need for coastal erosion risk management to be a shared responsibility and suggested that the Coastal Forum could play a key role in informing the development of policy and strategy in this area including the delivery of a prioritised and coordinated monitoring programme to empower local decision makers. The second national adaptation programme, NICCAP2, highlights that the Coastal Forum will consider the findings of the baseline risk assessment and agree actions.

Daera and DfI commissioned a baseline study and gap analysis of coastal erosion risk management in Northern Ireland. The report identifies areas that may be vulnerable to coastal erosion in Northern Ireland. At Mount Stewart, for example, the National Trust has noticed increasing sea levels, and plans are in place to adapt to the rising sea levels of Strangford Lough. The National Trust has enhanced the existing Sea Plantation on the shores of the lough, however recent climate change studies have suggested that the Sea Plantation will struggle to protect the property. Due to this, the National Trust has begun a long-term plan to future-proof the property, and in particular the gardens, by preparing to allow tidal flats to encroach on what had previously been wetlands. To do this, National Trust have acquired land not at risk from extreme weather events and are preparing to relocate the car park. This site will then be replaced by a dense shelterbelt which will take over some of the role of the Sea Plantation (Daera, 2018).

5.5.2.1.3 Scotland

In Scotland, Local Authorities have duties under the Coast Protection Act 1949 and Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. These include responsibilities for implementing actions contained in the Local Flood Risk Management Plan and permissive powers to allow for the undertaking of any other protection works and actions.

SMPs are also in place in six of Scotland’s 25 coastal Local Authorities (Angus, Dumfries & Galloway, East Lothian, Fife, North and South Ayrshire, and Scottish Borders) with several (such as Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders) currently updating their SMPs.

Planning authorities in Scotland have a duty under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act to deliver the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, which addresses the risks set out in the Climate Change Risk Assessment (Scotland), including erosion and flooding risks to natural environment, infrastructure, people and built environment, and business (Scottish Government, 2017b).

Scotland’s National Coastal Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) provides an evidence base of national coastal change. This summarised the last 130 years of coastal change across all of Scotland’s erodible shores (beaches, dunes and saltmarshes) and projected the changes forward to 2050 and 2100. The data and research outputs produced by Dynamic coast is intended to support the implementation of the National Planning Framework, Scottish Planning Policy and Flood Risk Management Planning, Local Development Plans, Land Use Strategy, National and Regional Marine Plans (Scottish Government, 2017a).

The 2020 Scottish Programme for Government includes a commitment to invest £12 million for coastal change adaptation over a four-year period from 2021/22 (Scottish Government, 2020c).

5.5.2.1.4 Wales

As with England, SMPs are in place for the whole of the Wales coastline and are supported by Planning Policy Wales (2018) and the new Wales Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (2020) which recognises risk from flooding and coastal erosion to coastal communities and highlights efforts to introduce interventions which use natural systems to reduce negative impacts (Welsh Government, 2018a, 2020c). This sets the overall policy framework for the Coastal Risk Management Programme and other measures to protect coasts. As detailed in H3, the revised Technical Advice Note (TAN) 15: Development, flooding and coastal erosion is due for publication in 2021, incorporating an update of requirements set out in TAN 14 on coastal planning, which has not been updated since 1998.

Following the coastal flooding in December 2013 and January 2014, Natural Resources Wales conducted a review of these events looking at first the impacts (NRW, 2014a) and then the lessons learnt, together with recommendations for the future (NRW, 2014b). In total, it is estimated that coastal defence structures in Wales suffered storm damage at around 65 locations in December 2013 and 110 locations in January 2014. The report identified that the damage and disruption to the coast and coastal communities was significant and the impact on those who have been affected is extremely distressing. However, the severity of damage and costs incurred could have been much worse. The Phase 2 report identified learning and lessons for the future and recommended action in six areas: (i) sustained investment in coastal risk management; (ii) improved information about coastal flood defence systems; (iii) greater clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of agencies and authorities; (iv) an assessment of skills and capacity; (v) more support to help communities become resilient; and (vi) delivery of locally-developed plans in coastal communities.

As has been identified in Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (2019), there are additional actions underway (Welsh Government, 2019f). The Welsh Government is working with the Wales Coastal Group Forum to develop a Coastal Adaptation Toolkit, which will support engagement on adaptation with local communities following lessons learned from Fairbourne. The Welsh Government has provided three years funding to the Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre to collate and analyse data on the changing Welsh coastline which will help to inform decisions and priorities for coastal adaptation and potential schemes, on a national basis. The Welsh Government also provided £150 million of funding to the Coastal Risk Management Programme, funding local authorities for a concentrated period of investment between 2019 and 2022 for coastal adaptation and risk management schemes. The programme supports local authorities in responding to the challenges of climate change and implementing the actions and risk management set out in the SMPs. This programme also focusses on reducing current and future risk to homes and businesses whilst also providing wider benefits wherever possible.

These actions will be delivered via the new National Strategy on FCERM (Welsh Government, 2020c) and the Wales Coastal Risk Management Programme (Welsh Government, 2019b).

5.5.2.2 Shortfall in current adaptation (H4)

At the moment, it is not known which communities are most likely to be lost under different future sea level rise scenarios, despite the fact the UK is now locked into centuries of further changes in sea level. Whilst there have been positive developments in national and local strategy regarding the management of coastal change across the UK as detailed above, what is missing is a dedicated programme of work to identify, and then create, plans for communities that may no longer be sustainable as sea levels rise. Tranformational adaptation, including implementation of adaptive approaches and long term strategic planning is needed and a process to support this.

The following areas would, in our view, also benefit from further action to enhance understanding and management of coastal change:

  • Across the UK, advances have been made in understanding risk, including the use of updated climate projections (UKCP18) to inform strategy and policy. The level of understanding and embedding of new projections varies across the UK. Flood risk management modelling and mapping is a mature industry with world leading advances in technology and knowledge informing this area. Coastal erosion is less well developed, although there has been notable progress such as Dynamic Coast: Scotland’s Coastal Change Assessment. A more comprehensive evaluation of historic property losses is required, and coastal authorities need to establish and maintain a register of properties lost to coastal erosion to provide a more robust on-going record of the impacts of coastal erosion.
  • A more-complete assessment of future changes in the wave- and storm surge-climate, based on improved atmospheric models, is required to improve understanding of natural variability and better isolate possible long-term trends. A better and more-accurate analysis of historical storm events and their impacts is required, which will lead to improved understanding of natural variability, which would allow trends due to climate change to be isolated.
  • A better understanding of expected annual damages and event losses due to coastal sources, historically, today and in the future is also required to inform the national threat level (Haigh et al., 2020).
  • New national strategies for flood and coastal erosion risk management are in place, or in train, in England, Scotland and Wales that strongly promote nature based solutions, building and enhancing the resilience of communities, and adaptive pathways with a more explicit recognition of the need to address climate change than in the past. Delivery of these strategies is now needed along with monitoring to understand the actions being taken and the impact they are having on managing risk.
  • CCC (2018) highlights that some schemes to enable the implementation of Hold the Line policies are not cost-beneficial under current public sector funding regimes. Realigning coasts is also not happening at rates initially envisaged in England (CCC, 2018). As part of the review of SMPs, consideration should be given to barriers to implementing the plans as set out, and what should happen in cases where the SMP options are not being implemented as intended. It is not clear at the moment what happens in these cases.
  • Related to the above, the process of managing such change involves complex issues around social justice that can only be addressed through effective governance, accountability and decision-making. Recent research published by the Environment Agency on community engagement in climate adaptation highlighted the importance of paying attention to local needs and conditions, the importance of clear, contextual and realistic engagement objectives and developing shared understanding about what engagement involves and what it is intended to achieve, prioritising places, partners and approaches that indicate potential to generate new learning, and creating mechanisms through which learning will be shared effectively (Kelly and Kelly, 2019). The Defra Policy Statement for England includes commitments to review current mechanisms and legal powers that Coastal Planning Authorities can use to manage the coast, and to explore the availability and role of financial products or services that can help people or businesses to achieve a managed transition away from areas at very high risk of coastal erosion. Again, the outcomes of this review and implementation evidence is required to address the current shortfall in this area.

5.5.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H4)

Table 5.20. Adaptation Scores for risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.5.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H4)

Our view is that there will be benefits from a ‘national conversation’ about risk acceptability, and local discussions, particularly in England and Wales, to identify the communities at risk and then develop plans for these communities including providing clear messages about how a process of change will be delivered. This brings in requirements in relation to the following areas, which Defra (Ballard et al., 2018) recently highlighted to improve coastal change in adaptation, but these apply equally to other parts of the UK:

  • Strategic planning
    • Interpretation of and required actions relating to Coastal-Change-Management-Areas.
    • How to bring adaptation planning in line with SMP delivery.
    • Improved strategies across SMPs and policy unit boundaries.
  • Legal
    • Perceived needs related to legal issues include guidance on and support with articulating a clear legal framework around adaptation planning, roll back and other adaptation policy implementation processes.
  • Funding – perceived needs related to funding include guidance on and support with:
    • Developing and delivering long-term investment strategies.
    • Full suite of financing options available.
    • How to best incentivise roll back.
    • Development of new financial products that could enable vulnerable communities to adapt cost-effectively.
  • Community engagement
    • Raising awareness of SMP and policies generally, including how to convey that there may be risks with policy non-deliverability due to longer term funding gaps.
    • Securing funds for dedicated and skilled community engagement individuals to reduce future risk and raise awareness.
    • Securing engagement and buy-in from elected councillors.
    • Strategic planning for supporting community infrastructure.
    • Strategic planning for caravan park businesses and their inhabitants.
  • Monitoring
    • Perceived needs related to monitoring include guidance on and support with monitoring coastal erosion, monitoring property and infrastructure at risk and when lost to coastal erosion (including temporary infrastructure e.g. caravans).

5.5.3.1 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H4)

In general terms, the literature reports that coastal adaptation is an extremely cost-effective response, significantly reducing residual damage costs down to very low levels (Hinkel et al., 2014). However, in locations with very few properties, such measures often have benefit-cost ratios lower than one. This may contribute to decisions that a community’s long term viability is unsustainable, when viewed from the perspective of economic efficiency. However, many more issues are involved in such cases, such as threat to life should existing or upgraded defences be breached, and there is a need for any economic analysis to consider the wider issues, and also consider different perspectives including social justice.

5.5.3.2 Urgency scores (H4)

Given the potentially very high levels of future risk and lack of a full policy framework to consider long-term viability of communities in order to drive the risk down to a low level by 2100, more action needed scores have been assigned to England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the lack of an erosion baseline and strategies for addressing long-term change points to the need to further assess the level of risk to identify how much adaptation is needed.

Table 5.21. Urgency Scores for risks to the viability of coastal communities from sea level rise
CountryEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency ScoreMore action neededFurther investigationMore action neededMore action needed
ConfidenceHighLowHighHigh

5.5.4 Looking Ahead (H4)

  • A UK/national assessment identifying which locations are likely to be unsustainable in the long term is required, enabling planning to commence regarding any potential relocation of communities.
  • Further advances in modelling and mapping are required regarding coastal erosion to enhance understanding and enable a more consistent assessment across the UK.
  • Best practice developed across the UK regarding community engagement and messaging needs to be widely shared, facilitating knowledge transfer and improving planning for the relocation of communities. This should enable high levels of awareness and understanding of the implications for individuals as well as the wider community.
Box 5.3. CASE STUDY: Fairbourne and coastal change

Fairbourne is well known for being the first community in the UK whose long term future has been deemed unsustainable due to climate change. As the impacts of climate change are realised, it is likely that other coastal communities will be faced with the same uncertain future and therefore lessons can be learned from coastal risk management in Fairbourne.

Fairbourne is a small community village on the west Wales coast in the ward of Arthog in Gwynedd. It houses 461 residential and business properties with a population of around 700 that increases to 3,000 in the summer with the influx of visitors. Located at the mouth of the Afon Mawddach, Fairbourne was built as a seaside retreat on newly defended and reclaimed land during the late 19th and early 20th century (Bennett-Lloyd et al., 2019).

Hazard

Despite defences protecting its estuarine and coastal frontages, rising sea levels as a result of climate change suggest that much of the village of Fairbourne would be below normal high tide levels within the next 50 years, indeed many properties are already below the Mean High Water springs level. There are also high groundwater levels and a high risk of surface water flooding in the village. The SMP2 policies for the area for periods 2055 to 2105 indicate that there may be a need for part, if not all of the village, which is currently protected by the estuarine embankment and sea wall, to relocate or disperse elsewhere (Hold the Line policies moving to Managed Realignment or No Active Intervention). The implications of these policies have generated significant concerns for the local community, Gwynedd Council and Welsh Government (Bennett-Lloyd et al., 2019).

Future Risk

Fairbourne is already at risk of flooding as its ground levels are lower than the average high spring tide level; this is reached twice a month during periods of spring tides. Risk is even greater if high tides coincide with a storm surge and/or large waves, for example as experienced on the coast of West Wales on 3–4 January 2014 (Sibley et al., 2015). Therefore, the safety of its residents is very much reliant on existing defences. The Fairbourne Moving Forward Partnership (2019) cited projections of sea level rise at Barmouth (3 miles north of Fairbourne) of 0.7 m by 2100 relative to 1990 levels with a scenario consistent with 4°C global warming by 2100[7] and 0.9m by 2100 with a higher scenario[8]. Mean sea level is likely to increase by 0.76 m to 1.03 m in Gwynedd by 2100 relative to 1981–2000, based on projections[9] consistent with global warming slightly above the CCRA3 scenario of 4°C warming by 2100. For a scenario of approximately 2°C warming by 2100, sea level in that part of the coast is projected to rise by approximately 0.4 m by 2100 (Palmer et al., 2018; Welsh Government, 2021d). The latest projections have identified no evidence for significant changes in future storm surges (Met Office, 2018).

Public Health and Built Environment Impact

Rising sea levels mean it will become increasingly difficult to protect the village. In the long term, maintaining and increasing flood defences would not only be costly, but would also lead to increased risk to life should the defences fail. It has therefore been considered that it is not possible to maintain an acceptable standard of flood protection in the future. Predictions, accompanied by evidence from local monitoring show that by 2054, it is unlikely to be safe or sustainable for permanent residents to remain in Fairbourne. However, it is possible that a significant breach in the sea defences could occur before 2054, requiring the relocation of the village. Plans are being put in place to address this situation should it arise. In the meantime, sea-level rise will continue to be monitored.

Currently there are 461 properties at risk of tidal flooding and 58 properties at risk from fluvial flooding in Fairbourne. The majority of local residents are over 60 and most own their own homes. House prices fell substantially when the SMP2 policies were first publicised, bringing concerns around property blight. Key impacts for communities relate to a loss of a sense of security and financial loss that could have impacts for wellbeing and mental health resulting from these concerns, decreasing community cohesion and change in demographics as people move away, loss of community facilities, and loss of tourism and recreation that affect the economic viability of Fairbourne as a resort.

A recent survey conducted by the Fairbourne Moving Forward Social and Economic Adaptation Group identified that 86% of those interviewed said their level of mental health had declined, 82% said their physical health had deteriorated, 94% said their financial position had deteriorated, 85% said they didn’t feel positive about the future and 98% said they no longer feel in control of their future and feel they cannot look after themselves in their later years (Bennett-Lloyd et al., 2019).

Response to Risk

In 2013, shortly after the SMP2 document was adopted by Gwynedd Council, a multi-agency group was formed under the Fairbourne: Moving Forward (FMF) banner. The aim of FMF was to ‘address the complex issues identified and to draw upon experience and knowledge from a range of organisations and the local community’. Organisations represented on FMF are Gwynedd Council, Natural Resources Wales, Arthog Community Council, Welsh Government, Fairbourne Facing Change community action group (disbanded in 2018), Network Rail, Welsh Water, Snowdonia National Park and Royal Haskoning DHV.

Over the last seven years, FMF has conducted a twin-track of actions to i) support the local community; and ii) work with stakeholders to develop a planned approach to the decommissioning.

Community actions have involved: awareness-raising meetings for residents and businesses, regular drop-in surgeries for local residents, counselling for any resident experiencing mental health issues (funded by FMF), launch of the www.fairbourne.info website and project Facebook page, production of regular issues of newsletters, mock evacuation exercise held in Friog and Fairbourne Village Hall and the development of a Fairbourne Multi-Agency Response Plan to evacuate residents from Fairbourne in the event of a significant flood.

Stakeholder actions have included (i) the establishment of dedicated working groups to address issues faced by the community; (ii) publication of FRM project review reports; (iii) securing funding from Welsh Government to conduct a feasibility study and produce a business case to establish a community interest company for Fairbourne; (iv) Governance workshop with stakeholders; (v) Climate Change Adaptation sub-group established by Gwynedd and Anglesey Public Service Board; (vi) research conducted on a Recovery and Resettlement Plan for residents; (vii) Preliminary Coastal Adaptation Masterplan produced; and (viii) workshops held with stakeholders to discuss the Masterplan.

Following the production of the Preliminary Coastal Adaptation Masterplan for Fairbourne in 2018, Gwynedd Council and FMF have been working with the community to develop a Framework for future planning covering five themes: flood risk management, people and the built environment, infrastructure, business, and natural environment management. Working groups are also being established for each theme to address relevant issues.

Key messages

Whilst Fairbourne is one of the first communities in the UK to be identified as unsustainable in the long term in policy documentation, evidence from research undertaken in relation to other locations facing similar issues with coastal realignment have identified the importance of appropriate and early community engagement. This gives time to consider and accept adaptation as an alternative to defence (Defra, 2012b), address challenges with gaps between policies and deliverable plans (Shifting Shores +10 research ), and enable progressive learning approaches for successful longer term outcomes (Coastal Communities 2150 EU project).

There were initial concerns around the way that engagement associated with SMP2 policy development and delivery had been carried out. This has improved considerably since measures have been put in place to both support the community and increase stakeholder engagement. (Bennett-Lloyd et al., 2019).

The Welsh Government published a Fairbourne Coastal Risk Learning Project report in 2019 that aimed to learn from the experience of Fairbourne to better understand how to plan for and manage climate change and adaptation elsewhere (Bennett-Lloyd et al., 2019). This had the following key conclusions for other areas:

  • There are clear points to take forward into any review of SMPs, especially surrounding the policies of No Active Intervention or Managed Realignment where they impact on communities or represent a shift from previous policy direction. A closer examination of the processes and consequences around policy-setting and policy implementation needs to be undertaken to inform how to engage with these communities and wider stakeholders affected by these policies.
  • It is recommended that the earlier published engagement guidance for SMP development is reviewed and the learning points incorporated with regards to implementation and communication.
  • Governance and decision-making has emerged as a key area of concern. The Fairbourne project has broken a great deal of new ground and learning has been continuously evolving. Whist the SMP2 has been the trigger for the change-management processes underway, the mandate goes far wider than traditional coastal risk management and cuts to the heart of the Well-Being of Future Generations legislation, well-being planning and the role of Public Service Boards (PSBs).
  • There needs to be further consideration of how PSBs can play an active role in the oversight and championing of climate change adaptation planning consistently across Wales, learning lessons from the work currently being undertaken through the Gwynedd and Anglesey PSB and being supported by Gwynedd Council and Natural Resources Wales.
  • Early, progressive and inclusive engagement with communities is of key importance to maintain community cohesion and support health and well-being.

Additional issues which chime with the above were highlighted in more recent research published in 2020 (Buser, 2020). This sets out the challenges associated with climate change adaptation involving multiple agencies; the potential for uneven processes and differential outcomes according to individuals’ circumstances, and the need for a robust communication plan that involves the media.

5.6 Risks to building fabric (H5)

Climate hazards that can damage building fabric include subsidence caused by drought and dry soil, excessive moisture due to flooding and heavy rain, and structural damage due to high winds. In terms of insurance costs and costs to households, subsidence represents the biggest impact. The presence of at least some relevant building standards across all four UK countries means that the present-day risk is being considered for new build homes or those undergoing refurbishment. However, there is little evidence that the future risks from climate change in scenarios of either 2°C and 4°C global warming by 2100 are yet being integrated into planning, building design or retrofit, potentially locking in homes to some future risk.

The hazard posed by landslides is also included in this risk. This includes areas with potentially unstable landscapes resulting from industrial activity, namely coal tips.

The impact of climate change on these specific hazards (weather conditions) is highly uncertain as they are not well described in climate models or climate scenarios.

5.6.1 Current and future level of risk (H5)

This risk considers damage to dwellings from moisture, high winds, subsidence due to extreme weather events, and insect damage which can be linked to warmer seasons. The risk is primarily concerned with homes and costs to households. Damage to infrastructure is considered in detail in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021). Damage to building fabric entails costs to the home owner for repair. In addition, damp buildings cause harm to health and wellbeing, and damage to dwellings from high winds can also risk injury.

The evidence regarding this risk is divided by the type of climate hazard for current and future risks. In most cases it has not been possible to find specific evidence by UK country, so the analysis for this risk is largely described at the UK level, with specific issues for individual countries highlighted where appropriate. In addition, not all elements of the methodology have been fully conducted due to the evidence gaps.

5.6.1.1 Current and future risks of moisture damage – UK (H5)

The main causes of indoor moisture accumulation in buildings are:

  • Poorly insulated structures which can have low surface temperatures.
  • Vapour concentration in the indoor environment which depends on the water content of outdoor air, moisture generation and ventilation. High vapour concentrations, especially if combined with low surface temperatures, can lead to mould growth.
  • Water ingress which is associated with flooding but also with rainwater or groundwater penetration through building materials or defects. Building materials with a porous external surface, such as exposed bricks, can absorb rainwater and groundwater. Cracks in the building fabric and poorly-detailed junctions are also a cause of rainwater ingress, which can lead to damp, wood rot in timbers, corrosion in metal elements, as well as frost damage and salt efflorescence in the building fabric.

Vapour concentration gradients (changes in the proportion of water vapour in the air) and the effect of wind or solar radiation can contribute to the drying of the building fabric. Inhibiting these drying mechanisms – for example, by adding materials with higher vapour resistance – could lead to moisture accumulation at the interface between these building materials. Excess moisture accumulation within the building fabric can lead to mechanical failure of the building (D’Ayala and Aktas, 2016).

Household heating systems lead to increased household temperatures, and are standard in most households in the UK. However, the level of heating and moisture varies with the level of insulation. Energy-efficient interventions reduce moisture risks, in particular, indoor mould growth, as they lead to an increase in indoor temperatures. However, if improperly installed, these interventions can lead to the exacerbation of such risks (see also implications for Net Zero).

  • Reduction of air infiltration without considering additional ventilation can lead to higher indoor vapour and mould growth (McGill et al., 2015; Sharpe et al., 2015).
  • Thermal bridges at junctions can lead to localised mould growth (Altamirano-Medina, 2016; Marincioni et al., 2016).
  • Increase of rainwater penetration at poorly-detailed junctions between insulation system and existing building fabric can lead to localised areas of excess moisture accumulation. There is evidence of moisture-related failure in both insulated solid walls and cavity walls, due to rainwater penetration associated with poor detailing and installation, lack of maintenance, poor design and specification (Heath, 2014; King and Weeks, 2016; BRE, 2019).
  • Low temperatures at the interface of building materials, depending on the vapour control provided by the insulation system, can lead to mould growth and condensation.
  • Reduction of drying of excess moisture, depending on the drying potential of the insulation system (Marincioni et al., 2014), can lead to mould growth or damp.

Future moisture risks from climate change relate to increases in precipitation. It is very likely that heavy rainfall events will increase in all countries (see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021). Changes in the absolute moisture content of the outdoor air may mean that increased ventilation may be required to remove moisture from the indoor environment adequately. Heavy rainfall events will increase rainwater ingress in the building fabric (Orr et al., 2018). Wind-driven rain is associated with winter storms and the intensity of rainfall in storm events is projected to increase, although the effect of climate change on storm frequency and storm tracks is uncertain. Climate change is likely to lead to increases in wind driven rain, particularly in Scotland and northern England. Climate change is also likely to increase all types of winter rainfall and therefore there is increased likelihood of increase in the water penetration of vertical walls of dwellings.

The impact of these risks at a population level can be substantial, however there is little quantified evidence. Heavier rainfall would increase the mechanical damage to buildings and be detrimental to the health of occupants. Alternatively, there could be a minor benefit associated with milder winters, as the higher surface temperatures might reduce the risk of mould growth, provided there is sufficient ventilation to remove moisture from the indoor air. Also, projected temperature increases should enable damp buildings to dry faster, provided they have sufficient ventilation.

5.6.1.2 Current and future risks of wind damage – UK (H5)

Wind storms are among the most damaging extreme events in the UK (ABI, 2017). Climate change has the potential to alter the frequency and intensity of these storms and thus affect the distribution of insured and uninsured losses. However, the projections of these changes are uncertain, particularly whether the North Atlantic storm track could shift northward in the future, resulting in fewer mid-latitude storms.

Some studies have indicated a small increase in the number of wind storms affecting the UK, with the the frequency and intensity of the most extreme windstorms increasing during the winter months. Robinson et al. (2017) considered projected changes in frequency and intensity of windstorms, and looked at the average annual loss (AAL), i.e. annual insured loss aggregated over an entire year, the 1.0% exceedance probability (1 in 100-year) loss, and the 0.5% exceedance probability (1 in 200-year) loss (Figure 5.11). The results indicated a change in the overall AAL of 11%, 23%, and 25% for global warming levels of 1.5°C in the 2050s, 3.0°C in the 2070s, and 4.5°C in the 2090s, respectively. The analysis also indicated a possible increase of up to 30% in the 1% exceedance probability (1 in 100-year) loss and up to 40% in the 0.5% (1 in 200-year) exceedance probability loss with 4.5°C warming in the 2090s, though the distributions of these changes are not equal across the country.

Figure 5.11. Average annual losses (AAL) (insured) due to windstorms, notional premium and 100- and 200-year losses for the UK for a baseline scenario and global warming of 1.5°C in 2050–59, 3°C in 2070–79 and 4.5°C in 2090–99. Reproduced from Robinson et al. (2017). Copyright © Association of British Insurers.

There is limited evidence regarding the impact of wind damage to dwellings in the UK, however some evidence from the Scottish 2019 Progress Report by the CCC highlights that the vulnerability of the Scottish housing stock to extreme wind and rain is declining (CCC, 2019e). Rates of domestic building disrepair have declined over the last ten years. However, there has been no significant difference in homes reporting dampness since 2002 – reported to be approximately 4% in 2016. In Scotland there are limited provisions in building standards for making changes to existing buildings with adaptation measures for the impacts of extreme wind and rain (CCC, 2019e). Current exposure to wind-driven rain in Scotland ranges from ‘Moderate’ (some east coast areas) to ‘Very Severe’ along much of the west coast and Scottish Islands.

5.6.1.3 Current and future risks of subsidence – UK (H5)

Subsidence is caused by a reduction in moisture in the ground beneath a building, causing shrinkage and the development of cracks within the structure of the dwelling (Crawford, 2018). Soil type (e.g. clay soils) and local vegetation are the dominant cause of subsidence. Clay soils with high shrink-swell potential underlie much of the densely populated areas of London and the South East of England. Other areas can also be susceptible to subsidence, for example the Vale of York and the Cheshire Plain. Older buildings and buildings with shallow foundations are at greatest risk. Factors that exacerbate the risks of subsidence for homes include prolonged hot spells which dry out the soil, removing moisture which impacts the buildings structure (Crawford, 2018). In addition, the effect is more marked where buildings are close to trees, which can remove moisture from the ground as far as 6 m below the surface (Gething, 2010).

The Association of British Insurers reported the 2018 hot summer was associated with over 10,000 claims totalling £64 million (ABI, 2018). These were the highest reported figures since the 2003 and 2006 hot summers and represented a 350% increase from the previous quarter. Subsidence claims were highest in the South East (ABI, 2018). Compared with the previous quarter, with 2,500 claims, the jump to 10,000 was the highest reported change quarter-to-quarter since records began (ABI, 2018).

There have been few recent assessments of the costs of subsidence since 2016. Hunt and Taylor (2006) estimated impacts of £5–15 million in the 2020s, rising to £25–185 million in the 2050s and £115–315 million in the 2080s. A recent study by BGS (2020) on the risks to soils indicated that clay soils that shrink and swell with changes in moisture are going to become increasingly susceptible to subsidence in the coming century and beyond.

Subsidence is also a risk for houses in areas with past mining activities, and subsidence events can be triggered by heavy rainfall. Following Storm Christoph in January 2021, houses in Skewen in South Wales were flooded following a mine shaft ‘blow out’, caused by water building up in the mine shaft which had then collapsed (Coal Authority, 2021).

5.6.1.4 Current and future risks of landslides – UK (H5)

Landslides and landslips represent additional risks to dwellings throughout the UK and can be associated with heavy rainfall events. In Wales, past mining activities have left a legacy of coal tips at risk of landslides which present both a physical and a chemical hazard. Following heavy rain during Storm Dennis in February 2020, a major slope failure occurred at Llanwonno tip near coal tip near Tylorstown, South Wales (Smith, 2020). A number of minor landslips also occurred at other tips in South Wales. The Welsh Government statement on coal tip safety (Welsh Government, 2021e) highlighted the difficulties in reducing the risk of slope failures. Substantial shortcomings in current legislation and the fiscal framework regarding tip inspections and remediation have been identified. Regular inspections of disused tips is not currently mandated, but an approach to risk assessment of coal tips is being developed and implemented. Tips are being categorised according to both their level of inherent risk and also whether the location poses a risk to people or critical infrastructure, or a risk to the environment such as rivers or other infrastructure, or are situated in a remote area (Coal Authority, 2020). There are over 2,000 coal tips in Wales, predominately in the South Wales Valleys; 294 have been identified as high risk (Fairclough, 2021). With annual mean rainfall having increased in Wales, especially in South Wales (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021), we suggest that it is possible that climate change may have already increased the risk of future slope failures. Heavy precipitation is projected to increase (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021), which could further magnify the risk.

5.6.1.5 Lock-in and potential thresholds (H5)

There is a risk of lock-in associated with current dwellings that are not resilient to extreme weather, and the risk that new buildings are built without consideration of extreme weather impacts and appropriate mitigations . A large number of new houses are planned, and there is a risk that these are not resilient to damp, high winds and subsidence. Subsidence tends to be a greater risk for older properties, but is a risk for new development on clay soils.

5.6.1.6 Cross-cutting risks and interdependencies (H5)

This risk overlaps with the risk on flooding (H3) which also address damage to dwellings and costs to households.

This risk also overlaps with damage to buildings that are part of the health and social care systems (H13) and schools and prisons (H14) and part of our cultural heritage (H12).

5.6.1.7 Implications of Net Zero (H5)

Net Zero policies that improve energy efficiency in housing are likely to affect risks associated with moisture. Creating low-energy buildings with increasing amounts of insulation and airtightness can lead to an increased risk of moisture-related damage to the structure and internal environment (BRE, 2016b; May and Sanders, 2017). Therefore, if strategies that address Net Zero do not consider additional ventilation they are likely to lead to higher indoor vapour and mould growth.

The CCC’s sixth carbon budget pathways for reducing emissions in the UK take into account the need to assess ventilation and passive cooling alongside energy efficiency measures when retrofitting existing residential buildings (CCC, 2020).

5.6.1.8 Inequalities (H5)

Low income households are less likely to have insurance cover in general (Defra, 2015a). There is less evidence regarding home owners and insurance for property damage. Private renters may be affected by building damage and are reliant on their landlords having appropriate insurance cover. Reasons for low uptake of insurance include financial constraints but also misperceptions of risks, and also a lack of trust that insurance companies will pay up (Penning-Rowsell, 2019).

5.6.1.9 Magnitude scores (H5)

There is little quantitiative information of impacts at the national level. The prevalence of damp in dwellings is high. The costs of wind damage to dwellings is not publicly available. The costs of subsidence to households (in terms of insurance claims) was estimated to be £5–15 million in the 2020s.

The magnitude score reflects the greatest magnitude across each of the three climate hazards by country. Important regional differences occur in the projections of risk. Thus, risks for subsidence are largest in the south of England and the magnitude of these impacts are judged as becoming high in the 2080s. The risks for damp are highest in Scotland and Northern Ireland but the overall score is judged as being medium. The risk of driving rain is a concern for Scotland and the north of England.

The magnitude scores for future risks are uncertain due to the lack of confidence in climate scenarios for these hazards, particulary regional changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme winds, driving rain, drought (see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021). These risks are not well described in climate models as they relate to local weather patterns. As such, the future magnitude scores are based on expert judgement only.

Table 5.22. Magnitude score for risks to building fabric

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

Northern Ireland

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Scotland

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Wales

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

5.6.2 Extent to which the current adaptation will manage the risk (H5)

5.6.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risk (H5)

5.6.2.1.1 UK-wide

Building standards are the main strategy to address resilience to extreme weather in new dwelllings or existing dwellings having alterations. The Building Regulations across the UK contain requirements that the building fabric and the health of the occupants should not be affected by moisture from the ground (including flooding), strong winds (Part 1A on loading), wind-driven precipitation and surface or interstitial condensation.

The current update of BS 5250 (British Code of Practice for Control of Condensation in Buildings) is based on a more integrated approach on moisture in buildings which does not consider elements in isolation, but as part of a whole-house approach, as described in the White Paper on Moisture in Buildings (May and Sanders, 2017). The BSI White Paper on Moisture gives an overview of current assessment for regulations and standards on this topic.

There are new frameworks on the retrofit of existing buildings, such as Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2035:2019 (BSI, 2019), which considers adaptation in a broader context. PAS 2035 mentions the responsibility of designers to assess future climate vulnerability and identify adaptation options.

5.6.2.1.2 England

There are standards and regulations to prevent excess moisture in buildings as set out above. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has commissioned an analysis of the robustness of the available guidance in Part C regarding building resistance to moisture, and the development of relevant guidance on the insulation of existing buildings in England. Although not explicitly considering adaptation to a future climate, the review assessed the robustness of build-ups against moisture and suggested measures for improving this robustness (MHCLG, 2019d), as well as in respect to rainwater protection. However, the suggestions considered an elemental approach, where measures were assessed in isolation, and the influence of interactions between different measures was not considered. For example, the assessment did not consider the increase in runoff associated with improving the water resistance of a wall, which can lead to an increase of the hydrostatic pressure at cracks and defective details, an important parameter for rainwater penetration (Lacasse et al., 2019).

There are few government incentives for adapting existing homes, although some tools and guidance are available for rental homes, such as the Decent Homes Standard and the Housing Health and Safety Rating systems (HHSRS), which include damp and mould growth, and thermal comfort and excess heat.

The second National Adaptation Programme (Defra, 2018c) does not include any specific actions to manage the risks to building fabric from driving rain, wind or other hazards beyond flooding and heat.

5.6.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The second national adaptation programme for Northern Ireland (NICCAP2) (Daera, 2019) includes a high level objective to ensure that ‘houses and buildings are resilient to the impacts of flooding and extreme weather’. The actions listed in relation to the outcome focus mainly on managing flood risk, whereas there are no specific actions listed for managing other risks to building fabric like driving rain or wind.

Northern Ireland has its own building standards (Building Control Northern Ireland, 2012) for new buildings. Similar to other jurisdictions in the UK, Technical Booklet C stipulates the requirements of building components to resist moisture from the outside.

To our knowledge, there is no strategy for retrofitting existing buildings to improve resilience to extreme weather.

5.6.2.1.4 Scotland

Building standards for new buildings are in place for flood resilience, moisture penetration from heavy rain, heating, ventilation and condensation, and were revised in 2019.

The Scottish Government has a number of standards for building quality:

  • The Scottish Government Tolerable standard provides a minimum condemnatory standard which all houses in Scotland must meet. The standard includes being substantially free from rising and penetrating damp as well as having satisfactory thermal insulation (defined as the presence of loft insulation where a property can have it).
  • The Repairing Standard applies to private rented housing and requires houses to be wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation, and the structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) to be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.
  • The Scottish Housing Quality Standard requires social housing to be in a reasonable state of repair and to have a minimum standard of energy efficiency. Registered social landlords are also required to be working towards the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing. These policies require houses to be in a good physical condition reducing water penetration and heat loss, which reduces the energy required to heat homes and increases their resilience to climate change.

A strategy for retrofitting existing buildings to improve resilience to extreme weather is being developed as part of Scotland’s second statutory Adaptation Programme, 2019 (Scottish Government, 2019a). Scotland’s draft Infrastructure Investment plan (published Feb 2021) also includes explicit recognition of the likely impacts of climate change on infrastructure and the need to ‘adapt current infrastructure and design future assets to be more resilient to the effects of climate change’ (Scottish Government, 2021).

5.6.2.1.5 Wales

The Welsh Government’s adaptation plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales, sets out a commitment to infuence the design of homes and buildings to protect them from the impacts of climate change. However, the focus for the commitment is on the risks from overheating in the home. Nevertheless, it is stated that climate adaptation will be considered for any future building regulation reviews, including actions to tackle risks to building fabric.

Under the Clean Air Plan for Wales (2020), research work is also planned to examine the resilience of buildings in Wales to climate driven impacts and provide practical recommendations for risk based adaptation (Welsh Government, 2020a) (see also risk H7).

Building standards are in place for flood resilience, moisture penetration from heavy rain, heating, ventilation and condensation.

5.6.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H5)

Overall, climate change represents a range of challenges to improve buildings and housing quality (in additon, see H1 above on overheating and H3 on flooding). These challenges have generally not been considered holistically. The presence of at least some relevant building standards across all four UK countries means that the present-day risk is being considered for new build homes or those undergoing refurbishment. However, there is little evidence that the future risks from climate change are yet being integrated into planning, building design or retrofit, for pathways to either 4°C or 2°C global warming by 2100. This lack of long-term policy is likely to be locking-in new developments to some future risk, but as set out above, it is also unclear what the size of the future risk is.

5.6.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H5)

The assessment of current adaptation scores is based on the current building standards in each country, which in the most part address damp (excessive moisture), but are insufficient at present to address future climate risks. That is, future climate change is not taken into account.

Table 5.23. Adaptation scores for risks to building fabric
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.6.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H5)

Improving housing quality has multiple benefits. There are direct benefits to health and wellbeing in addition to reducing household costs. The health burden from damp homes in particular is high.

Subsidence tends to be a slowly progressing threat, and most adaptation is reactive, in the form of repair once major problems emerge. There is well established information on the costs of reactive adaptation from subsidence insurance claims (see above), and indeed insurance is an adaptation response to current and future risks. There are potential benefits from more proactive approaches, with most of the literature focusing on monitoring, measurement and prediction (e.g. Erkens and Stouthamer (2020)), and these are a low-regret option in national adaptation planning and awareness raising to households. There is a wider literature on the costs and benefits of direct intervention measures to reduce subsidence, but most of this is focused on human induced subsidence (e.g. water related). For the shrink swell subsidence of most relevance to the UK, the main options are centred on proactive approaches already in use, e.g. vegetation control (trees) and local water management. For high risk areas, these are likely to be low regret.

An important response to windstorm risks is household insurance, which acts as a risk spreading mechanism for extreme wind events. The evidence from tropical wind storms indicates that retrofitting (for increased storm intensity or frequency from climate change) has high adaptation costs, especially for roofing upgrades (RMS, 2009), although it can lead to high benefits. There is less evidence for Europe, but this tends to report similar findings (Hunt and Anneboina, 2011; UBA, 2012). These sources indicate reasonable benefit:cost ratios (at least for some options) (BEIS, 2019b; Spinoni et al., 2020). For household options, costs are lower in new builds, and can include siting and orientation, design and materials. The potential for increased building codes to cope with more intense windstorms is considered a low-regret option, however a review (ECONADAPT, 2017) has identified that benefit to cost ratios vary significantly with the risk level, the marginal costs of higher resilience, the existing cost and life-time of the asset, the costs of retrofitting based on local costs of materials and labour, and on the discount rate.

For damp or excessive moisture due to flooding, and intense or driving rain, the main current approach for managing risks for new buildings is through building standards and there has been recent research for moisture in buildings (MHCLG, 2019d). As highlighted above, there are potential benefits of a more integrated approach on moisture in buildings as part of a whole-house approach and accounting for the changing climate and potentially greater risks over time, although there would need to be an analysis of the potential costs and benefits of the climate uplifts, taking into account the long life-times and potential lock-in for new builds, but also the cost premium and nature of benefits (future, uncertain) (May and Sanders, 2017). The benefits of further adaptation for the existing building stock is highly variable and less well characterised, and there appears to be less economic evidence on potential options: this is identified as a potential gap.

Appropriate guidance and tools to support decision-making appear to be lacking, and are neededfor the implementation of adaptation measures in the next decade in order to avoid lock-in with inappropriate housing designs.

5.6.3.1 Overall urgency scores (H5)

There is a lack of research on this risk and the degree of future risk is difficult to determine at the present time, therefore it is evaluated as needing further investigation across the UK.

There is also lack of evidence regarding the prevalence of damage to dwellings, and household costs for damage associated with climate hazards to building fabric. The magnitude and direction of future changes in the frequency or intensity of the climate hazards is also uncertain. Further research could enable more relevent climate information for decision makers.

Table 5.24. Urgency scores for risk to building fabric
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency ScoreFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
Confidence MediumLowMediumMedium

5.6.4 Looking Ahead (H5)

The influence of climate change on windstorm events remains uncertain in relation to the change in intensity and severity, as well as the possible changes in storm tracks. This indicates the importance of gaining a better understanding of possible changes in wind intensity. There is a need to start early planning as part of an adaptive management approach to manage risks to building fabric.

5.7 Risks and opportunities from summer and winter household energy demand (H6)

Heating demand dominates energy use in buildings at present. Climate change will reduce future heating demand, and the magnitude of this opportunity (benefit) is high in economic terms, across all future periods and scenarios, for all UK nations. The exact level of this benefit will depend on many socio-economic factors, as well as Net Zero committments. Summer cooling demand is likely to increase with climate change, though the effect on energy demand depends upon the uptake of mechanical cooling methods (such as air conditioning), and whether the government incentivises low carbon cooling. The magnitude of this risk (economic cost of cooling to households) may be high after mid-century in England, but the risk remains low in the future for the devolved administrations. Net Zero policies will have big interactions with these risks/opportunities and present potential synergies but also potential conflicts.

Heating energy costs can make up a significant proportion of household expenditures. A household is said to be fuel poor if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth (or cooling). Changes in household energy demand could thus have important benefits, particularly housholds with high energy bills. In the future, changes in household cooling demand could also have negative impacts (such as summer fuel poverty) although it is not clear how impacts would be distributed in the population.

5.7.1 Current and future level of risk and opportunity (H6)

This risk/opportunity has been reported at the UK level, though some quantitative information by country is available.

5.7.1.1 Current and future risk – Household heating demand (H6)

Energy demand for residential buildings equated to 473 TWh in 2019 and around 65% of total domestic energy consumption is for space heating (BEIS, 2020). Current energy demand for space heating for residential buildings shows a strong relationship with temperature (Palmer and Cooper, 2013). It is often modelled in terms of heating degree days.

Consistent with observed warming trends (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021), heating degree days (HDDs)[10], in the UK have been falling in recent decades (Kendon et al., 2019): the decade 2010–2019 had 4% fewer HDDs per year on average compared to 1981–2010. (Figure 5.12).

Figure 5.12. Observed changes in heating degree days (HDDs) for the UK and countries, 1960–2019. Reproduced from Kendon et al.(2020)

Households’ demand for space heating depends not only on the temperature but also building design and insulation, heating technology, energy prices, incomes, etc. Daily variations in demand are strongly linked to temperature, but the long-term trend in actual heating demand will also have been affected by non-climatic factors such as improvements in energy efficiency improvements and insulation levels, and changes in income.

The first CCRA projected annual heating demand per household to fall significantly in the future due to climate change, across all four countries of the UK (Capon and Oakley, 2012), and more recent studies support this assessment (Arnell et al., 2021; Hanlon et al., 2021). HDDs are projected to decrease by approximately 10% to 20% by 2071–2100 compared to 1981–2020, in a scenario of approximately 2°C global warming by 2100[11] (Figure 5.13). The projected decrease by 2071–2100 is approximately 20% to 40% in a scenario of 4°C global warming by 2100[12].

The economic benefits of these reductions in energy demand are estimated to be significant. Capon and Oakley (2012) estimated an annual benefit of £billions/year for the 2050s for residential houses alone, using a scenario of approximately 4°C global warming by 2100[13]. Watkiss et al. (2016) estimated the reduction in winter heating costs (on average) to be +£135/ household/year by the 2050s (with a range from +£58 to +£226 for low and high scenarios and model uncertainty) compared to the 1961–1990 baseline climate. This compares to current average expenditure of around £500 to £600/household/year. Sansom (2020), using the 2050 DECC pathways tool, reported that based on a 50% probability (UKCP09 medium scenario), heating demand would be reduced by ~20% under seasonal normal conditions by 2050.

Figure 5.13. Projections of Heating Degree Days (HDDs) with a threshold of 15.5°C for UK countries, with a subset of the UKCP18 probabilistic projections reaching 2°C and 4°C global warming at 2100. Modified from Arnell et al. (2021), see reference for further details.

Understanding exactly how household energy demand for space heating will change in practice is complex. The baseline levels of space heating will vary with number of households and occupancy levels, building stock, heating technology and energy efficiency, as well as energy prices and incomes. There can be a large variation in the level of benefit and cost saving under low or high price scenarios, low or high growth scenarios, and with or without Net Zero mitigation policy. Earlier mitigation policies (CCC, 2014; DECC, 2014) were estimated to reduce the costs to households of energy (from energy efficiency and thus energy savings). The implementation of Net Zero policy, however will lead to a major shift in energy efficiency, but also the energy sources and technology used to heat buildings, and thus dramatically change future baseline conditions. This is likely to lead to a shift to heat pumps and hydrogen as an alternative to gas heating, or low carbon heat networks (CCC, 2019a).

A further issue concerns the rebound effect (BEIS, 2019a). Activities that improve energy efficiency (e.g. reducing building heating demand) have the effect of reducing the overall amount of energy required (to maintain constant indoor temperature). This results in a reduction in energy bills (assuming no changes in price). The money saved can be used for heating (i.e. higher levels of comfort), or on other goods and services. This is known as the ‘rebound effect’. It is stressed that there is still a large economic benefit from climate change to households, even if this may not translate through to net reductions in energy use or in emissions (due to cost savings being spent on other goods and services).

5.7.1.2 Current and future risk – Household cooling demand (H6)

Currently, the use of mechanical air conditioning in residential buildings is very low, although it is increasingly common in non-domestic buildings (offices and retail premises). Abela et al. (2016) reported that approximately 65% of UK office space and 30% of UK retail space has air-conditioning, and that this is responsible for a significant propotion (potentially 10%) of UK electricity consumption. Approximate 3% of households have reported having air conditioners (Khare et al., 2015). Cooling demand for buildings (all types, including commerical buildings) is estimated to be around 4% of electricity demand (Day et al., 2009).

There has been an observed increase in cooling degree days (CDDs) (Kendon et al., 2020) over recent decades, but this increase, in absolute terms, is very small compared to the reduction in HDDs. Significant peaks occur during major heatwaves.

Climate change is projected to increase the number of CDDs in all countries, with greater increases with higher rates of warming (Arnell et al., 2021; Hanlon et al., 2021). Future changes in cooling degree days are projected to be smaller for Scotland and Northern Ireland than England and Wales for pathways to both 2°C and 4°C warming by 2100[14] (Figure 5.14).

Future estimates of cooling demand are complicated, as the relationship between climate and cooling demand is affected by baseline socioeconomic changes (population, housing density, housing stock, insulation levels, technology, equipment penetration level, efficiency of cooling units, behaviour, perceived comfort levels, energy prices, income, etc.) and now by Net Zero policies. Income significantly affects air conditioning penetration rates (De Cian and Sue Wing, 2019). Econometric analysis in other, warmer countries in Europe (Damm et al., 2017) show much higher levels of air conditioning units, and energy use for cooling. However, the prevelance of air conditioning in Southern Europe is not particularly high, especially when compared to the US. Modelled estimates vary significantly on the scenario and model uncertainty range, and also on assumptions about the future uptake of air conditioning (Capon and Oakley, 2012; Damm et al., 2017).

Figure 5.14. Projections of Cooling Degree Days (CDDs) with a threshold of 22°C for UK countries, with a subset of the UKCP18 probabilistic projections reaching 2°C and 4°C global warming at 2100. Modified from Arnell et al. (2021), see reference for further details.

There are some studies of the impacts of climate change on future cooling demand and electricity use (for mechanical cooling) in residential buildings. Walsh et al. (2007) projected a strong demand increase in electricity consumption of around 10 TWh over summer months for the 2080s in a high emission scenario, due to air conditioning. This was valued indicatively in CCRA1 (Capon and Oakley, 2012). The results suggested that increases in the costs for cooling could be in the range £10–£99 million/year in 2020s, £100 million – £1 billion in the 2050s, and in excess of £1 billion in the 2080s, which are large but still much lower than the benefit in reduced costs in winter heating. The 1st NAP (Defra, 2013) reported that energy demand for domestic cooling could triple between 2010 and 2050. Sansom (2020), using the DECC 2050 Pathways and a scenario of approximately 4°C global warming by 2100[15]) estimated that London and the south of England in 2050 may experience CDDs comparable with the south of France today, and reported this would mean 5.1 million to 12.8 million households have cooling by 2050 with an associated demand ranging from 5 TWh to 13 TWh by 2050 under extreme hot weather. This would imply a high magnitude when valued using future projected energy prices (BEIS, 2019b). While the benefits from reduced winter heating occur in all regions, the changes in cooling demand with climate change are mostly projected for the South East of England.

There are also additional costs to households from purchasing air conditioning, which could be significant for the UK (Mima et al., 2011). National Grid estimated that the uptake of air conditioners in the domestic sector could reach 18 million units by 2050, compared to less than one million today (National Grid, 2018). There is some evidence that individual heatwave events increase the purchase of air conditioning, which are then used more routinely at lower temperatures (Mima et al., 2011).

There are some potential dis-benefits of air conditioning (AC) in buildings (see also H1) in addition to potential high energy use and costs. AC units exhaust hot air which is ejected outside, and thereby increases outdoor temperatures and can exacerbate urban heat island effects. Poor maintenance of air conditioning can lead to health problems from mould, lack of condensation drainage and circulation of airborne pollutants (WHO, 2018c).

As the UK is committed to Net Zero, the future achievement of complete decarbonisation of electricity generation entails that increased air conditioning will not be associated with significant increased greenhouse gas emissions. There is also the potential for passive alternatives to AC to reduce heating or provide cooling, and thus reduce increased summer energy demand in a Net Zero world. It is highlighed that passive systems also have costs, but these tend to be associated with up-front costs (See H1), while for mechnical cooling the highest costs are with operation. However, passive measures are less effective at cooling and air conditioning may be preferred by households, particularly under higher rates of warming (De Cian and Sue Wing, 2019). Some air conditoning unts use refrigerants that have high global warming potential and therefore contribute to climate change through leakage (and irrespective of the energy source used to power them).

5.7.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H6)

There are high risks of lock-in due to the potential for current dwellings and new buildings to be more reliant on mechanical cooling, if passive cooling and ventilation strategies are not installed, particularly for new builds and refurbishment of existing homes (see Risk H1). There are also potential lock-in issues with new buildings, and retrofit measures to existing buildings, in terms of delivering Net Zero under conditions of changing winter heating demand (i.e. systems designed to heat for the climate of today and not the future).

Under higher warming scenarios, there will be more need to consider both space heating and space cooling together in housing design, which might indicate a preference for integrated systems (for example, reverse heat pumps that provide both heating and cooling).

There are also potential thresholds for adaptation, because passive designs often have limits in their ability to reduce very high temperatures, which might indicate some path dependency with more uptake of AC under higher warming scenarios. The same issues apply to the non-residential and industrial buildings.

5.7.1.4 Implications of Net Zero (H6)

Heating demand is one of the most important areas for linkages with the UK’s Net Zero targets. Net Zero will have a major influence on this opportunity/risk, because it will affect energy technology and fuel choice, household energy efficiency (e.g. building standards) and thus potential demand, as well as energy prices.

The exact influence is very complex and depends on how the Net Zero target is met. The CCC report on Net Zero (2019) highlights that near-full decarbonisation of heat for buildings is one of the biggest challenges in reducing emissions from the energy system to Net Zero by 2050 (CCC, 2019d).

The CCC report outlines the following key messages.

  • In residential buildings, the parts of the stock which are generally easier and/or less costly to decarbonise include new homes, homes off the gas grid, homes suitable for district heating, and homes on the gas grid with relatively low barriers.
  • The ‘Further Ambition’ scenario additionally deploys low-carbon heating and energy efficiency measures for homes which are considered more costly and/or difficult to decarbonise. This includes homes on the gas grid with space constraints, and homes with heritage value. This scenario also includes some conversion of residual gas demands to hydrogen.
  • The analysis confirmed that reaching Net Zero emissions in buildings is achievable but that it remains costly, with a total annual cost compared to a theoretical counterfactual without any action on emissions estimated to be in the region of £15 billion in 2050.
  • Delivering this will require a clear trajectory of standards. This includes delivering commitments announced under the Future Homes Standard, alongside ambitious standards for new non-residential buildings, delivering commitments on energy efficiency standards across the stock, and a long-term regulatory approach for delivering low-carbon heat.

The CCC (2019d) included a high-level assessment of the the impacts of warmer temperatures on heating and cooling demand. A much more detailed assessment has been undertaken for the 2020 Sixth Carbon budget advice. This factors in the impacts of rising temperatures on heating and cooling demand. A lower level of winter heating demand – due to climate change – should have benefits in reducing household costs related to space heating, perhaps offsetting some of the cost increases from the transition to Net Zero. However, it could also make Net Zero slightly harder to achieve, because it involves more complex consideration of designing household energy systems for a changing climate. It is much easier to design a new Net Zero energy system for a static climate than one that is changing, especially because the measures taken to improve energy efficiency have a direct influence on household overheating potential, and because if there is an increase in cooling demand, then it changes the potential option choice for homes (i.e. from heating only to duel heating and cooling, or altering the optimal size of heat pumps).

The Sixth Carbon Budget pathways also take into account the need to look at ventilation and passive cooling alongside energy efficiency retrofit.

5.7.1.5 Inequalities (H6)

Reduced heating demand has potential benefits in reducing fuel poverty, as lower income households spend a higher percentage of their total expenditure on energy, relative to the wealthiest households (Tinson et al., 2016): the cost of living survey reports 9.6% of total expenditure for the former (the lowest income decile) compared to 3.6% for the latter (the highest). The benefits for households that heat their homes using electricity (currently only 7% of UK households) are higher, and critically, a large proportion of the fuel poor in England use electricity as their main source of energy. Climate change will therefore have large, positive benefits, and greater benefits for low income households due to the reductions in heating demand. It is unclear, however, whether these will lead to actual reductions in energy use, as this will depend on household behaviours (families may choose to have warmer homes, for example). Fuel poverty is also determined by many non-climate factors.

Uptake of mechanical cooling is likely to cause inequalities in the impacts of heat risks at the population level, even though the total impact on heat-related mortality is reduced. Ownership of air conditioning is strongly income dependent, and demand for electricity for cooling is likely to be more elastic than for heating (De Cian and Sue Wing, 2019). The take up of air conditioning (AC) is likely to be extremely low amongst low-income groups, and instead they will experience higher temperatures and impacts on economic welfare as temperatures increase (Lower comfort levels, and potentially higher health impacts), see Risk H1.

5.7.1.6 Magnitude scores (H6)

The magnitude scores are shown below. Heating and cooling are not aggregated as the net change because they involve different systems and adaptation options.

Overall, the magnitude of the reduction in winter heating costs (a benefit) is estimated as being currently low (due to little change attributed to climate change) but this opportunity becomes high across all future periods and scenarios, for all four UK countries as the climate warms.

5.7.1.6.1 Winter heating (opportunity from decreases in household energy costs)

High economic savings are projected from reduced winter heating, equating to £billions in savings per year across the UK in aggregate. These findings are considered robust, i.e. high confidence, because of widespread agreement in modelling studies. The current temperature-attributable component of heating demand is considered to be high.

Table 5.25. Magnitude score for opportunities from winter household energy demand

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Low

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Scotland

Low

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Wales

Low

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(high

confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

5.7.1.6.2 Summer Cooling

The higher temperatures in summer with climate change will increase the need for cooling dwellings and other buildings. Household summer energy costs would increase if cooling demand is met mechanically, but there are passive and other alternatives as set out in Risk H1. This risk is assessed based on the climate-attributable proportion of summer cooling costs. There are several modelled estimates of future cooling degree days (CDDs) and these are converted to annualised energy demand. Such projections rely on unclear assumptions about future air conditioning uptake. Currently this is low. Unlike other risks, this score includes the assumption that there is significant adaptation (in the form of air conditioning uptake). The increase summer energy cost may in future years lead to a high score in England, but the exact level of increase is uncertain (Low confidence). The risk is considered lower in the devolved administraions compared to England, however, there are no good data. Because there is very little evidence to support this assumption, then all future magnitude scores are assessed as low confidence.

The current magnitude of risk is assessed as medium in England and low in other UK countries. Risks are projected to increase with increasing temperatures, particularly in the South of England in 2050s and 2080s, and for Wales under high emission scenarios in 2080s.

Table 5.26. Magnitude scores for risks summer household energy demand

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(High confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(High confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Low

(High confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Wales

Low

(High confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Low

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

5.7.2 Extent to which the current adaptation will manage the risk and opportunity (H6)

5.7.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H6)

It has not been possible to split out the assessment of adaptation by UK country for this risk and opportunity, so a UK-level analysis is presented.

Government action may be needed to realise benefits from warmer winters, such as information campaigns to raise awareness of opportunities from reduced heating costs. Additional issues for government intervention include:

  • More explicit consideration of changing winter heating demand from climate change in energy strategies and policies.
  • Consideration of summer cooling and winter heating in an intergrated way in policies and measures.
  • Addressing the barriers to synergistic policy (i.e. there are important information failures which necessitate the need for Government action).
  • To ensure that energy efficiency and low carbon heating technologies being rolled out across the UK take into account future warming temperatures, as this may change the type and extent of measures needed.
  • To incentivise the uptake of passive cooling over mechanical cooling measures as far as is appropriate.
  • Beyond the scale of private actions, e.g. through the provision of green infrastructure and urban green spaces to reduce heat at the urban scale.

There may also be some need to consider the equity impacts of the risk and adopt appropriate policies and intervention to the way that government currently addresses fuel poverty for heating, which includes a wide range of measures (see CSE (2018)). The starting point would be to start assessing the potential risks and defintions of cooling related fuel poverty (Bridgeman et al., 2018).

Air conditioning is not the only option to manage extreme heat risks (other options are described in detail in Risk H1 above) and it also has some disbenefits. The uptake of future air conditioning will be determined by a range of factors, including the affordability of upfront, operational and maintenance costs, acceptability, and perceptions regarding health benefits. The Government might intervene in the market to encourage higher standards of energy efficiency in AC or to incentivise passive options for space cooling in dwellings. For the latter, it is highlighted that there are considerable barriers to delivery, which include technical but also policy, governance and behavioural barriers (McEvoy et al., 2006). In England, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation in 2021 proposing to introduce an overheating standard in new residential buildings as part of the Future Buildings Standard (MHCLG, 2021). The consultation states that overheating mitigation must be via passive cooling measures. Other policies could ensure that the costs of air conditioning and other devices better reflect current externalities associated with electricity generation, though these externalities will be reduced signicantly if the electricity sector decarbonises.

In the DAs, the Welsh Government’s Prosperity For All: A Low Carbon Wales (2019) sets the whole context for energy policy in Wales going forward, and does mention that the need for cooling is projected to increase and should also be considered as part of future energy demand, but does not mention falling heating degree days (Welsh Government, 2019g). The Welsh Government’s reviews of Parts L and F Building Regulations (under consultation at time of writing) aim to make cooling and heating more efficient in the long term.

It has not been possible to find evidence for Scotland and Northern Ireland on the level of current and future adaptation for increased cooling demand.

5.7.2.2 Adaptation Shortfall (H6)

The reduction in winter heating demand is one of the largest potential economic benefits of climate change to the UK, but the shift to Net Zero will alter the size of these opportunities. Following the discussion above, there is considered to be an adaptation shortfall over the analysis of this change (opportunity) for Net Zero policy and technology choices, and synergies and conflicts with summer over-heating (H1) and cooling demand. This is relevant for all countries.

The increase in cooling demand represents a large additional cost. As discussed above, government intervention is likely to be needed in this area, because the private sector and households alone are unlikely to be able to manage this risk and deliver Net Zero due to various barriers and constraints. Based on the CDD projections, this is most important for England.

Apart from some isolated examples, there is little information available at present on what actions are being taken by government to consider the transition to Net Zero alongside a need for increased cooling demand, and what barriers specifically need to be addressed.

5.7.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H6)

This opportunity (from reduced winter heating demand) is not always considered in policy, and this indicates further action is needed (to design effective policies for Net Zero). There is also no policy to address increased use of air conditioning, and to consider the risk of increasing cooling demand in synergy with changes in heating demand in a Net Zero future. This overlaps with many of the same issues presented in risk H1.

Table 5.27. Adaptation scores for risks and opportunities from summer and winter household energy demand
Are the risks and opportunities going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

No

(Medium confidence)

No

(Low confidence)

No

(Low confidence)

No

(Low confidence)

5.7.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H6)

5.7.3.1 Heating demand (H6)

A more considered analysis of this opportunity could allow potential benefits to be maxised. This is particularly important in the context of Net Zero, where changing future heating demand could have a material impact on the potential Net Zero options. This applies equally to all UK nations, as the reduction in winter heating demand is high in all areas. There is a need for better integration of this issue in Net Zero policy analysis, and subsequent government intervention to deliver Net Zero (i.e. reduced winter heating should be considered in the package of policies, incentives and instruments that government introduces to help deliver Net Zero). There is a strong economic case for such action based on the value of information, as this could significantly reduce the costs of delivering net zero for the household sector (or put another way, in a case where this information is not included, incentives will be introduced to deliver higher heating demand than is needed).

It is also highlighted that information to help households and business/industry recognise these beneficial effects, i.e. awareness raising, could help deliver the full potential economic benefits, i.e. to minimise rebound effects.

5.7.3.2 Cooling demand (H6)

Additional action could be undertaken to build increased cooling demand into energy policy, including through the three areas for households identified above:

  • Incorporate future changes in energy demand from warmer winter and hotter summers into energy efficiency and low carbon heating policy and technologies being rolled out across the UK.
  • Incentivise the uptake of passive cooling over mechanical cooling measures as far as is appropriate.
  • Provide support for households that might experience ‘summer fuel poverty’ through e.g. inability to afford air conditioning if this is required.

Mechanical cooling has costs and benefits that can be compared to alternatives. These include a wide range of options associated with buildings (passive ventiliation), behaviour, green infrastructure and land-use planning. These were set out in Risk H1. There is some information on the economics of AC versus alternatives, with analysis of the costs and benefits of many options (Grant et al., 2011; Frontier Economics et al., 2013; Adaptation Sub-Commitee, 2014; CCC, 2019d; Wood Plc, 2019). These studies generally favour passive cooling, but there are differences between existing building and new builds, and the timing of installation and when overheating risks occur in the future is also important (reflecting the different cost profile of capital and operating costs). At the current time, the higher externalities of air conditioning (carbon and air pollution) tend to reduce the attractiveness of this option, but this will change with decarbonisation of the electricity system under Net Zero. In a case where air conditioning is not discouraged (i.e. if choice of cooling is left to households and the private sector, and therefore met with mechanical cooling, passive or other alternatives, or cooling demand is unmet), then it would be expected that penetration rates for AC would rise significantly in England (as indicated in the evidence above). In this case, there would still be benefits from further action, notable with energy efficiency standards for cooling equipment (Low or no-regret), as well as energy efficiency awareness programmes (as there is currently for heating).

Such programmes already exist for commercial buildings, but have not yet been transferred to residential ones. In a case where passive cooing is favoured, there are a range of further actions needed, which are set out in H1.

5.7.3.3 Overall urgency scores (H6)

For heating demand, given the adaptation shortfall identified above, further action needed is recommended to realise the opportunities and provide the linkages to Net Zero for all UK countries.

For cooling demand, more action needed is recommended for England, further investigation for Wales, and watching brief for Northern Ireland and Scotland, though this is strongly linked to Risk H1 and the confidence is low.

Across the two areas there is a strong need for greater integration of heating and cooling issues, especially in light of Net Zero policies. The risk has been overall assessed that more action is needed in all the UK countries as the magnitude of the opportunity is high in all countries under all future scenarios, and there is a lack of policy action

Table 5.28. Urgency scores for risks and opportunities from summer and winter household energy demand
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency ScoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
Confidence HighMediumMediumMedium

5.7.4 Looking Ahead (H6)

The evidence review has identified some immediate gaps, notably in attributing the effect of historic reductions in HDDs on observed heating demand trends, as well as getting better information on current residential air conditioning uptake and cooling demand. These would help in building the evidence base for future decisions.

Further research could be undertaken to understand better the implications (and costs and benefits) of climate change on heating and cooling demand for future strategies, especially for the delivery of climate resilent Net Zero policies. Research is also needed to understand household perceptions regarding heating and cooling. Policy modelling needs to include changes in demand (heating and cooling) under different climate scenarios, and for different Net Zero pathways, and consider the implications of these different energy technology choices, policy interventions, etc. This is essential given the large-scale change that will need to occur in the residential building stock over the next couple of decades – for both new and current dwellings – to deliver the Net Zero target.

As highlighted in H1, there is also a need for more investment in adaptive management approaches for managing summer cooling, which have so far received less attention in the UK in the heat domain. There are benefits from greater investment in early planning to start preparing for cooling demand changes. This is important because of the potentially large future risks and the large differences in potential action that might be needed across different pathways, i.e. for pathways to 2°C vs. 4°C global warming by 2100. There are some early examples in the literature of pathway approaches (RAMSES, 2017), including for London (Kingsborough et al., 2017).

5.8 Risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality (H7)

Weather patterns can affect the formation and dispersion of air pollutants. Climate change may also change emissions of some pollutants or precursors of health-relevant pollutants. The incremental change in risk from climate change only, compared to non-climate causes, is uncertain. Air pollution emissions from combustion are falling rapidly, and are expected to decline significantly under some (but not all) Net Zero pathways. The baseline level of pollution and interactions with climate change is likely to reduce the future risk for outdoor air quality.

Recent heatwave events have not been associated with the high levels of ground-level ozone observed in previous heatwaves, although levels of ozone were elevated. Modelling studies indicate that ground level ozone levels may decrease in the UK with climate change, but not under all climate scenarios. There is very little evidence for the impact of climate change on indoor air quality. However, household energy measures related to Net Zero have the potential to worsen indoor air quality unless specific measures are taken to avoid this.

Air quality issues have been divided into three areas based on the different policy approaches.

  • Outdoor air quality associated with anthropogenic sources (including traffic, industry and agricultural sources) and wildfires
  • Indoor air quality associated with housing characteristics, indoor sources and ventilation.
  • Natural (non-anthropogenic) sources of air quality related to pollen and mould that affect health

5.8.1 Current and future level of risk (H7)

For this risk, we have been unable to provide country-specific evidence, so the risk is summarised across the UK as a whole.

5.8.1.1 Current and future outdoor air quality risk (H7)

5.8.1.1.1 Current risk for outdoor air quality

Outdoor air pollution is currently associated with tens of thousands of deaths per year across the UK. As such it is already a high magnitude risk for public health and government priority (PHE, 2019c). Air pollution is primarily caused by emissions of pollutants from combustion in transport and energy use, but the weather conditions can exacerbate and prolong periods of low air quality. Currently, the UK has areas with poor air quality, despite reductions in emissions and improved pollution control. Outdoor air pollution has both anthropogenic causes (transport emissions, industry, agriculture) and natural sources (dust, pollen, mould, biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and pollutants from wildfires). Emissions of VOCs from solvent use, and domestic and personal care products are becoming more important.

The main health-related hazard for the UK population is the long term (chronic impact) of particulates (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Evidence for the effect of long-term exposure to NO2 and mortality has increased in recent years (COMEAP, 2015). Ground level ozone also affects health (and has acute effects on mortality). There is some epidemiological evidence that short-term effects of ozone are worse on the hottest days (e.g. Pattenden et al. (2010)). However, evidence is limited of a significant synergistic reaction between heat and pollutant exposures.

There is relatively little detailed analysis on the meteorological drivers of air pollution episodes in the UK other than the major event in summer 2003. A study of two air pollution episodes in 2006 found that both were driven by anticyclonic conditions with light easterly and south easterly winds and high temperatures that aided pollution build up in the UK (Fenech et al., 2019). Since 2011, there has been an overall decrease in the number of days of ‘moderate’ or high pollution at urban monitoring sites in England (Figure 5.15). Days with moderate or high pollution in 2018 and 2019 were associated with the prolonged hot and sunny conditions, thus, inter-annual variability in air pollution concentrations can be associated with specific meteorological conditions. Air pollution in general has declined, primarily due to the fall in NOx, but some pollutants increased in certain areas (such as ozone in cities) and others (particulates) have stayed fairly constant, with implications for health and well being.

Overall, ground level ozone levels have declined in recent decades (Diaz et al., 2020). The Defra air quality report for 2018 reports that no zones in the UK were compliant with the long-term objective for ground level ozone, set for the protection of human health (i.e. the air quality standard based on the maximum daily eight-hour mean) (Defra, 2019a). The Daera assessment of ‘Air pollution in Northern Ireland’ found although the levels of most pollutants are declining, ground level ozone levels remain variable and were also high in 2018, probably due to the hot weather (Daera, 2020a).

Air quality is also affected by wildfires (see Box 5.4). The summer of 2018 was a particularly hot and dry summer which likely contributed to more favourable conditions for the outbreaks and severity of wildfires, including two major wildfires in the summer of 2018 that were declared as major incidents in the North West of England, as well as several smaller wildfires in various parts of England and a significant fire following a dry spell in the Flow Country in Scotland, in early 2019. A wildfire across Saddleworth Moor near Manchester was found to have caused poor air quality and haze over Greater Manchester. Nearby monitoring sites recorded peaks in PM2.5 levels (Ffoulkes et al., 2019).

Box 5.4. Wildfire risk to Health, Communities and Built Environment

Wildfires pose a significant risk to life, communities and the built environment, both directly and through effects on ecosystems services. In the UK, the term wildfire is officially defined as ‘any uncontrolled vegetation fire which requires a decision, or action, regarding suppression‘ (Scottish Government, 2013). Nearly all wildfires in the UK are linked to human activities, either from land management activities or social causes that may be accidental or as arson (Gazzard et al., 2016). The greatest number of fires in the UK occur in grasslands, but the largest burned areas are attained in heathlands and peatlands. The largest burned areas typically occur in National Parks, Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However, the largest number of fires occur in built up areas and gardens equating to around 16,000 vegetation fires on average per year (Gazzard et al., 2016).

Fire activity is mostly limited by the amount of dry vegetation susceptible to burn, and wildfires occur in two seasons in the UK; a spring peak in fires and a summer peak (Belcher et al., 2021). Recent trends in wildfires in the UK indicate the last 3 years as having the largest burnt areas and the largest number of fires over the last 12 years. The percentage of days experiencing high fire weather indices (i.e. conditions conducive to the ignition and spread of fires) has been predicted to increase in both summer and spring by 2069. Up to 50% of summer days may experience high fire weather indices by 2069 assuming a 4°C global warming scenario (Belcher et al., 2021).

H1: Risks to health and wellbeing from high temperatures, and H2: Opportunities for health and wellbeing from warmer summers and winters: There is a direct risk of injury or mortality from fire, as well as the health effects of smoke (see Risk H7). There may also be long term impacts on mental health (Caamano-Isorna et al., 2011). In good weather, use of rural and urban green space increases, and this may increase the chance of fire ignition. An enhanced social understanding of wildfire risk is required and the development of an effective communication strategy to let communities understand fire danger ratings during use of green spaces, the countryside and national parks.

H5: Risks to building fabric: In fire prone countries, homes in the wildland-urban or rural-urban interface are subject to building codes for wildfire safe design (e.g. National Fire Protection Agency, USA). The enhanced fire risk due to climate change, along with the fact that the highest frequency of vegetation fires occurs in built up areas (Gazzard et al., 2016), suggests that building codes in at-risk areas should include guidance for wildfire safe construction materials and features (which are distinct from structural fire codes) and have appropriate layouts for emergency assistance in terms of access and egress (e.g. NFPA, 2008). The threat of fire at the rural urban interface must be understood and regularly reviewed into the future and placed into the minds of planners and developers.

H7: Risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality: Wildfires can be a significant source of air pollution, emitting both gases and particulate matter, particularly the inhalable fractions of PM2.5 and PM10 (Finlay et al., 2012). Wildfire smoke can affect large numbers of people. The Saddleworth Moor wildfire in 2018 exposed 4.5 million people to harmful levels of PM2.5 (Graham et al., 2020). There is some evidence that bacteria, fungi and other pathogens can be transported in wildfire smoke (Kobziar et al., 2018; Kobziar and Thompson, 2020).

H10: Risks to water quality and household water supplies: Reservoirs can suffer from significant contamination if ash and organics enter them from wildfires. In the case of moorlands, peat often contains heavy metal pollution from heavy industry (Kettridge et al., 2019). Therefore, where peat itself is burned, this can add heavy metal contamination to water supplies (Belcher et al., 2021)

H11: Risks to cultural heritage: The use of fire as a land management tool is currently much debated despite its traditional use in the management of crops (e.g. stubble burning), moorlands (e.g. grouse moors) and heathlands (see Belcher et al. (2021)). Many communities wish to return fire or continue to use fire on the landscape which has been part of centuries-old cultural heritage. The increased risk of fires, changing fuel types and the shifting land-use anticipated (Belcher et al., 2021) implies that cultural practices involving the use of fire may need to be adapted.

Critical Infrastructure: Three of the UKs major motorways pass through fire prone regions (M25, M6 and M60). Roads can be closed either due a fire crossing the road or burning alongside it or due to large volumes of smoke obscuring vision (Aylen et al., 2015). Tailored risk assessments are required in regard to wildfire mitigation in landscapes that provide major services (e.g. water supplies), transport networks or major infrastructure.

Trends in the annual average number of days per sites of moderate or higher air pollution from either NO2, PM10, PM2.5, O3 or SO2 at urban background monitoring sites in the UK from 2010 to 2019.
Figure 5.15. Average number of days when levels of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were ‘Moderate’ or higher at urban sites in the UK, 2010 to 2019. Reproduced from Defra (2020c).
5.8.1.1.2 Future risk for outdoor air quality

Climate change will have complex regional and local effects on outdoor air pollution chemistry, transport, emissions and deposition. Climate change is very likely to affect air quality in both urban and rural areas. It directly and indirectly modifies ground-level ozone concentrations through its influence on processes determining emissions (biogenic and anthropogenic), chemistry and dispersion (see Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021). Biogenic VOCs from trees and shrubs contribute to the formation of both ozone and particulate matter, and their emission is very sensitive to temperature. Climate change will also directly and indirectly modify PM2.5/PM10 and NO2 concentrations. Higher temperatures during stagnation episodes (still weather) may increase peak ground level ozone. In areas with high nitrogen oxides levels, warming is likely to increase levels of ozone. Ozone is a transboundary pollutant and so large regions need to be considered for future impacts, including emissions and atmospheric chemistry beyond the boundaries of the UK.

There are few studies on health effects associated with climate change impacts alone on air quality and these estimate future exposures of outdoor ozone or particulates and the health burdens associated with these. These modelling studies generally report higher ozone-related health burdens in polluted populated regions and greater PM2.5 health burdens in northern Europe (Athanassiadou et al., 2010; Heal et al., 2012; 2013; Doherty et al., 2017). Where studies have considered both emission scenarios and climate change, the reduction in emissions is the most significant factor, specifically the large (policy-driven) reductions in emissions of ozone (O3) and PM pollutant precursors. Under low global emission scenarios, there is also less anticipated climate change response.

There are several studies of the effects of emission scenarios and climate change together on future air quality. As emissions are a more important determinant it is often more useful to consider both factors at the same time. A review by Doherty et al. (2017) of climate impacts studies found that there is a lot of evidence regarding the impacts of O3 on air quality in Europe although the evidence base is inconsistent. Background (average) levels of O3 entering Europe is projected to decrease in most scenarios due to higher water vapour concentrations in a warmer climate. However, with the RCP8.5 scenario, higher methane (CH4) concentration is projected to lead to increases in background O3 that offset the O3 decrease due to climate change especially for the 2100 period.

New simulations of future air pollution have been undertaken from the CMIP6 project, using global models that incorporate both emissions and climate and which use the new SSP pathways (Turnock et al., 2019; 2020). Model simulations of future ground-level ozone under several SSP pathways for Europe indicate that future ozone levels may continue rising, or they may peak in the next few years and start to fall, depending on the SSP pathway (Archibald et al., 2020). Whether background ground level ozone in the UK increases or begins to decline in the future is most closely associated with the trajectory of global emissions of methane, but also the extent to which NOx emissions from industry and transport decline following policy measures (Turnock et al., 2019).

Future changes in PM concentrations due to climate change remain highly uncertain. Studies indicate that particulate matter will decrease significantly by the 2050s under all climate scenarios (Lacressonnière et al., 2017). However, a PM ‘climate penalty’ may occur due to high temperatures and humidity, and reduced precipitation in northern mid-latitude land regions in 2100. Thus, taking both emissions and climate changes into account, PM2.5 is simulated to decrease but the climate penalty means that the PM2.5 concentrations may not reduce in reponse to the emissions reduction by as much as they would have were it not for the changes in climate.

Estimates of future numbers of deaths from air pollution that are attributable to climate change have primarily been undertaken for mortality associated with high ground level ozone. In terms of future deaths from air quality that are attributable to climate change, there have been studies which model climate change impacts on air quality for Europe. These modelling studies do not model weather patterns such as blocking episodes or stagnation episodes, but use average annual temperatures. Therefore, there may be an increase in pollution episodes associated with weather patterns, even if the general trend indicates that air quality is improving. Further, if there is new evidence regarding the health impacts of long-term ozone exposures, this would have important implications for the health impacts of climate change through changes in air quality.

The impact of future climate on wildfire risks are discussed in Box 5.4 and Box 3.1 (Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). Wildfire risks may increased due to projected changes in temperature and rainfall (hot and dry weather). It is likely that the frequency of moorland fires and grassland and forest fires may increase with regional differences (Ffoulkes et al., 2019). Forest fires emit particulate matter and toxic products and create extensive and long-lasting air pollution events.

5.8.1.2 Current and future risk – Indoor air quality (H7)

Indoor air quality is dependent on building characterisitics, ventilation, emissions from indoor sources and external air quality. Poor indoor air quality may cause or aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms, airborne respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer (PHE, 2019a). Higher temperatures may improve or reduce indoor air quality. If temperatures are higher, then people may open windows more, which will tend to dilute pollutants of indoor origin (Taylor et al., 2015a). However, in instances of poor outdoor air quality this could reduce the quality of indoor air. Extreme weather may cause windows to be closed leading to poor indoor air quality episodes. In urban areas opening windows may not be possible due to issues with security, noise and outdoor pollution (CCC, 2019a).

Indoor air quality will also be affected by the Net Zero Pathways, especially interventions that affect ventilation in buildings (see Risks H1 and H5, and the section on Net Zero below).

5.8.1.3 Current and future risk – Natural (non-anthropogenic) sources of air quality (H7)

The links between climate change and allergic responses from pollen are still unclear, with the literature still being limited. It is expected that climatic factors have a role in changes to the length, start and intensity of the pollen season (D’Amato et al., 2016a). Observational data collected over 30 years from the International Phenological Gardens Network indicated spring events to now be occurring six days earlier, with the most pronounced phenological changes being observed in Western Europe and Baltic regions (D’Amato et al., 2016a). However, as the pollen seasons are appearing earlier in the year, often this coincides and is interrupted by late winter/early spring adverse weather conditions (D’Amato et al., 2015; 2016a). Furthermore, pollen seasons are extending due to longer summer periods, delayed flowering and a lower frequency of frosts (Gezon et al., 2016). A large retrospective analysis of 17 locations across the Northern Hemisphere with more than 20 years of data revealed that continued increases in temperature extremes may already be contributing to earlier, prolonged and higher seasonal pollen counts for a variety of multiple aero-allergenic pollen taxa (Ziska et al., 2019).

High pollen levels cause a significant burden from allergic rhinitis. High counts of grass, nettle or tree pollen were associated with increased primary care (GP) consultations for allergic rhinitis in London (Todkill et al., 2020). Evidence continues to support the association between severe asthma epidemics and thunderstorms during pollen seasons, however these are limited to periods of high atmospheric concentrations of airborne pollen (D’Amato et al., 2012; 2016a). A plausible causal link between thunderstorms and asthmatic episodes in patients with pollen allergies can be made. During the first 30 minutes of thunderstorms, high rates of respirable allergen loadings are detected in the air (D’Amato et al., 2012; D’Amato et al., 2016b).

There is only weak evidence that air pollutants and allergenic pollen exposures interact, exacerbating allergic respiratory responses and health outcomes (Lam et al., 2021). Evidence suggests both ozone and nitrogen dioxide can influence pollen morphology, altering pollen protein content and release processes and subsequently influencing the allergic reaction from inhalation (Frank and Ernst, 2016; Fleming et al., 2018). These associations are species and concentration specific. Additionally, grass pollen is able to latch onto air particulates, which increases the concentration of allergenic air pollutants (Fleming et al., 2018). A study observing pollen, land cover and health outcomes reported daily grass pollen concentrations were associated with adult admissions to hospital for asthma in London after a 4–5 day lag of high pollen levels (McInnes et al., 2017).

Pollen exposure may increase due to climatic influences in the geographical range of allergenic species and increased use of green spaces (Fleming et al., 2018). Multiple studies using climate models have projected the range expansion of plant species such as ragweed (genus Ambrosia) may cause them to become established in the UK due to changes in habitat suitability by 2050 (Storkey et al., 2014; Hamaoui-Laguel et al., 2015). There is limited evidence on the potential for other invasive species to introduce new allergenic risks in the UK (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021).

Allergenic responses to ragweed are projected to increase 5-fold (reference invasion scenario) in the UK due to climate change with the RCP4.5 scenario and a scenario of slow ragweed invasion (Lake, 2017). Furthermore, it is expected that the greatest proportional responses to ragweed sensitisation will be in areas of Europe which currently consider ragweed sensitisation to be uncommon (Lake et al., 2017). Some projections suggest that by 2041–2060 ozone air pollution levels will decrease, which has the potential to diminish the allergenicity of ragweed pollen (Colette et al., 2012). However, ragweed pollen allergenicity may rise due to increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO₂ and drought (El Kelish et al., 2014).

Climate change effects on pollen and allergic disease are complex and there are no modelling studies that quantify future risks to health. It is not possible to assess impacts under different climate warming pathways or by UK country.

5.8.1.4 Lock-in and thresholds (H7)

The lock-in risks are complex. It is not clear what the main adaptation strategies are here as outdoor air pollution is likely to reduce with more stringent emissions controls (and the new post-Brexit Air Quality Strategy).

There are lock in risks for indoor air quality as risks are determined in part by building design (see discussions on housing below).

Thresholds for wildfire risk are discussed in Chapter 3, Box 3.1 (Berry and Brown, 2021).

Air quality standards are used to manage risks from air pollution. Air quality guidelines are based on epidemiological studies, which show threhold effects on health risks for some pollutants. The guideline can also be based on the range of concentrations studied, or based on cost-benefit analysis. Some air quality guidelines are based on the lowest concentration studied in chamber studies, with it being unknown whether effects would have been found at lower concentrations. COMEAP considered the evidence on ozone thresholds in their 2015 report (COMEAP, 2015). Exceedence of air quality standards is to be avoided to prevent impacts on human health.

5.8.1.5 Cross-cutting risks and interdependencies (H7)

Reduced summer rainfall and extreme summer temperatures could lead to increased risk of wildfires. High temperature and stagnation episodes also increase the risk of high levels of outdoor air pollution (from any source). There is clearly a concern that multiple environmental hazards may occur and therefore the impact on health will be more significant due to synergistic effects and possible limitations in the public health response.

The risks from wildfires are discussed in more detail in Box 5.4 and Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021).

Higher temperatures may encourage more physical activity outdoors (see risk H2) and this would include active travel. Increased cycling and walking may lead to less car use, and thus less traffic related air pollution.

5.8.1.6 Implications of Net Zero (H7)

Policies to address Net Zero are likely to be the dominant factor in reducing future outdoor air pollution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should reduce all sources of combustion-related emissions, which are the primary source of the main air pollution-related emissions affecting health.

A preliminary ‘expert’ assessment of the potential impacts on UK air quality from actions to achieve Net Zero indicates that the majority of actions (once in place) are anticipated to have a net benefit on air quality, and hence a benefit on human health (AQEG, 2020). Major benefits to air quality are predicted from widespread electrification of transport and industry, where electricity supply is from ‘clean’ sources, and from reduced livestock in agriculture which reduces the emissions of ammonia (NH3) that contribute to an important fraction of PM2.5. There are some actions where care is needed with respect to potential disbenefits on air quality. for example, the avoidance of high VOC-emitting species in increased forest and bioenergy crop land cover, which may lead to increased production of ozone. Some pathways to achieving Net Zero may adversely affect air quality. For example, emissions of VOCs and NH3 may increase under some agriculture/land use change, and VOCs may increase with CCS and electricity generation.

Indoor air pollution is also highly affected by Net Zero. Policies to reduce household energy emissions can reduce air change rates in properties by increasing air tightness. Many modern insulation materials also have high embodied carbon and have high off-gasing of toxic compounds. These negatively impact indoor air quality, and are further exacerbated by inadequate ventilation.

5.8.1.7 Inequalities (H7)

More deprived communities are exposed to higher levels of outdoor air quality (particulates) associated with traffic sources. Poor health status, adverse health behaviours, multiple environmental exposures and psychosocial stress are more prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups (Davies, 2017). These factors may mean that pollution exposure has greater impacts on the health of these groups, a so-called ‘triple jeopardy’ effect (Davies, 2017). The evidence for links between deprivation and poor air quality is stronger for NO2 than for PM2.5, because NO2 is higher close to roads where deprived households are more likely to be located. Further, modelling indicates that despite overall improvements in air quality, these inequalities in exposure remained until 2050 (Williams et al., 2018).

The prevalence of allergic rhinitis does not show a social gradient but pollution may exacerbate allergic symptoms in some conditions.

Households on low incomes have the worst housing quality. A recent scoping review (Ferguson et al., 2020) found that households with low socio-economic status generally experience poor indoor quality (with the exception of radon exposure levels).

5.8.1.8 Magnitude scores (H7)

Table 5.29. Magnitude scores for risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality

Country

Present Day

(impact of climate and emissions)

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

(impact of climate only)

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

(impact of climate only)

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

(impact of

climate only)

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

(impact of climate only)

England

High

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

High

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

High

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low) confidence

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

High

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scoring this future risk is difficult as the magnitude of outdoor air pollution impacts on health, wellbeing and health costs is very high. However, the role of climate hazards per se is rather small and uncertain. Present-day risks are scored from both climatic and non-climatic factors, and are therefore scored as high magnitude due to the high number of annual deaths attributed to outdoor air pollutants. There is high confidence in this estimate and the underlying epidemiology. There is very little evidence regarding the direct impact of climate change on future indoor air quality.

Future impacts of outdoor air pollution are determined by future emissions and future climate change, but the effect of future emissions is by far the most significant factor. There is potential for air pollution to increase under some future pathways (relating to emissions, Net Zero, and climate change). Therefore, we have scored the risks as low confidence due to the high level of uncertainty (this uncertainty relates to which future pathways occur rather than the scientific uncertainty).

The future level of risk is assessed in terms of increases in pollution-attributable deaths due to climate change, as this is the only measure of impact available. Several studies for the UK and Europe indicate an increase in ozone-attributable deaths and hospitalizations.

5.8.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H7)

5.8.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risk (H7)

Current policies for addressing outdoor and indoor air quality in general are discussed by country. Managing wildfire risks are discussed in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and not in this chapter. Some UK policy is national but local and regional strategies are also required to implement actions to reduce air pollution.

The UK commitment to Net Zero will make a dramatic difference to both indoor and outdoor air pollution burdens, because as it is implemented it has the potential to remove most combustion based emission sources and change the ventilation characteristics of buildings (see discussion above). This makes the assessment of adaptation benefits and shortfalls very difficult as the policy environment will be significantly different in future decades. Especially regarding indoor air quality, there needs to be an optimisation process to against adaptation and mitigation objectives, as well as health benefits and harms.

5.8.2.1.1 UK-wide

The UK Clean Air Strategy (2019) sets out how air quality will be improved and monitored in the UK (Defra, 2019b). The strategy sets new targets and actions to cut public exposure to particulate matter, so that the number of people living in locations above the World Health Organisation guideline levels of 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5 is reduced by 50% by 2025 relative to a 2016 baseline. Strategies for pollution reduction include Clean Air Zones and the promotion of electric vehicles. The strategy also includes action to reduce build-up of indoor air pollutants in homes and other buildings. As well as direct benefits to health, these policies protect the natural environment and cultural heritage.

The Clean Air Strategy does not consider the effects of climate change hazards (changes in temperature, humidity and rainfall) on future air quality, and does not include specific actions to assess the incremental risk from climate change. The Clean Air Strategy focuses on reductions in emissions of air pollutants. It is likely that efforts to reduce emissions will reduce the risk from climate change for annual mean particulates (PM2.5). However, this may not be true for ground level ozone (in some circumstances), airborne pollen/moulds or air pollution caused by wildfires.

All countries in the UK undertake daily monitoring of outdoor air pollutants (including pollen) and have public health strategies for dealing with acute weather-driven episodes of poor air quality. Air pollution and socio-economic status links are important as there is the potential for inequalities as a result, which create disproportionate disease risks in more vulnerable and susceptible population groups. There is a need to enhance air pollution and health monitoring and modelling networks as well as environmental public health surveillance mechanisms to better target interventions and evaluate impacts.

The UK has enacted the EU Directives on air quality (Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC, on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (the Air Quality Directive) and Directive 2004/107/EC (the Fourth Daughter Directive), and EU Directive 2016/2284/EU). The EU has begun infraction proceedings against the UK for failing to reduce NO2 levels. Following EU-Exit, there remains uncertainty at the time of writing on future UK-wide air quality targets, and how these will be scrutinised and enforced by the Office for Environmental Protection in England, and equivalent environmental enforcement bodies in the devolved administrations.

The CMO Annual Report (2017) made several recommendations to improve air quality, including that future UK government national standards for air pollutants, developed within the next five years, should be increasingly stringent and driven by an ambition to protect human health (Davies, 2017). The report did not address the issue of climate change.

Pollen exposures are managed through health advice and public warning systems (Met Office Pollen counts). There are relatively few options to reduce pollen exposures. Land management, urban planning and tree planting activities can exacerbate or reduce allergenic exposures. Tree plantation is important to mitigate against rising concentrations of ambient pollutants leading to allergic exacerbations. Modifying the timing of grass cutting practices in the UK to be prior to flowering and the production of pollen (Fleming et al., 2018) is another possibility. Further work is currently underway to model the environmental predictors of key allergenic species across the UK. This would facilitate the prediction of spatial distribution, timing of start and peak pollen exposure and concentrations of pollen grains in species under both current and future climate scenarios, and possibly facilitate better pollen forecasts (Fleming et al., 2018).

In terms of biological pollutants, the management of allergenic invasive species, such as a ragweed, is the responsibility of individual landowners. Options include biological control (beetles) or insecticides (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). Defra issues guidance for the control of ragweed/ragwort as it is also a danger to animals (Defra, 2015b).

For England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, various strategies exist to improve air quality, though only the Welsh example looks specifically at the potential change in risk due to climate change for outdoor or indoor air quality. Some of the main strategies and updates since CCRA2 was published are summarised briefly below.

5.8.2.1.2 England

Defra and local authorities have made significant progress in developing interventions that reduce outdoor air pollution concentrations, particularly related to vehicle emissions. New policies from Defra need regulatory impact assessments that include cost-benefit analyses. The NICE guidance on air pollution has a wide range of recommendations relating to planning, development, driving, and active travel (NICE, 2017).

  • The Environment Bill (at the time of writing) aims to deliver key parts of the Clean Air Strategy and introduces a duty to set a legally-binding targets for fine particulate matter concentrations, and a duty to set a long-term air quality target.
  • According to the NAP2 updates provided to the CCC as part of their progress reporting (available on the CCC website), Cleaner Air is one of Public Health England’s (PHE’s) top ten strategic priorities, as set out in PHE’s Strategy 2020–2025. PHE is developing a five-year programme of work which aims to reduce the sources of air pollution and people’s exposure to it, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.
  • Indoor air quality is gaining increased recognition as part of the building approval and assessment process, e.g. the BRE Home Quality Mark includes indoor pollutants, and there is the intention to include it in building standards but these are not in place as yet. NICE has issued new updated guidance on indoor air quality with specific recommendations (NICE, 2020). The CCC have also stated that there is a need for an integrated approach to addressing energy efficiency, ventilation and overheating in buildings. In ultra-energy efficient homes, mechanical ventilation may be required to ensure adequate levels of indoor air quality, and this will become more important during episodes of hot weather. However, steps must be taken to improve the design, commission, and installation of these systems, with further research into how challenges in maintaining and operating them can be overcome. Indicators to measure instances of poor indoor air quality in homes are also needed. MHCLG proposed changes to Part F (ventilation) of Building Regulations in 2019–2021 for both new build homes and existing homes when undertaking work (including when installed common energy efficiency measures). The proposed changes aim to prevent homes becoming under-ventilated and less compliant with Part F as homes become more energy efficient.
  • At the regional level, the London Environment Strategy sets out the aim for London to have the ‘best air quality of any major world city’ by 2050, going beyond the legal requirements to protect human health and minimise inequalities (GLA, 2018). The City of London has also published an air quality strategy outlining actions that will be taken to improve air quality between 2019 and 2024, although again there is no consideration of potential impacts of climate change.
5.8.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The second Northern Ireland Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Daera, 2019) includes a reference to the potential risks from the changing climate on air quality, but doesn’t include specific actions to consider this further, beyond actions to improve air quality now. Northern Ireland are publishing a Clean Air Strategy Discussion Document in 2020 (Daera, 2020b).

5.8.2.1.4 Scotland

The ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future’ (CAFS) strategy was published by the Scottish Government in November 2015 (Scottish Government, 2015a). The purpose of CAFS is to provide a national framework which sets out how the Scottish Government and its partner organisations propose to achieve further reductions in air pollution and fulfil their legal responsibilities as soon as possible. As of 2020, there is a consultation on Cleaner Air for Scotland. The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Scottish Government, 2019a) also includes a dedicated section on air quality, making reference to the Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy, its review and other efforts to reduce air pollution through uptake of electric vehicles.

5.8.2.1.5 Wales

Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (2019) includes an action to ‘ensure climate change risk is considered in future policy development to improve air quality in Wales’. The main mechanism for this is the Welsh Government-published The Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales. The Plan sets out a 10-year pathway to achieving cleaner air (Welsh Government, 2020a) with consideration of long-term timescales and particular references to climate risk. Areas of interest to this risk include:

  • Improving biodiversity and ecosystem health through nature based solutions to enhance resilience to air pollution and climate change impact.
  • Use of a climate mapping model to identify pollution exceedences.
  • Research currently underway to assess how housing design, materials and use affect levels of indoor air pollution, and consideration of mitigation measures.

At time of writing, a review of Building Regulations part F (ventilation) is also underway in Wales. The future risk of overheating and potential impacts on air quality are being considered.

5.8.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H7)

Current and future exposures to air pollutants are primarily dominated by factors other than climate or weather. According to the CCRA3 methods, the risk is deemed to be managed if the incremental risk that is being driven by climate change will be managed down to a low magnitude in all future likely scenarios. However, air pollution is not being well managed (based on the current high burden to human health).

The possible change in risk from climate change is not yet factored into most air quality policy documents across the UK, with the exception of Wales where there is some consideration. There may be a gap in policies that seek to understand how the influence of climate change on future air pollution episodes might be managed.

Proposed changes to Building regulations in England for indoor air quality have not yet been brought into policy. It is not known if similar regulations will be introduced in the Devolved Administrations. Even if regulation is improved, the UK Government’sVentilation and indoor air quality in new homes’ paper has shown a large proportion of homes simply do not comply with the current building regulations‘ requirements, and poor indoor air quality has been observed in several sample homes tested (MHCLG, 2019e). Achieving very high levels of thermal efficiency in new homes requires increased airtightness and the use of Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems. MVHR technology has significant potential to improve air quality in homes, when properly designed, commissioned, installed, maintained and operated. However, there is also evidence that this is not always the case in current installations (CCC, 2019a). A range of studies have found cases of poor environmental conditions in houses with MVHR due to issues such as poor design and commissioning, and lack of education around use. As a result, inadequate ventilation can then exacerbate health risks due to poor air quality.

Therefore, given the gaps in assessing the effects of changing climate hazards on air quality, there is a shortfall in planning for future ground level ozone, pollen, indoor air quality, and air pollution caused by wildfire, as these hazards may increase significantly in some areas and at some times in the future depending on emissions trajectory. The policies in place to address all these risks in the present day could be improved to better address risks in the future. Our assessment therefore is that there is a partial adaptation shortfall.

5.8.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H7)

Table 5.30. Adaptation sources for risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

5.8.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H7)

The main actions that will have benefits in the next five years are further implementation of the Clean Air Strategy and uptake of the recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer. Any actions that reduce emissions of outdoor pollutants (and pollutant pre-cursors) will generally also have a positive effect on future air quality.

Further research is required on the implications of climate change for wildfire and pollen risks. Further research is needed on the interactions between air pollutants and heat exposures.

For indoor air pollution, NICE recommends the following actions to regulators to improve indoor air quality, which will also have benefits for future episodes of poor indoor air quality driven by hot weather, or increased levels of damp or mould (NICE, 2020):

  • Update existing ventilation standards, for example building regulations, or develop new ones for indoor air quality. Base them on current safe limits set for pollutants in residential developments. See, for example, World Health Organization guidelines on selected pollutants (WHO, 2010) and dampness and mould (WHO, 2009b), and the Public Health England indoor air quality guidelines for selected VOCs (PHE, 2019a).
  • Use existing building regulation enforcement activities to improve indoor air quality. Ensure enforcement takes place within the specified timelines. See the government’s Building Regulations 2010 (UK Government, 2010) and Housing health and safety rating system operating guidance, and the Planning Portal’s Failure to comply with the building regulations.

It is important to consider the health co-benefits and possible trade-offs of potential adaptation actions to address the climate-driven aspects of air quality. Nature-based solutions including tree planting have been proposed to improve air quality under climate change (Seddon et al., 2020). The effect of tree planting on air quality is dependent on the scenario, scale and species used, and it is unlikely to be a major intervention to improve air quality (AQEG, 2020). Air quality gains from nature-based solutions can be marginal and other actions are also needed. Additional benefits to health and wellbeing can be drawn from increased use of green spaces (Wuyts et al., 2008; Osborne et al., 2017; Fleming et al., 2018). Promoting the planting of trees, especially in urban areas along roads has complex effects. Vegetation can simultaneously act as a very local physical barrier (and pollutant depositional sink) between source and receptor, and as an impediment to pollutant dispersal. The net effect will be highly dependent on specific local factors, and it is not possible to generalise other than to say that it is a local effect. Tree planting may also have adverse effects for the concentration of pollen and increase allergic responses (Fleming et al., 2018; Scottish Government, 2020b).

5.8.3.1 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H7)

There has been detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of options for reducing outdoor air pollution, which have supported the development of national air quality standards and policies from the European Commission’s Clean Air For Europe package and policies (EC, 2013) and the UK Clean Air Strategy (Defra, 2019b) with well-established methods for valuation (Defra, 2020a). It is also highlighted that these existing air quality policies will significantly reduce air pollution levels, including background levels of regional pollution from Europe (which are important for particulate and ozone levels in the UK), as well as direct emissions from sources in the UK. This means future air pollution levels should be much lower than current, and the marginal effect of climate change will act on a much lower baseline (Lacressonnière et al., 2017). The future levels of air pollution will fall even further with the implementation of Net Zero policies.

There may be benefits of additional adaptation (to target climate-induced changes in air quality and with regards to Net Zero drivers) which could address the most climate-sensitive pollutants. Climate change could be more explicitly considered within existing air quality policies and identified air quality improvement measures). Potential areas where further action might be beneficial are improved early warning and response plans for extreme events, notably where there is an interaction between heat and air quality, and work on the costs and benefits of adaptation to improve indoor air quality.

5.8.3.2 Overall urgency Scores (H7)

The risks from air quality have been scored as further investigation for all UK countries. The level of incremental future risk from air pollution due to climate change could increase to a medium magnitude in the future, which would warrant an adaptation response. There is uncertainty over the degree to which climate change will act on some air pollutants such as wildfire-induced air pollution, pollen and the interactions with extreme heat or changing wind patterns, and further research is needed here. In addition, there is some uncertainty over the future baseline that climate change will be acting upon, as it is uncertain how far current policies will be effective in reducing air pollution. There is considerable uncertainty about the extent to which future risks from increased levels of ground level ozone will occur and need to be managed under higher levels of warming.

Finally, there is uncertainty in changes to policy for indoor air quality. More evidence is needed on the links to higher levels of warming and the adaptation options to address poor indoor air quality, particularly in the context of Net Zero policies.

Table 5.31. Urgency scores for risks to health and wellbeing from changes in air quality
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
confidenceMediumMediumMediumMedium

5.8.4 Looking ahead (H7)

In advance of CCRA4, research is needed to assess how changes to climate other than increasing temperatures, such as changing wind patterns and blocking episodes, could impact on air pollution levels. More research is needed on the interactions between air pollutants and heat exposures.

5.9 Risks to health from vector-borne disease (H8)

Climate change is projected to increase the risk of vector-borne diseases in the UK, particularly in Southern England. Hot summers have already affected transmission dynamics for vector borne disease. The mosquito vector of dengue has been found in the UK for the first time. Lyme disease cases may increase with climate change due to an extended transmission season and increases in person-tick contact. The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as chikungunya and dengue fever is likely to increase in England and Wales as temperatures rise. The risk that malaria may become established remains low. The risk of Culex-transmitted diseases such as West Nile Virus could increase in the UK.

Vector monitoring and disease surveillance are important strategies for addressing the risk from vector-borne diseases. Exit from the European Union may undermine actions to control vector-borne diseases through reduced access to international surveillance systems.

5.9.1 Current and future level of risk (H8)

Diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors (insects and ticks) are sensitive to temperature. There have been changes in observed distributions and seasonal activity of vectors since 2016.

Climate change impacts on vector-borne disease can be addressed through understandings of climate effects on the type of vectors:

  • Tick borne diseases, including Lyme disease.
  • Culex-transmitted diseases.
  • Mosquitoes (Aedes) transmitted diseases.

Information for current and future risks for these diseases are only available at the UK-level and has not been broken down by UK country here.

5.9.1.1 Current and future risks of tick-borne disease (H8)

There are about 20 species of tick that are endemic in the UK. It is the sheep, castor bean or deer tick (Ixodes ricinus) that are most likely to bite humans. Tick questing (waiting for a host to attach to) is climate (temperature and humidity) controlled, (Qviller et al., 2014; Ostfeld and Brunner, 2015). It has to be warm enough for the tick to be active but still moist enough so they do not desiccate.

Lyme disease is present throughout the UK. Typically, about 10% of Ixodes ricinus ticks are carriers. More cases are reported in Scotland, followed by parts of southern and southwest England (Tulloch et al., 2020). The laboratory-confirmed incidence of Lyme disease in England and Wales in 2016 was 1.95 cases per 100,000 (95%CI 1.84–2.06), whilst that identified in THIN (primary care data) was 3.06 (95%CI 2.47–3.75). The laboratory-confirmed incidence of Lyme disease in Scotland in 2016 was 3.15 cases per 100,000 (95%CI 2.70–3.65), in THIN it was 10.74 (95%CI 8.94–12.80). The laboratory-confirmed incidence of Lyme disease in Northern Ireland in 2016 was 0.21 cases per 100,000 (95%CI 0.07–0.52), in THIN it was 0.98 (95%CI 0.27–2.60) (Tulloch et al., 2020). The higher incidence in Scotland may be due to higher humidity and higher rates of recreational activity. If diagnosed soon after initial infection, Lyme disease can be treated effectively in humans with antibiotics. Misdiagnosed or untreated Lyme disease can lead to chronic illness, debilitating sequelae and costs to the health service (Mac et al., 2019).

The distribution of ticks has changed over time, which may have contributed to an increased number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease (ADAS, 2019). Climate change could be a cause of this change due to milder winters and warmer temperatures leading to increased tick-human contact patterns, however non-climate drivers such as agriculture, land use, tourism and wild animal populations could be a more dominant influence on incidence and distribution. Attribution of the different drivers, including climate change, is not possible.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a serious neurological disease. In Europe, TBE is transmitted by Ixodes ricinus ticks mostly in rural and forested areas of central, eastern and northern Europe. In 2019, TBE was discovered for the first time in the UK in ticks in two separate areas (Loeb, 2019; PHE, 2019d; Holding et al., 2020). Two probable cases of TBE infection in humans have since been diagnosed in England (Kreusch et al., 2019; PHE, 2020c). Some infections in humans are asymptomatic. There is a lack of evidence regarding the prevalence of TBE in the UK and the potential transmission dynamics, including the role of climate factors in transmission.

In the future, milder winters and higher temperatures could increase the exposure of people to ticks carrying Lyme disease or other pathogens (Medlock and Leach, 2015b). However, it may well be those indirect effects of climate on recreational activities (for example increased outdoor tourism) or other non-climate drivers (such as changes to land use and wild animal populations) that are a more important driver of transmission (PHE, 2021).

5.9.1.2 Current and future risk of Malaria (H8)

The UK has anopheline mosquito species capable of transmitting malaria and did so historically (Kuhn et al., 2003) with the most competent malaria transmitter being Anopheles atroparvus, which is widespread (Snow, 1998).

The current climate in the UK is already sufficiently warm in summer to allow uncontrolled malaria transmission, but higher temperatures would allow longer transmission seasons, as with other vector-borne diseases (Baylis, 2017). Malaria cases continue to be imported into the UK. PHE reported 1,683 cases imported into the UK in 2018 (PHE, 2018c), with the 10-year mean cases (2009-2018) of 1,589 (95% CI: 1,487-1,692). With a highly effective health service and effective treatment and control, malaria is unlikely to re-establish in the UK. Thus risk of local transmission is related to changes in the movement of people (the risk of introduction) as well as changes in temperature (Baylis, 2017).

The most recent risk assessment by ECDC (2017) found that localised events continue to occur in Europe but with no risk of forward transmission. Events were associated with either mosquito-borne transmission from an imported case (introduced malaria) or an imported infected mosquito (airport malaria). There is no evidence that climate change has contributed to these outbreaks. However, a reported outbreak of malaria in Greece in 2011 was linked to migrant workers who had been further displaced by migration following the floods in Pakistan (ECDC, 2011).

5.9.1.3 Current and future risk of arboviruses (H8)

Arboviruses of concern that affect humans include chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses, and these are all transmitted by Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito) that is currently expanding its range. This vector has been responsible for outbreaks of chikungunya and some cases of dengue in continental Europe. Metelmann et al. (2019) show the importance of this vector in the outbreaks of dengue in China that may be potentially useful as an analogue to the UK.

This mosquito is not endemic in the UK but has spread around the world , often in the trade of used tyres, from its original SE Asia home to many tropical and more temperate parts of the world. The mosquito is spreading into northern areas of continental Europe, becoming more established (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (2020), Mosquito Maps). The mosquito has been discovered multiple times in Kent (Medlock et al., 2017) but is not yet established in the UK. It is thought the mosquitoes were transported in a vehicle that had travelled from continental Europe.

A. albopictus mosquitoes appears to be able to adapt to non-tropical climates (Waldock et al., 2013). Caminade et al. (2012) examined the role of climate control on the vector’s current and future distribution in Europe and using a different modelling approach. Climate modelling indicates that southern England could be warm enough currently for establishment of the mosquito through overwintering of diapausing eggs, with several months of adult activity. Metelmann et al. (2019) focused on the UK and suggested the current, warmed, climate may be sufficient in small pockets, around the Thames Estuary, to currently sustain this mosquito. This area of suitability will spread in the future and within 50 years much of England and Wales may have a suitable climate. It is therefore important to ensure that all efforts are made to prevent A. albopictus and similar invasive disease vector mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti, Aedes japonicus and Aedes koreicus), currently established in Europe, from establishing in the UK (Medlock et al., 2017). Overall, the future risks from arboviruses in the UK is related to the risk of invasion by A. aegypti and A. albopictus which is facilitated by the future warmer climate (Baylis, 2017).

Culex modestus is a competent vector of West Nile virus (WNV) and was found established in two marshland sites of the Thames Estuary (Golding et al., 2012); it has since been found at other sites in SE England. It is seen as the main bridge vector between birds, humans and other animals, e.g. horses in the transmission of WNV, and human cases have been recorded in continental Europe. WNV could be introduced to the UK by migrating birds (Bessell et al., 2016). WNV has not been found in the UK but a related virus (Usutu) has been recently been found in migrating birds in the UK (Folly et al., 2020).

Temperature has been shown to increase vector competence of European mosquitos for West Nile Virus, and it is believed that cooler summer temperatures have so far limited the spread of the virus to Northern European countries. The risk of WNV outbreaks in the UK may thus increase with increasingly warm summers, likely due to viraemic migratory birds entering the UK from Northern and Western Europe (PHE, 2020c). Evidence of how the disease spreads has been observed in the US. There have been over 2,000 deaths from WNV in the US following the first case detected in New York state in 1999. The disease quickly spread through all remaining states and there is no prospect of eradication (Colpitts et al., 2012). The HAIRS (Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance) group at Public Health England consider that overall WNV impacts on the population is likely to be moderate or low due to the low prevalence, but introduction is assessed as likely or possible as the method of introduction is well understood and there are no mitigation measures. This assessment did not consider how risk may change in the future.

5.9.1.4 Lock-in and thresholds (H8)

There is a major risk of lock in for vectors and pathogens. Once introduced, it is extremely difficult for a zoonotic pathogen to be eradicated, as it will become established within the population of native fauna. The pathogens can also become adapted to their new hosts. For example, the West Nile Virus was introduced into the Americas in 1999, and is now established throughout North America.

Disease transmission systems have temperature-related thresholds for sustained transmission. However, these are not often clearly described.

5.9.1.5 Cross-cutting risks and interdependencies (H8)

There is an overlap with H2 as increased contact with nature, including urban parks, can increase the risk of contact with ticks.

Expanding areas of urban green and blue space as nature based solutions to other climate threats could potentially bring increased mosquito breeding grounds or tick-borne infections. Many key mosquito vector species thrive in natural wetland habitats. The creation of new wetlands to mitigate coastal and inland flooding may therefore have an impact on mosquito populations, and subsequently the risk of nuisance insects, and possibly disease transmission (Medlock and Leach, 2015a). Improvements to the design and management of wetlands can reduce mosquito densities, and are important to manage nuisance mosquitoes and control vector species in the event of a disease outbreak.

The risk of introduction of exotic vectors and pathogens is also discussed in Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021).

5.9.1.6 Inequalities (H8)

Evidence of inequalities in health burdens is only available for Lyme disease, as this is the only vector borne disease established in the UK. A recent study of reported cases in England found that Lyme disease patients generally originate from areas with higher socioeconomic status and are disproportionately located in rural areas (Tulloch et al., 2019). This may reflect both exposures and differences in health seeking behaviour as Lyme Disease is under-reported in the general population.

5.9.1.7 Magnitude scores (H8)

Quantified estimates of the future number of people that might be affected by these vector-borne diseases due to climate change cannot be determined. The magnitude of this risk (Table 5.32) is therefore assessed using expert judgement of the the potential risk of oubreaks and the economic costs associated with outbreaks, both in terms of direct health costs and measures for disease control. The current magnitude scores for England, Wales and Scotland have been assessed as medium, reflecting the current burden of vector-borne disease (Lyme disease). Northern Ireland is scored a low as the prevalence of Lyme disease is relatively low.

Table 5.32. Magnitude scores for risks to health from vector-borne disease

Country

Present Day

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Low

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Medium

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low

confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

The risks from lock-in are high because once a disease or vector is established, it may not be possible to eradicate the vector or the pathogen. For example, if WNV is introduced into the UK, it will not be possible to eradicate this virus. The economic costs could be potentially very high if any of the diseases assessed above become established. There may also be indirect costs due to impacts on leisure, travel and tourism.

The risk of Aedes albopictus is greater in southern areas of England and Wales due to projected increases in temperature. The future scores for England and Wales have therefore been assessed as a medium risk in the 2050s moving to high risk in 2080s. Risk is likely to be lower in Scotland and Northern Ireland but could still be significant, therefore risk has been assessed as medium across all years and pathways. All future scores have been assessed as a low confidence due to the uncertainty around the risk of introduction, although the mechanisms of introduction are generally well understood.

5.9.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H8)

5.9.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H8)

5.9.2.1.1 UK-wide

Vector-borne disease risks are controlled through vector control methods and treatment of human cases. Surveillance of cases and monitoring of vector species is an essential part of vector-borne diseas control:

  • The tick recording scheme (TRS) relies on members of the public to report and submit ticks. The ticks are not routinely screened for pathogens.
  • Surveillance of endemic and invasive mosquitoes is undertaken by the relevant health agencies in each UK nation through programmes on port surveillance, surveys of used tyres and other ad hoc measures. This surveillance was able to identify the presence of Aedes albopictus (see above).

Exit from the European Union could undermine actions to control vector-borne diseases through reduced access to European Centres for Disease Control. At the time of writing, it not known whether the UK will have continued access to international public health surveillance systems such as those coordinated by ECDC.

The relatively low awareness of Lyme Disease and other vector-borne diseases in the UK population compared with that seen in Europe may also result in some cases going unrecognised. There are concerns that GPs and other clinicians may not recognise emerging infections leading to late diagnoses and worse outcomes for patients.

UK policy on managing emerging infections is addressed through the cross-government Human Animal Infections Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) group, which provides advice to the Chief Medical Officer’s Advisory Panel on Dangerous Pathogens.

In 2021 it was announced that a new UK Health Security Agency will be set up to plan, prevent and respond to external threats to health including disease spread.

5.9.2.1.2 England

Surveillance of ticks relies on a passive surveillance scheme. The UK’s Tick Surveillance Scheme (TSS) began in 2005. Tick maps are produced by PHE and from the ‘Big Tick Project Survey’.

Reducing the public’s exposure to ticks, regular tick checking, and correct tick removal are crucial to minimizing risk. This can be managed through education and Public Health England (PHE) have developed Tick Awareness material and a Tick toolkit for local authorities and others.

Public Health England (PHE) maintains passive surveillance systems for notifiable diseases (clinicians report all cases of notifiable diseases). Public Health England has an ongoing mosquito surveillance programme which monitors 30 UK ports and airports. Since invasive mosquitoes became more widespread in France, surveillance has been conducted by PHE at motorway service stations in south east England on the main routes from the south coast ferry ports and Eurotunnel. Following the discovery of the invasive species of mosquito, Aedes albopictus, in Kent, action was taken to eradicate eggs and larvae, that is, control of mosquito aquatic habitats was done by the local authority within a 300 metre radius. Enhanced surveillance continued through to early November 2016, and no adult mosquitoes or any further eggs were detected (Medlock et al., 2017).

PHE is developing its capability to model and predict potential future changes in infection incidence related to climate change for some diseases.

The current invasive species strategy does not class species arriving in the UK due to climate change as invasive (Animal and Plant Health Agency, 2015). In addition, the strategy does not currently consider human health risks. The CCC (2019b) indicated that changes to disease surveillance were still insufficient to address climate-related risks in England.

5.9.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The Health Protection Service within the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA) has the lead role in protecting the population from infection and undertakes surveillance and monitoring of pathogens. It is not known what policies are in place within PHA to consider the increasing risk of vector-borne diseases with climate change. The second Northern Ireland Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Daera, 2019), reports on actions to address disease risks for plants and wildlife, but no actions are listed for human pathogens.

5.9.2.1.4 Scotland

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) is the Scottish National Surveillance centre for communicable diseases. Health Protection Scotland published updated information on ticks and Lyme disease in Scotland in 2018, including guidance on prevention and treatment. There is no other strategy or plan to further investigate other vector-borne diseases in the context of climate change (CCC, 2019c). The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Scottish Government, 2019a) also includes a section on vector-borne diseases and Lyme Disease in particular.

5.9.2.1.5 Wales

The climate related risk from vector-borne pathogens is recognised in the Welsh Government’s adaptation plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (2019) (Welsh Government, 2019f). One particular action seeks to increase understanding of the risk, with continued monitoring at ports and airports, and efforts to increase understanding of the risk, particularly from Lyme disease, with healthcare professionals. The plan commits to research what other action is needed and to survey where vectors are entering Wales in the future. There is a recognition that increased use of blue / green infrastructure as nature based solutions to other climate threats could increase the problem with native vectors, and therefore there is a commitment to work on avoiding this issue, working with Natural Resources Wales and other experts. This will include putting in place effective measures for urban and peri-urban blue and green space to prevent habitats for vectors.

The Public Health Wales (PHW) Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC) is the epidemiological investigation arm of the National Public Health Service for Wales. It aims to protect the population from infection through surveillance of infectious disease, support for outbreak investigation, provision of health intelligence and applied research. Again, it is not known how far the Centre has taken forward work to address any increased risk in vector-borne diseases from climate change. PHW has published guidance on what to do to avoid tick bites. It has also undertaken a climate change Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which includes the threat of increased vector borne pathogens. It is understood that the results of the HIA will influence improved policy in the area.

5.9.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H8)

Additional policies over and above the current agency oversight and surveillance systems are likely to represent low-cost and no regret options. For England and Wales, there may be more of a case for additional consideration of the risk from climate change in policy, surveillance and implementation, given the potential for medium magnitude effects in the future. This assessment has medium confidence.

5.9.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H8)

The adaptation scores (Table 5.33) are based on the magnitude of the risk and current policies in place. All countries have public health measures in place for the surveillance and control of vector-borne diseases. However, such measures can be strengthened, particularly for England and Wales where risk is greatest.

Table 5.33. Adaptation scores for risks to health from vector-borne disease
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.9.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H8)

Disease and vector surveillance is a public good. There would be direct benefits to improve disease and vector surveillance in all four countries, given the very large benefits of catching vectors and pathogens before they become established. There are benefits of further action, with many low regret options to improve or modify monitoring and surveillance systems. There are some estimates of impacts and studies of willingness to pay for vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis (Slunge, 2015). Further work on vector competence would also be beneficial. Further work on modelling risk if emergent vector borne disease due to climate change through laboratory and climate driven modelling studies is also needed.

The main benefits of further action are in enhanced monitoring and surveillance systems, including early warning, and these can be considered a low-regret option (WHO, 2013). Surveillance programs are highly cost effective. There are also studies that show that vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) may be cost-effective, for people who may be exposed through work, rather than the whole population (Desjeux et al., 2005; Slunge, 2015).

5.9.3.1 Overall urgency scores (H8)

The urgency of this risk has increased as impacts on vector-borne diseases from climate change may already be occurring in the UK. More action is needed in England as the warmest parts of the UK that are more likely to experience the first introductions of novel vectors and pathogens.

Table 5.34. Urgency scores for for risks to health from vector-borne disease
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreMore action neededFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
ConfidenceHighLowMediumMedium

5.9.4 Looking ahead (H8)

There are a range of evidence gaps that need to be addressed to inform the next risk assessment. Improved monitoring and surveillance of vectors and pathogens would allow more detailed modelling of current and future risks. More research is also needed to map the risks to vectors and disease risks from climate and land use change.

5.10 Risks to food safety and food security (H9)

Climate change is likely to be an important risk for food safety in the UK. Foodborne illness has significant health and social costs. Increases in extreme weather patterns, variations in rainfall and changing annual temperatures will impact the occurrence and persistance of bacteria, viruses, parasites, harmful algae, fungi and their vectors. There has been a lack of progress to address current and future risks from climate change in food systems. Climate change may also affect food security in the UK through variability in access to food due to disruptions to the supply chain, arising from weather events and climate hazards both in the UK and abroad. The UK currently is lacking in specific policies to address the implications of climate change for food safety or food security.

This risk has two parts (food safety and food security) that will be addressed separately as policy responses are different.

5.10.1 Current and future level of risk (H9)

5.10.1.1 Current risk (H9)

There is limited evidence for each UK country for this risk, so the assessment below is UK-wide only.

5.10.1.1.1 Current risk – Food Safety

Climate change is expected to be an increasingly important risk for food safety in the UK through both direct and inirect pathways. Increases in extreme weather patterns, variations in rainfall and changing annual temperatures will impact the occurrence and persistance of bacteria, viruses, parasites, harmful algae, fungi and their vectors. The risk to food safety varies by food type, as meat and eggs carry a higher risk of contamination than vegetables, for example.

Bacterial pathogens. Since CCRA2 there have been further epidemiological and other studies that quantify the impact of weather factors on the transmission of gastro-intestinal infections in the UK. The majority of research relates to temperature effects on Campylobacter and Salmonella cases. There is still uncertainty as to the precise mechanisms through which weather affects these diseases which make it difficult to assess the likely impact of climate change (Lake, 2017; Lake and Barker, 2018):

  • Campylobacter is an important food-borne disease. There is reasonable evidence that the environment and weather play a role in its transmission to humans as transmission demonstrates a strong seasonality (Rushton et al., 2019). Studies in other countries have confirmed this assocation (Rosenberg et al., 2018). The association with temperature may be indirect (Djennad et al., 2019). Annual FSA reporting on lab confirmed cases show that Campylobacter cases have not risen above a peak in reporting in 2012 and can be further supported by sampling of fresh whole UK-produced chilled chickens at retail sale (Food Standards Agency, 2020b). More recently, COVID-19 has been responsible for a drop in the reporting of foodborne disease (PHE, 2019b).
  • Salmonella is also an important cause of foodborne infections, but its incidence is declining in the UK. There are strong positive associations between Salmonella cases and ambient temperature, and a clear understanding of the mechanisms behind this.

Chemical contamination. The chemical contaminants that are a priority for food safety standards are:

  • Natural toxins (mycotoxins, marine biotoxins)
  • Environmental and process contaminants (e.g. dioxins, PCBs)
  • Pesticides

Food safety and quality are increasingly being assessed and climate hazards and change can have consequences for food. Chemical contamination can enter the food chain through a variety of sources, however there are concerns that heavy rainfall events may lead to increased runoff (for more detail on water quality, see Risk H10). There is currently very little evidence regarding the evidence for climate risks and chemical contamination of food.

Food safety in fish and shellfish. Food borne disease outbreaks and cases associated with fish and shellfish can occur due to weather patterns, pests, disease and changes to food manufacturing (GFS, 2014, 2019a). Currently shellfish and phytoplankton are monitored around the UK to track for biotoxins, E. coli and chemical contaminants by the Food Standards Agency (England, Northern Ireland, Wales) and Food Standards Scotland. Across the UK there have been incidences of weather-related toxin presentations in shellfish which can be harmful for human health. During a survey of Tetrodotoxin in shellfish around the UK, it was indicated that quantifiable amounts were present in shellfish from Southern England and one case in Scotland, with highest concentrations being identified in areas where sea temperature exceeded 15°C. Reports highlight that the link between sea temperature and the distribution of Tetrodotoxin in UK shellfish requires further investigation.

Additionally, shellfish-borne human Norovirus cases are estimated to be 21,000/year in the UK (high magnitude) with noroviruses being highly contagious, causing infectious intestinal disease and known to be very stable outside the human host whilst also being resistant to many disinfectants (Bresnan et al., 2020). Importantly, a dedicated study to detect new and emerging harmful algal bloom toxins did not identify any in shellfish in UK waters (Davidson et al., 2015; Turner et al., 2015). In 2018, it was identified that Vibrio species were present in shellfish during the summer months and survey data from June to September 2018 in Southern England highlighted the presence of various human pathogenic strains (Baker-Austin et al., 2018). Coincidentally, record high water temperatures were recorded during the 2018 summer which corresponded with a significant heatwave event in early June to August which may be attributable to the abundance of bacteria recorded (Bresnan et al., 2020). The Food Standards Agency has developed a climate-linked vibrio prediction model to assist in strategic surveillance and assessment of changing levels of future vibrio risk (Food Standards Agency, 2020a).

Mycotoxins. Furthermore, the UK food system can be disrupted by mycotoxins – toxic compounds produced by types of fungus – which favour certain temperature and moisture levels (Food Standards Scotland, 2015). These toxins can contaminate food, leading to adverse health consequences such as cancers, gastrointestinal and kidney disorders and reduced resistance to infectious disease. As climate change has led to more unpredictable weather events, changing temperature and rainfall variability, the potential for fungal species to be more prevalent and more rapid proliferation of infections is a future possibility across UK. From a workshop held in Scotland which explored the role of climate change in risks from mycotoxins on the Scottish/UK food system it was concluded that even a large scale mycotoxin event in a year would not cause a major impact on the domestic market and any shortfall in supply can be mitigated by imports (Food Standards Scotland, 2015).

5.10.1.1.2 Current risk – Food Security

The international dimensions of food security are addressed in Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021), but the implications for changes in imported and locally-produced food are addressed here in terms of likely impacts on public health. The UK population relies substantially on imports and a successful domestic agricultural sector (GFS, 2019b). The role of climate change in national UK productivity and the agricultural sector is complex (Cammarano et al., 2019) (discussed more widely in Risks N6 and N7 in Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021).

The UK currently imports food from over 160 countries and a fifth of fresh produce is imported from countries identified as increasingly facing climate associated risks (UK Parliament, 2020). Uncertainty regarding the future viability of international agricultural supply chains due to climate change could limit UK imports and have signficiant impact on certain food availabilities. For specific food groups, the proportion of fruit and vegetables supplied to the UK from climate vulnerable countries has increased from 20% in 1987 to 32% in 2013 (Figure 5.16: Scheelbeek et al., 2020b). The UK imports 18% of its fruit and vegetables from highly and moderately climate vulnerable countries including India, South Africa and Brazil, which has implications for future UK food security, especially with the exit from the EU (Office of Science and Technology, 2019). Extreme weather hazards can impact multiple production areas at the same time. Increasing reliance on imports from climate vulnerable countries risks availability and price and may impact the consumption of fruit and vegetables, which has significant consequences for human health (Scheelbeek et al., 2020a).

Shortages in food production inevitably drive food availability and affordability, which are important determinants of health and wellbeing. Systematic reviews of food price effects have demonstrated that there is sensitivity in consumption patterns to price in relation to target groups and also benefits of interventions (subsidies, taxes) in improving diets, (e.g. Afshin et al., 2017). Access to healthy and affordable food is a public health concern. The current system widely used in the UK is the ‘Just-in-Time’ (JiT) supply approach, which has benefits of maximising freshness and improved efficiency (UK Parliament, 2020). However, this system is vulnerable to disruption from climate impacts and shortages can occur relatively quickly (e.g. the UK experienced a climate-related vegetable shortage from Murcia, Spain in 2017, and associated prices increased by up to 300%) (see Chapter 7: Challinor and Benton, 2021).

Food shortages can compromise individual access to food and subsequently lead to poor health consequences. Evidence indicates that food insecure populations can adopt risk-adverse food purchasing, prioritising cheap foods with long-shelf lives to limit food wastage in households (The Food Foundation, 2016). Frequently, these foods are nutrient poor and highly caloric, which can increase individual risk of obesity. Furthermore, it is known that food insecurity is often associated with inadequate intake of fruit, vegetables and some essential micronutrients.

Figure 5.16. Change in share of total UK supply of fruit and vegetables: 1987-2013. Source: Scheelbeek et al. (2020b)

5.10.1.2 Future risks (H9)

5.10.1.2.1 Future risk – Food Safety (H9)

There has been limited UK research on quantifying future risks to food safety from climate-related events. There are no published projections of future impacts of temperature-related diarrhoeal disease or related outcomes for the UK. The overarching assumption regarding climate change and risks to food safety in the UK is the unpredictability of the risk with the emergence of new pathogens and threats.

There are few studies that have estimated the risk for specific health outcomes. There have been studies that project future cases of temperature-sensitive pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter. For example, using a set of projections of warming slightly faster than the CCRA3 pathway to 4°C global warming by 2100[16], Kuhn et al. (2020) project over a doubling of Campylobacter cases in Nordic countries by the end of the 2080s under the RCP8.5 scenario, due to higher temperatures.

Modelling studies illustrate the potential impact of increased runoff on contamination risks for shellfish. A study of 19 combined sewer overflows into coastal waters in the North West of England indicate an annual increase in spill volume and duration by 2080 (Abdellatif et al., 2015). Furthermore, a substantive body of evidence largely agrees on warmer sea temperatures along the North-West European Shelf (NWS) within the end-of-century climate projections, with the projected local warming ranging between 1°C and 4°C with a scenario of approximately 4°C global warming by 2100[17] (Tinker and Howes, 2020). With this projected warming, there is an increased likelihood of greater abundance as well as a risk window for Vibrio infections to occur in the UK and NWS.

5.10.1.2.2 Future risk – Food Security (H9)

Increasingly warmer temperatures have implications for longer periods of crop growth and livestock being able to be outdoors, presenting possible opportunities for the UK agricultural sector. However, the growing season is likely to be disrupted by heat stress and reduced summer precipitation, with an earlier start to the growing system exposing crops to possible frosts, e.g. fruits (Ch.3 Risk N6). Globally, imported fish yields and body size (meat yields) of marine produce are predicted to diminish with a 1-2°C global temperature increase (Baudron et al., 2014; Deutsch et al., 2015). Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021) discuss risks to marine production in more detail in Risk N14 and ID1.

Whilst the climate-linked availability of food in the UK is unlikely to be an immediate issue, it is expected that the international food system will be more vulnerable to climate shocks. As a result food price spikes may become more common in the UK as produce availability is limited, with low-probability events being more common, e.g. tropical storms and extreme heatwaves in 2019 (National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine, 2019). Some project a 20% mean food price rise in 2050 globally as a result of climate change, however this has a range of 0% to 60% (CCC, 2019f). A sharper rise in food prices is predicted using models with higher warming scenarios (CCC, 2019f). Importantly, changes to production of primary food produce (crops and livestock) are likely to be negatively impacted at both the 2°C and 4°C global warming scenario (Porter et al., 2014).

The volatility in the global food trade can have significant health consequences, as food shortages can incur reductions in quality and safety and also introduce issues of food fraud – substitutions in ingredients for cheaper versions. Furthermore, much of the UK food stock is reliant upon European countries, and now that the UK has left the EU there are risks of exposure to poorer quality produce from countries with reduced governance over natural resources and less resilient supply chains (Benton et al., 2020); at the time of writing, it remains unclear how big this risk is. Possible changes in the reliance on ‘just-in-time’ supply chains for fruit and vegetables from Europe may be expected, with potential shortages in some produce as new trade agreements are settled. Whilst COVID-19 does not represent a climate shock, it demonstrated the impact global crises can have on the UK food system. The Food Foundation published a report indicating that in the first months of the lockdown measures, adult food insecurity increased four-fold (Loopstra, 2020). The report indicates that 40% of this food insecurity was explained by a lack of food available in shops noted to be due to disruptions in the supply chain, with supermarkets experiencing acute shortages for some items.

Additional reasons for the rise in food insecurity were economic constraints and individuals being required to isolate. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the potential consequence of climate hazards to UK food security through increased demand, disruptions to supply chains and economic limitations.

From the current UK evidence there appears to be a potential threat to the bioavailability of micronutrients and food quality (Food Standards Agency, 2015). Globally, evidence suggests that climate change may impact the bioavailability of some micronutrients including iron and zinc, as these minerals are more susceptible to changes in plant physiology as a result of climate change (Environmental Audit Committee, 2020a) (Chapter 7: Challinor and Benton, 2021). UK food selenium concentrations may be affected by climate driven geographical shifts to more northerly farmland, where soil composition has a higher concentration of selenium. This may lead to an increase in UK dietary selenium, which has been identified as potentially protective for prostate cancer (Food Standards Agency, 2015). A potential health risk may be through a push for more localised produce, which has varied mineral soil concentrations, increasing the potential for toxicity from soil with high natural levels of copper, lead or industrial residues (Food Standards Agency, 2015).

5.10.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H9)

Lock-in risks are not yet understood relating to food safety and security.

There are temperature thresholds associated with food safety risks, based on air temperature (Salmonella, Campylobacter) and sea surface temperatures. For example, there is a linear association between temperature and the number of reported cases of salmonellosis above a threshold of 6°C in England (with similar values seen in other European countries) (Kovats et al., 2004). There are thresholds within the capacity of the food system, particularly in relation to imports and distribution systems that can get overwhelmed or disrupted.

5.10.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H9)

This risk on food security links directly to Risk ID1 ‘Risks to UK food availability, safety, and quality from climate change overseas’, which relates to potential changes in the quality and quantity of imported food. The risk also overlaps with Risk N6 ‘Risks to and opportunities for agricultural and forestry productivity from extreme events and changing climatic conditions (including temperature change, water scarcity, wildfire, flooding, coastal erosion, wind’ and see Risk ID7 (Chapter 7: Challinor and Benton, 2021) looking at the risks from pathogens to agriculture and the marine environment.

5.10.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H9)

There are implications for diet and nutrition of the Net Zero pathways in the UK. Agricultural policies can reduce emissions through changing land use and dietary preferences, e.g. plant versus animal-based products (Willett et al., 2019). The UK government is still in the process of developing policies to promote sustainable diets. Scotland recently published a collation of evidence regarding Scottish agriculture and achieving Net Zero by 2045 (Lampkin et al., 2019).

There may be benefits or harms in terms of impacts on trade in food regarding transport options (see Chapter 7: Challinor and Benton, 2021).

5.10.1.6 Inequalities (H9)

Current issues of food poverty are still prevalent in the UK, as the number of food emergency parcels distributed by Trussell Trust food banks increased from 500,000 in 2014 to more than 800,000 by 2019 (UK Parliament, 2020). With the risks of a changing climate and increasing numbers of climate shocks impacting the global food system, it is reasonable to predict possible food shortages or food price spikes which may exacerbate the issue of food poverty in the UK (UK Parliament, 2020). Food price increases have the most significant consequences for low-income families as 15% of their expenditure is allocated to food spending, compared to a 7% food expenditure by the UK’s most-affluent (GFS, 2019b). To feed a future global population of 10 billion, some experts suggest dietary changes are necessary to not exceed planetary boundaries (Environmental Audit Committee, 2020a). However, it is not easy for lower socio-economic groups to afford a diet which is healthy and sustainable. A cost analysis of the UK Eatwell Guide indicated that the poorest fifth of the UK population would require spending 42% of disposable income to follow the Government recommended diet (Environmental Audit Committee, 2020a). Climate change has the ability to create or amplify inequalities regarding healthy food access in the UK, as it is known that in 2016 20% of UK residents were classified as food insecure (Loopstra et al., 2019). Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are moving into a period of financial uncertainty which will likely impact the most vulnerable exponentially. If future climate-related food shocks are predicted, it is likely that low-income families will be the most effected. Additionally, as the UK prepares to exit the EU, new food trade agreements will be initiated which may compromise food standards, such as antibiotic treated meat to protect against diseases. Climate risks to food systems and food insecure populations are more widely discussed in the Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021) vulnerability case study.

5.10.1.7 Magnitude Scores (H9)

The social costs of poor food safety are quite high due the reported prevalence of temperature-sensitive illnesses such as campylobacteriosis and samonellosis. Therefore even relatively small changes in incidence would entail important changes in the number of cases.

The impacts on food security are uncertain but are potentially high magnitude, as they would affect a large number of people. Further there are significant equity implications for decreased food availability.

Table 5.35. Magnitude scores for risks to food safety and food security

Country

Present Day

(current climate risks)

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

UK

high

(Low confidence)

high

(Low confidence)

high

(Low confidence)

high

(Low confidence)

high

(Low confidence)

5.10.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H9)

5.10.2.1 Effect of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risk (H9)

5.10.2.1.1 UK wide

There are a range of adaptation measures to address food safety and security. Actions to address food security are are primarily discussed in Chapter 3, Risk N7 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7, Risk ID1 (Challinor and Benton, 2021).

There is currently no specific policy to address climate change risks to food safety per se. This lack of adaptation was recently highlighted by the WHO which urged State health authorities to be more aware of and prepared for the specific increase in food-borne risks associated with climate change, and draft national plans (including financing and investment plans) accordingly (WHO, 2018a). Provision of scientific risk assessments can provide the evidence basis for the development and adoption of food safety standards and guidance on food safety measures, as well as to provide risk assessment on emerging food safety risks.

Current food control measures across the UK are likely to change after 1st January 2021 when the transition period following the exit from the EU has ended. At the time of writing, the post-Brexit food regulation regime for the UK was still being negotiated. EU regulatory standards are among the highest in the world and prioritise prevention of contamination over remediation. The main concern of food safety post-EU Exit has been the importation of low quality and contaminated food products from the US (Lang and Millstone, 2019).

5.10.2.1.2 England

Most of the relevant policies for England are covered under the UK section above and in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021). It is also noted that the Food Standards Agency was due to update its review of climate change impacts on food safety and security published in 2015, but at the time of writing this had not yet taken place.

Defra have published part one of the National Food Strategy responding to COVID-19 and the transition period after leaving the EU. Part two of the strategy is expected to be published in the summer 2021, with a White Paper government response 6-months following.

5.10.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

In addition to the UK-wide policies above (and highlighted in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021), the Going for Growth report proposes an integrated supply chain from farm to customer, but does not explicitly address critical elements of the supply chain that are upstream from regional farm production processes, such as imports of feed, fuel/energy, fertilizer and other agri-chemicals.

5.10.2.1.4 Scotland

In addition to the UK-wide policies above (and highlighted in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021)), across Scotland some sampling for mycotoxins is carried out by local authorities, however this is largely focussed on imports, with limited enforcement on domestic grain or retail products (Food Standards Scotland, 2015). Food Standards Scotland sets out the overall policy for the monitoring and classification of shellfish harvesting areas (Food Standards Scotland, 2017). Agencies across Scotland are currently collaborating with national and local governments, civil societies and the farming industry to prioritise sustainable food systems and protect food security at the subsequent COP26 in Glasgow, 2021.

A recent consultation for the new Good Food Nation Bill has been published which aims for a transition of food legislation to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system protecting future generations. Additionally, the published National Planning Framework 4 Position Statement highlights the potential planning policy changes which include prioritising planning for allotments and community growing spaces. Whilst these strategies are not aimed as adaptation action, they indicate ways that at the local level food availability can be more secure. However, there are issues of scale in the implementation of such strategies as they are unlikely to influence national level food security concerns.

5.10.2.1.5 Wales

In addition to the UK-wide policies above (and highlighted in Chapter 3 (Berry and Brown, 2021) and Chapter 7 (Challinor and Benton, 2021)), the impacts of climate change on food safety in Wales is being considered in a Climate Change Health Impact Assessment, commissioned by Public Health Wales. The outcome of the study should help inform future policy.

5.10.2.2 Adaptation Shortfall (H9)

The future risks of food-borne diseases in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently determined to be medium-low but there is much uncertianty about future policy in the area of food safety, and the risks could grow to a high magnitude by the end of the century.

Activities such as horizon scanning are likely to be needed to understand the changing risks to food safety and security in the UK further. Food early warning systems or food risk detection systems may also play an important role in mitigating and adapting to climate change-induced food threats.

The Environmental Audit Committee (2020a) attributed increasing food poverty to the following three themes: low incomes and rising living costs; Universal Credit and the benefits system; and cuts to funding for local social care services. Climate change may affect food access (availability and price) in the UK through changes in imports of fruit and vegetables; with fluctuations in price it increasingly becomes difficult for low-income groups to afford a healthier diet (Environmental Audit Committee, 2020a).

The UK Government disagreed with the high urgency score given to food security risks in the CCRA2 Evidence Report. The Our Planet, Our Health Environmental Audit Committee report (Environmental Audit Committee, 2020b) recommended the UK Government accept the Climate Change Committee’s advice from CCRA2 regarding food security risks, and indicate how best to navigate food security in a changing climate. The Committee assessed that government had failed to recognise and respond domestically, and had allowed these issues to ‘fall between the cracks’.

There is a shortfall in adaptation in relation to both food access and food safety. There are likely to be emerging issues for food safety from climate change that are not adequately planned for. There are currently no explicity additonal policies that consider climate risks.

5.10.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H9)

Table 5.36. Adaptation scores to risks to food safety and food security
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

5.10.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H9)

Activities such as horizon scanning and continuous monitoring are necessary to ensure current regulations are adequate as the future to the food system is increasingly uncertain from possible emerging diseases due to climate change.

Routine monitoring of food security across the UK is also essential to protect public health and limit unecessary costs for the health and social care system. Predicting future climate risks to the UK food system will ensure vulnerable groups to food insecurity are protected and the impacts to public health are minimised.

As mycotoxins may be an increasing risk the UK food system in the future, some proposed strategies in agriculture and food transport can limit the risk of fungal infections (e.g. optimal harvest timing). Additionally, adopting new farming techniques such as deep ploughing to control ergot (proposed in the Scottish Quality Crops Farm Assurance Guidance), targeting fungicide application, planting crop resistance varieties and introducing bio-control or genetic modification measures may limit the introduction of fungal spores to crops and the subsequent food system, though there are trade-offs with some of these measures, including deep ploughing (which can increase soil erosion and carbon losses) and increased used of pesticides (Food Standards Scotland, 2015).

5.10.3.1 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H9)

The economic impacts of food-borne disease and food safety are well understood. The FSA has developed a cost of illness model, monetising direct and indirect costs associated with food-borne illness (including food-borne Norovirus, Salmonella and Campylobacter). Measures to improve food safety, food regulations and education on food handling and safety, coupled with horizon scanning and continuous monitoring for emerging risks, are likely to be a low regret option (WHO, 2013).

There are some economic studies that have assessed the economic benefits of maintaining or reducing food related disease cases in the UK under future climate change (e.g. Kovats et al. (2011)), and these find the economic benefits could be significant if the current levels of infection are maintained or increased.

For food security, there are existing actions being taken to build the resilience of food supply chains, though these have a focus on the private sector. However, the complexity of supply chains and their multi-staged processes, coupled with the uncertainty around climate change impacts, indicates that the private sector might struggle to take all appropriate actions, and there is a role for Government to play in removing some of the barriers to enable and encourage private sector adaptation, as well as ensuring a higher level of resilience along supply chains. There has been some analysis of adaptation options in this area (Watkiss et al., 2019b) which has identified early low and no-regret options, but also highlighted the need for adaptive management, research and learning.

5.10.3.2 Overall urgency Scores (H9)

Due to the large burden of disease associated with food safety, this risk may have significant impacts. There is also the potential for significant impacts from near term shortages in access to healthy foods. It can be argued that futher action is needed to address the impact of climate change on food security but this is highly uncertain. Due to the high levels of uncertainty, this risk is assessed for further investigation across the UK.

Table 5.37. Urgency scores for risks to food safety and food security
CountryEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
ConfidenceMediumMediumMediumMedium

5.11 Risks to water quality and household water supply (H10)

Climate change and reduced summer precipitation resulting from climate change will increase the likelihood of periods of water scarcity and droughts, which together with demand increases from economic and population growth may lead to interruptions of household water supplies and associated health, social and economic impacts, particularly for vulnerable households. Parts of the UK, particularly within South East England, are already water stressed, and analysis of the impacts of climate change on future water supply identify that deficits are likely by the middle of the century in other parts of England and parts of Wales. Private water supplies are most vulnerable to current and future climate hazards that affect water quality (outbreaks) and quantity (interruption of supply), and are particularly important for more isolated communities. Climate change may increase the risk of contamination of drinking water through increased runoff and flooding events that overwhelm current water treatment approaches. Risks to health from contact with bathing water (sea, lakes and rivers) and harmful algal blooms may also increase with climate change.

This chapter covers a range of different pathways by which climate change may affect health and wellbeing through changes in water quality (drinking water or bathing water) and potential interruptions in household water supply. Public water supplies are discussed in detail in Chapter 4 (Risk I8: Risks to Public Water Supplies from reduced water availability: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021).

5.11.1 Current and future level of risk (H10)

There are several mechanisms by which climate hazards may affect water quality:

  • Heavy downpours can increase the amount of runoff into rivers and lakes, washing sediment, nutrients, pollutants, rubbish, animal waste, and other materials into water supplies, making them unusable, unsafe, or in need of water treatment.
  • High temperatures can affect concentrations of pollutants in water directly.
  • High temperatures and low flows can increase concentrations of pollutants.
  • Sea level rise, heavy rainfall, and coastal erosion can increase pollution from historical landfills.

With regards to potential risks for water supply resulting from water scarcity and drought, this risk focusses on risks to individuals, families and communities. Risks for water companies and related infrastructure are addressed in detail in Chapter 4 (Risk I8: Risks to Public Water Supplies from reduced water availability: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021).

Private water supplies are particularly at risk of contamination. Recent hot summers have highlighted that private water supplies are vulnerable to dry and warmer weather and it is likely as the climate continues to change that more private supplies will dry out (DWQR, 2018).

5.11.1.1 Current risks (H10)

Evidence for some of this risk is available by UK country, particularly relating to observed effects from recent climate events (heatwaves, heavy downpours, reduced precipitation). However, the epidemiological evidence regarding the associations between meteorological factors and impacts is relevent to all UK countries.

The evidence for the effect of climate hazards for this risk relies on a range of observational studies and reported impacts of recent extreme weather events. Failures in treatment or supply are reported under current systems. The evidence is reviewed first for current risks for the range of pathways, and then evidence for future risks. For water supply, evidence for future risk is limited, as whilst the HR Wallingford research on future water availability for CCRA3 provides information on where supply deficits are likely to occur, evidence on whether these then lead to interruptions in household supply and temporary use bans is limited.

5.11.1.1.1 Water Quality

There is evidence of an association between weather factors, bathing water quality and infectious intestinal disease (Eze et al., 2014). A rapid evidence assessment on recreational bathing waters and gastrointestinal illness found that there is a consistent significant relationship between faecal indicator organisms and gastro-intestinal infections in freshwater, but not marine water (King et al., 2015). There does not appear to have been much new research on this topic since the CCRA2 for populations in the UK.

Heavy rainfall can be a risk for water quality and has been linked to cases of human disease. With increasing extreme rainfall frequency, associated run off and storm surges, greater pressure will be exerted on sewer systems, potentially increasing virus and pathgen loads (Hassard et al., 2017).

Climate hazards affect the current management of drinking water quality. Treatment failures have been reported in all UK countries associated with extreme weather events, particulary heavy rainfall. The hot summers of 2018 and 2019 were associated with failures in supply, predominantly in private water supplies (e.g. see SCCAP2, Scottish Government 2019a), but also in some piped supplies. There is a lack of evidence regarding the impacts of reduced supplies or loss of supply on water quality.

Box 5.5. Risks of chemical contamination from climate hazards

Flooding and heavy rainfall can lead to the mobilization of dangerous chemicals from storage, or remobilization of chemicals already in the environment, e.g. pesticides. The UK has a considerable legacy of contaminated land related to dispersed pollution and historical landfill sites.

H3: Risks to people, communities and buildings from flooding: Major floods risk damaging industrial infrastructure (Chapter 4, Risk H3: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) increasing the risk of a potentially harmful chemical release. Epidemiological evidence shows that chemical material may contaminate homes during flood events (Euripidou and Murray, 2004). The risk is greater when industrial or agricultural land adjoining residential land is flooded.

H4: Risks to coastal communties from sea level rise: Many historic landfill sites are located in low-lying coastal areas that need to be protected (Beaven et al., 2020). Sea level rise or coastal erosion may expose new hazards and increase the risk of contamination of soil, water or air. The responses to climate change (adaptation or relocation) may further exacerbate the problem (Brand, 2017; Beaven et al., 2018).

H9: Risks to food safety and food security: Chemical contamination of food can occur from increased rainfall and runoff, causing contamination of food with pesticides and other chemicals (see Risk H9 on food safety) (Boxall et al., 2009).

H10: Risks to water quality and household water supply (H10): Climate change may lead to contamination of water by several pathways. Elevated levels of dissolved organic carbon can interfere with the effectiveness of disinfection processes and therefore increase the potential for the population to be exposed to health-damaging pollutants (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). Wildfires can also mobilise chemicals, and there have been examples of reservoirs contaminated by ash, organics and heavy metals from burning peat (Kettridge et al., 2019).

5.11.1.1.1.1 England and Wales

Climate hazards affect current drinking water quality. Treatment failures are reported due to heavy rainfall events. In 2017, there were 504 incidents in England (216 were significant and 10 were serious (Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI)) (DWI, 2017).

Outbreaks of waterborne pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium, can be caused by heavy rainfall and have the potential to infect large numbers of households (DWI, 2017; 2019c). High levels of other pathogens (E. coli, Enterococci and Clostridium perfringens) have also been detected in water supplies following weather events (DWI, 2017). Over half of all coliforms (50/98) detected in water supplies and reservoirs during 2019 were in a period associated heavy and prolonged rainfall (DWI, 2019c).

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) indicated that adverse weather is one of the biggest risks to discolouration and interruptions of public water supplies in Wales. United Utilities was deemed the company at highest risk for failure to meet standards and has subsequently undertaken remedial measures (DWI, 2018b). The DWI suggests there is a potential link between the combination of heat, rain and potential ingress, increasing the likelihood of public supply failures (DWI, 2019c).

High temperatures also increase the risk of algal blooms in freshwater. A notable blue-green algal bloom was recorded in the Lake District in 2018 (Atkinson, 2019).

Higher temperatures may increase the risk of infectious diseases through contact with surface water. Average levels of non-viral gastrointestinal infections increased as temperature and relative humidity increased. Increasing levels of faecal indicator organisms in bathing waters were also associated with an increase in the average number of viral and non-viral gastrointestinal infections.

As of 2019 local authorities have reported a total of 37,702 and 13,880 private water supplies (PWS) in England and Wales respectively. In England, over 795,000 live or work in premises that rely on a private supply whilst this figure is 71,000 in Wales (DWI, 2019a; b). Reports indicate that 3.4% and 6.2%, repsectively, of tests on English and Welsh private water supplies in 2019 failed to meet the European and national standards (DWI, 2019a). However, compared to 2010, this is a vast improvement for England, as 9.6% PWS failed European and national standards in that year (DWI, 2019a). A rural community in the South-West of England experienced loss of water and periods of insufficiency in March 2018 (DWI, 2018a). Some local residents investigated the issue and determined the cause of insufficiency to be due to a burst on an unoccupied property following a freeze-thaw event due to the ‘Beast from the East’. The issue being an increased flow demand during the burst thus causing rapid drainage of the service reservoirs leading to decreases in pressure to upstream properties. Residents, consequently, operated a valve (determined non-essential during council’s risk assessment) overnight to boost pressure to their properties which led to a reduction in flow to downstream properties. Eventually, the initial burst was repaired which restored supply to normal levels, however quality remained sub-optimal and the Inspectorate deemed this a risk to human health (DWI, 2018a).

5.11.1.1.1.2 Northern Ireland

There is little evidence on climate factors and water-related infections or illness in Northern Ireland. No incidences have been detected relating to disruption of water quality in private water supplies from climate-related events or hazards since CCRA2. No incidences of climate-related failures of drinking water quality by public water supplies were reported from 2017 onwards.

5.11.1.1.1.3 Scotland

There have been several incidences of water contamination following heavy rainfall. Water that does not meet microbiological standards (DWQR, 2017) can result in a temporary ban on drinking water, and bottled water needs to be distributed to the affected area (for example, in Orkney in 2017). Alternatively, a ‘boil water’ notice can be issued to consumers (DWQR, 2017).

In 2019, only 43 of 61,514 tests undertaken failed standards in Scottish treatment works (DWQR, 2019). Due to the high temperatures over the summer of 2018, there was an increase in demand for water across Scotland. This resulted in depleting reservoir levels and high-water flows, which subsequently contributed to the number of failures in manganese and iron levels. There was an increase in water quality-related incidents referencing issues of colour and odour resulting from algal presence in source waters (DWQR, 2019).

The associations with weather and bathing water quality on infectious intestinal disease have been investigated in Scotland (Eze et al., 2014). Strong seasonal patterns were observed for each group of pathogens. Peak viral gastrointestinal infection was in May while that of non-viral gastrointestinal infections was in July.

5.11.1.1.2 Water Supply

The UK has experienced repeated periods of low precipitation over time, with implications for public water supply, communities, vulnerable individuals and public health. The most significant recent drought was in 1976 when the public water supply was interrupted and stand-pipes were in use in places. The resilience of the water supply system can also be put under extreme pressure due to heatwaves and other reasons even if drought conditions are not reached. For example, unprecedented peak temperature periods in summer 2018, and increased household demand (as a result of COVID-19 restrictions) in May 2020 (also the driest on record) and August 2020 placed stress on water supply (Water UK, 2018; Artesia, 2020).

Analysis conducted for the updated projections of future water availability for CCRA3 (HR Wallingford, 2020) identifies an overall current supply/demand surplus of around 950 Ml/day for the UK as a whole. The reduced surplus compared with CCRA2 is attributed to changes in the way water companies in England and Wales account for climate change in the 2019 Water Resource Management Plans.

The primary risk to human health from household water supply interruptions is the inability to meet demand, which would put restrictions on customers’ usage. Restrictions on usage come in the form of Temporary Use Bans (TUBs) and non-essential use bans (NEUBs). Loss of household water supply would have health, social and economic impacts. However, there is limited evidence of these impacts even for the disruptions of supply experienced since 1976 (PHE, 2014). Emergency planning can be used to alleviate health and wellbeing impacts (including supplying bottled water) for vulnerable individuals who need access to plentiful water, as well as high risk individuals.

A community’s ability to cope with severe droughts when standpipes need to be used is not well-researched in the UK as it still remains a rare event. Most recent experiences of the use of standpipes have been where supplies have been interrupted by flooding, extreme cold or other events. The response of water companies to these interruptions has indicated some issues regarding provision for vulnerable families (OFWAT, 2016). There is potential for conflict or social discord when access to resources are not perceived as being fair.

About 1% of the population of England and Wales use a private water supply, more in Scotland and less in Northern Ireland. Private water supplies pose more of a risk from low water quality than public supplies. Problems with private water supplies have been reported in the hot, dry summers of 2018 and 2019.

5.11.1.1.2.1 England and Wales

The most significant recent drought was in 1976 when the public water supply was interrupted and stand-pipes were in use in places. Parts of the UK are already water-stressed, particularly South East England, and are facing a wide range of pressures, including population growth and increasing per capita water demand. In 2012, two dry winters caused conditions in April that were worse than any historic drought for the South and East. The situation only recovered as there was an exceptionally wet summer. The 2011–2012 drought in South East England was one of the most significant ‘near-miss’ events in recent years (Water UK, 2016). However, there has not been any formal attribution of water scarcity to climate change, although observed changes in flows and precipitation have been seen (Garner et al., 2017).

Although the vast majority of water resource zones (the standard spatial unit of water supply evaluation in England and Wales) currently operate a surplus, around 16.7 million people live in water resource zones that are actually in deficit (7.89 million people in London). The South East of England is the only region with a present-day deficit.

There have not been any droughts in Wales that have had implications for household water supply since 1976, although low rainfall in spring 2020 led to the updating of drought plans in some areas, such as for the River Severn.

5.11.1.1.2.2 Northern Ireland

In spring 2020, low rainfall had implications for agriculture and resulted in Northern Ireland Water Ltd. obtaining a Drought Order for abstraction, but this was not sufficiently severe to result in public water supplies to households being interrupted (Department for Infrastructure, 2020c). Less than 1% of water use in Northern Ireland comes from private water supplies (CIWEM, 2018).

5.11.1.1.2.3 Scotland

Approximately 3.6% of Scottish households rely on private supplies of water, including wells for drinking water (CCC, 2019b; Scottish Government, 2019a). Private water supplies are more commonly located in rural, remote areas and managed independently from Scottish Water. The majority of private water supplies are sourced from small streams, lochs, groundwater springs and boreholes (Scottish Government, 2019a). These supplies are vulnerable to climate change due to their reliance on regular rainfall; changes in weather patterns such as increasing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will affect the available water supply. 2018 was recorded as one of the warmest and driest years, with parts of Scotland receiving only 75% of typical annual rainfall and being exposed to excessive sunshine hours above normal levels (DWQR, 2018). This increase in temperature caused the drying up of some private water supplies across Scotland (see SCCAP2, Scottish Government 2019a), the North East of Scotland being the worst affected as 165 supplies were reported to the Aberdeenshire council to have failed. Emergency responses resulted in bottled water being delivered to local authorities. This highlights the vulnerability of private water supplies to increasing warming and frequent heatwaves which may introduce risks to drinking water quality (private water supply interruptions discussed in risk H11) (DWQR, 2018).

The 2018 drought was marked by its severe impacts on decentralised rural water supplies, with unprecedented numbers of requests for support. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) reported that in summer to autumn 2018, many PWSs across the country ran dry and at least 500 of them requested emergency assistance from their respective Local Authorities (Rivington et al., 2020).

5.11.1.2 Future risks

5.11.1.2.1 Water Quality

Future climate change and prolonged precipitation events may result in increasing levels of faecal indicator organisms in bathing waters, likely leading to increases in infectious disease.

Climate change is projected to increase the risk of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in both marine and freshwater environments (Bresnan et al., 2020) (see also Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). Climate change is projected to significantly increase the amount of runoff and thereby the risk of contamination of water supplies. Climate change may significantly increase dissolved organic carbon, particularly in the winter season (Risk N4 – see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021). This has important implications for water quality as it will cost more to treat water in the future due increases in dissolved organic carbon (DOC).

In England and Wales, evidence on future water quality is limited to projections for bathing water quality. No formal risk assessments have been undertaken based on the association between pathogen transmission and rainfall.

There is no evidence of future risks specifically for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

5.11.1.2.2 Water Supply

HR Wallingford (2020) assessed mid-century supply-demand balance under a central population projection with no additional adaptation for scenarios of approximately 2°C and 4°C global warming in 2070–2099[18]. Under these assumptions the UK faces a supply-demand balance deficit of between 650 and 920 Ml/d (equating to the daily water usage of around 4.4–6.2 million people) by the 2050s.

Under a central population scenario with no additional adaptation, a deficit across the UK of between around 1,220 and 2,900 Ml/d (2°C and 4°C range) is projected by the end of the century, equating to daily water usage of around 8.3 to 19.7 million people.

5.11.1.2.2.1 England and Wales

All water resource regions in England are projected to experience a deficit in supply, with the south east most likely to be affected and to be most severely affected. In the HR Wallingford (2020) scenario of approximately 4oC global warming in 2070–2099, the areas covered by the regional Water Resources South East, Water Resources North and Water Resources East groups are projected to have deficits by the 2050s with the central population projection and no additional demand-side adaptation action. Whilst reducing household consumption and leakage can substantially reduce projected deficits, their eradication may not be possible in all areas. The current and announced demand-side adaptation scenario is not sufficient to mitigate the projected impacts in Water Resources South East in the scenario of 4oC warming in 2070–2099 world, although the additional demand-side scenario would achieve this mitigation.

England’s public water supply is more affected by the climate than other parts of the UK, as many more of its abstractions are already constrained by the yield of the water source, rather than other constraints such as infrastructure or licensing.

The economic loss of these restrictions on businesses and the public sector for England and Wales is £1.3 billion per day in England and Wales (Water UK, 2016).

No deficits are projected in Wales under a central population estimate, but high population growth could lead to impacts in Wales.

5.11.1.2.2.2 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland continues to maintain surpluses in public water supply in the middle and late century under a no additional adaptation scenario.

5.11.1.2.2.3 Scotland

Scotland continues to maintain surpluses in public water supply in the middle and late century under a no additional adaptation / central population scenario, though deficits are possible in the high population scenario. This analysis also does not include private supplies which are more at risk. Also there are clear variations across Scotland with the west receiving far more rainfall than the east, which could lead to local deficits (Rivington et al., 2020)

Commercial supplies are known as Regulated supplies and are defined in legislation. There were 3,108 Regulated supplies in Scotland in 2018; this number will increase in 2019 as rented accommodation is now classed as a Regulated Supply, but the changes have yet to feed through.

Recent research conducted in Scotland identified that future levels of private water supply vulnerability will be influenced by a combination of changes in the climate that affect water quantity, availability and interactions of the specific catchment scale water use (Rivington et al., 2020). Across Scotland this will be spatially and temporally variable due to precipitation and temperature differences affecting overall water balance.

5.11.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H10)

Key lock-in risks relate to the long term management of the water demand-supply balance across the UK, ensuring that demand and leakage elements are addressed urgently and that plans are in place to prevent future interruptions to public and private water supplies. Strategic water infrastructure, such as that required for cross-regional transfers, takes a long time to plan and organise; leaving such approaches too late could lead to implications for household water interruptions that could be avoided. Similarly, implementing transfers without sufficient long-term modelling and planning could lead the region from which water is being transferred to experience a deficit.

Water demand-supply balances for water resources zones provide a clear threshold that needs to be managed. Few studies consider the vulnerability of small rural suppliers to drought in the developed world. Sources that are sustained by precipitation, such as rainwater harvesting and some springs, and immediate aquifer recharge from rainwater (protected shallow wells and springs) are more vulnerable to precipitation variability and deficits than boreholes, but these can still be affected if aquifers are shallow and not recharged from an extensive catchment area (Rivington et al., 2020).

Further research is required regarding the implications for communities, particularly those who are vulnerable, regarding the length of time that TUBs are in place and the implications these could have for health and wellbeing.

5.11.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and interdependencies (H10)

There are many interacting and cross-cutting (cross-chapter) issues, as water quality and quantity affect all sectors and all regions (WSP, 2020). Cross-referencing with Risk I8 in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) highlights the inherent interdependency between infrastructure operation and management and the risk of household water supply interruptions.

Further research is needed on the likelihood of multiple hazards. Drought/water scarcity can manifest alongside cross-cutting issues such as heatwaves, snowstorms, floods, wildfires, and algal blooms.

The CCRA Interacting Risks project found that reduced water quality in the natural environment, leading to water supply disruptions, and sewer infrastructure flooding leading to water supply interruptions were two significant interactions that became more evident by the 2050s under 4°C warming scenarios. The indirect impact of cascading power and IT disruptions could also impact water supply infrastructure.

5.11.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H10)

Water treatment plans aim to decrease their carbon emissions. Water treatment processes can be energy intensive, therefore there is a conflict between extra treatment and meeting Net Zero targets.

The water industry was the first industrial sector in the UK and one of the first major sectors in the world to commit to a Net Zero future by 2030. The goal forms part of the industry’s Public Interest Commitment (PIC) released in 2019. Around 4–5% of UK carbon emissions result from the use of water in the home (CIWEM, 2013), and if water is used more efficiently then energy and carbon is saved, as well as water achieving both mitigation and adaptation benefits. A reduction of 5% household water consumption in the UK would save approximately 1.2 MtCO2e per year.

5.11.1.6 Inequalities (H10)

Private water supplies are more prevelant in remote and rural communities in Scotland and Wales. Private supplies can serve significant numbers of household in certain areas, for example, approximately 34% of the population of Argyll and Bute rely on private water supplies.

The implementation of Temporary Use Bans can have health and wellbeing impacts in terms of the loss of amenity regarding gardening and hosepipe bans and the potential for disuption to social cohesion when universal cooperation is not achieved. In other countries this has, at times, resulted in fatalities but this has not been experienced in the UK (Bryan et al., 2020).

Where water supply is interrupted, it is likely that it will have the most significant impacts for vulnerable groups such as the very young, very old and those with physical and mental long-term illnesses or disabilities. As such interruptions are often accompanied by heatwaves, which also disproportionately affect at risk groups, these impacts are likely to be exacerbated (Bryan et al., 2020).

5.11.1.7 Magnitude scores (H10)

This risk is scored as medium for current day risks (Tables 5.38 and 5.39) because the burden on health and welfare has affected tens of thousands of people in terms of disease incidence across the UK. In the future, the risks are likely to increase if not managed better, although this is highly uncertain.

Table 5.38. Magnitude scores for risks to water quality for health

Country

Present Day

(current climate risks)

2050s

2080s

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Medium

(High confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Medium

(High confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Table 5.39. Magnitude scores for risks to water supply for health

Country

Present Day

(current climate risks)

2050s  2080s

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Low

(Medium confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Low

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Low

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Low

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

There is very little evidence about the effects of droughts and household water suppy interruptions on human health and wellbeing. There is a large potential impact, but the evidence is limited due to uncertainties in the future climate. The risk of major drought increases in the future, with water supply deficits projected for parts of England (highest risk in the south east where current water supply is limited). A major drought leading to loss of water to thousands or hundreds of thousands of households is possible and therefore the future risk for England (2050s and 2080s, both climate futures) is assessed as being high magnitude. This risk is assessed as lower magnitude than I8, as whilst there is already a supply deficit in the South East, this is not resulting in health and wellbeing implications for people in terms of TUBs or other use restrictions. The confidence score is also rated lower than for I8 as the relationship between supply deficits and actual interruption of household water supply is not a direct correlation, as it relates to the contingency plans put in place for water companies and householders where private water supplies are used. In addition, I8 only covers public water supply, whereas this risk encompasses private water supply for which there is less evidence regarding future impacts.

5.11.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H10)

5.11.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H10)

5.11.2.1.1 Water Quality
5.11.2.1.1.1 UK-wide

To manage the risks of water contamination in the short-term, regulators impose a temporary ban on ingesting or drinking the water. In some cases a permanent ban on domestic use of the site is enforced (DWI, 2019d).

The Water Industry Act 1991 (the 1991 Act) sets out the legal framework for ensuring good quality drinking water supplies in England and Wales. The relevant legislation in Scotland is the Water Industry (Scotland) Act, and in Northern Ireland, the Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. Outbreaks linked to water supplies are investigated by local public health teams and environmental health departments, however, sporadic cases may not be detected without additional epidemiological investigation.

Private water supplies are not regulated in the same way as public supplies. Each private supply has an individual owner and local authorities can mandate owners to make changes to supplies that violate health and safety criteria.

5.11.2.1.1.2 England and Wales

The Drinking Water Inspectorate is the regulator for drinking water quality in England and Wales. The second National Adaptation Programme (NAP2, Defra 2018c) includes actions related to interruption of household water supplies, but not risks to household water quality.

Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales highlighted the Welsh Government’s Water Strategy for Wales, which was published in 2015, covers a 25 year period, and aims to maintain high levels of water quality and protect the health of people in Wales. The strategy identifies the risks from climate change and is underpinned by an all-Wales action plan. In addition,the Water Health Partnership for Wales is an initiative that brings together relevant agencies to work together more effectively to protect public health by ensuring the provision of safe drinking water. Agencies in the Partnership include the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI), Welsh Government, local authority public and environmental health, the water companies and Public Health Wales. Natural Resources Wales is the regulatory body responsible for managing water resources in Wales. They provide oversight of both Bathing and Drinking Water in Wales through a wide range of strategies and plans and regulatory activity. Water companies also report annually on bathing water quality in Wales (NRW, 2018).

5.11.2.1.1.3 Northern Ireland

The second Northern Ireland Climate Change Adaptation Programme (NICCAP2, Daera 2019) highlights that some evidence has pointed to recent declines in bathing water quality in Northern Ireland, and mentions the ‘System for Bathing Water Quality Monitoring’ (SWIM) that will investigate and model the linkage between heavy rainfall events and poor bathing water quality. It also makes reference to The ‘Sustainable Water – A Long-Term Water Strategy for Northern Ireland (2015–2040)’ which recognises that all policies must factor in the future implications of climate change on both quality and quantity of water resources. It also notes that the ‘Drinking Water and Health Guidance’ is reviewed annually and contains action to be taken should drinking water quality fall below health based criteria. Northern Ireland’s ten year ‘Making Life Better’ strategy for health and wellbeing has an objective to provide safe and clean drinking water.

5.11.2.1.1.4 Scotland

The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland (DWQR) is responsible for ensuring that drinking water in Scotland is safe to drink. There are no specific policies about climate change and water quality, however, there are strategies in place to support households with private water supplies.

The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP2, Scottish Government 2019a) highlights the vulnerability of Scotland’s private water supplies to poor quality issues, though it does not elaborate on actions to support drinking water quality specifically.

Bathing waters sites are important assets for local, regional economies. Domestic visits alone to Scottish seaside locations generate an average of 1.5 million trips and £323 million in expenditure per annum. Bathing water quality is one of the adaptation indicators listed in SCCAP2.

5.11.2.1.2 Water Supply
5.11.2.1.2.1 England and Wales

Recognising the need to work together to address the supply-demand balance, organisations responsible for England’s water supplies have come together to understand the long term needs of all sectors that depend on a secure supply of water – public water supply, agriculture, power generation, industry and the environment. The recently published National Framework for Water resources (EA, 2020d), identifies strategic water needs for England and its regions across all sectors up to and beyond 2050. It also requires water companies in regional groups to revisit their planned frequencies of use for non-essential use bans in the light of the planned increase to drought resilience, recognising the benefits to customers if frequencies reduce. It states that the planned implementation of non-essential use bans should not become more frequent to achieve the reduction in the use of more extreme restrictions such as standpipes and rota cuts. It also requires water companies in regional groups to explore how they can coordinate the use of temporary use bans to provide clearer messaging to customers and improve environmental protection at times of scarcity.

Most companies state that standpipes/emergency orders are ‘unacceptable’ but in practice the worst drought experienced to date in the 1926–2016 record could only just be managed without them; they are still ‘expected’ for more severe droughts. This is complicated by the presence of emergency storage in reservoirs, which could theoretically be used to further delay the introduction of standpipes for some companies. However, the provision and use of such emergency storage is variable and many of the large systems in south and east England are managed so that standpipe-type restrictions would be implemented at the point emergency storage starts to be used (EA, 2015b).

Another strategy to manage the security of household water supplies is to reduce household demand. Defra consulted on measures to reduce personal water use (including labelling the water efficiency of appliances, metering, building standards and behaviour change) (Defra, 2019c). Domestic water consumption in England has fallen from 155 l/h/d in 2003/2004 to 141 l/h/d in 2017/2018, but consumption increases during hot summers cause significant issues for supply (Chapter 4: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021; and Chapter 6: Surminski, 2021). Regional water groups recently agreed to contribute to a national ambition of average per capita consumption of 110 l/p/d by 2050, and to review this ambition every five years (EA, 2020d).

5.11.2.1.2.2 Northern Ireland

NI Water published a new draft Water Resources and Supply Resilience (WR &SR) Plan in 2019 (Northern Ireland Water, 2019). NI Water has made significant improvements in water resilience for customers since the last Plan was launched in 2012, which was reported as a concern in the CCRA2 Evidence Report. The draft Plan aims to build on this work, ensuring continued high levels of leakage detection, sustained investment in water mains and water efficiency initiatives.

The WR & SR Plan has taken the target Level of Service (LoS) as providing customer reliability of 97.5%, equivalent to accepting a water supply failure for one year in 40. This is in line with the LoS adopted by several other UK water companies, including both Welsh Water and Scottish Water. To maintain customer supplies in drought events more severe than this, actions detailed in the Drought Plan are applied.

5.11.2.1.2.3 Scotland

In 2019, Scotland published its first National Water Scarcity Plan (SEPA, 2019, 2020), which sets out how water resources will be managed prior to and during periods of prolonged dry weather. This is intended to ensure the correct balance is struck between protecting the environment and providing resources for human and economic activity. It sets out (i) high level principles; (ii) the steps that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and others are currently taking in preparation for periods of water scarcity; (iii) the assessment methods used to determine the most appropriate response to water scarcity; (iv) the action that will be taken during a period of water scarcity; and (v) the action that others are expected to take.

Scottish Water’s Water Efficiency Plan 2015–21 includes measures to educate customers on water efficiency and to reduce leakage in the network. A new mandatory standard was introduced in October 2014 requiring water efficient fittings in dwellings. Per capita consumption of water in Scotland remains high compared to many other European countries, at just over 150 litres per person per day (CCC, 2019c).

Private water supplies are not regulated in the same way as public supplies. Each private supply has an individual owner and local authorities can mandate owners to make changes to supplies that violate health and safety criteria. SCCAP2 highlighted the particular vulnerabilities of private water supplies in Scotland, including a case study from the summer of 2018 when a large number of private water supplies ran dry, requiring local authorities to provide emergency supplies. Currently a grant of £800 is available to owners of private water supplies however, future economic assistance has been recognised as required to better target those in need (DWQR, 2018).The current resilience to drought of sectors outside public water supply is far less well understood. However, these sectors face pressures from climate change, the need to reduce abstraction for environmental protection, and changing patterns of demand in their sector. This means that water supplies that have been reliable in the past may not be reliable in the future.

5.11.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H10)

There is likely to be an adaptation shortfall for the management of private water supplies in the future. Private Water Supplies are very vulnerable to water scarcity episodes now, as well as from the increased risk due to climate change. There is a need to support rural and remote communities with access to water and to maintain water supply.

Recent research commissioned by the Scottish Government identified major knowledge gaps in relation to the drivers of drought, human influences on the prevention, exacerbation or management of hydrological drought, the collection of data on the impacts of hydrological drought, modelling drought propagation, severity and recovery, and identifying ‘normal’ in a constantly changing world (Rivington et al., 2020). Multiple recommendations are made to improve the resilience of private water supplies to climate change including:

  • building climate change into risk assessments.
  • improving monitoring, data collection and flood warnings.
  • risk assessment of private water supplies for water quality issues should be extended to include climate-change related issues.
  • Policy-prescription is required for technology use.
  • wider assessment of the resilience of supply in terms of bedrock aquifer potential.
  • the provision of risk awareness and water conservation advice to users.
  • identifying the potential for cost effective connection to mains water supply.
  • integrating policies and associated research for improving catchment storage potential with those focussed on nature-based solutions for improved ecosystem resilience.
  • reviewing and assessing the benefits of centralised management on water supply resilience to climate change in rural areas to inform and enable the use of lower-risk source water services.

There is also an adaptation shortfall due to the lack of consideration of climate change in the risk of chemical contamination of water supplies. No specific policies or strategies have been identified to address this.

There is evidence that it may be more difficult in the future to maintain water quality standards to protect health (Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021) (Box 5.5).

Greater progress in reducing water use by households is also needed to help to manage the risks to households (CCC, 2019g). Statutory water consumptions targets are not yet in place across the UK and could form a crucial part of future adaptation strategies.

5.11.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H10)

Table 5.40. Adaptation scores for risks to water quality and household water supply
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.11.3 Benefits of further action in the next five years (H10)

There are likely to be benefits of further actions to improve water quality by reducing the risk of surface water flooding, such as the development of SuDS (sustainable drainage systems), catchment management, wetland creation (theses are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3 on natural environments), and improvements to bathing water quality. Nature-based solutions also help combat urban heat islands and prevent surface water and river flooding (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021).

There is some concern about chemical incidents during flooding and a need for further emergency planning (Chapter 4: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021).

Further activities are also needed to assess the future risks to, and measures that are needed to protect, private water supplies.

5.11.3.1 Indicative costs and benefits of additional adaptation (H10)

There are studies which have considered the overall costs and benefits of national level action to reduce the risk of water scarcity. These include supply side measures, which are discussed in Chapter 4 (Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021). They also include marginal abatement cost curves of emergency measures for droughts (Atkins, 2018b), as well as the estimates of costs and benefits of measures to provide household water supply during droughts (National Infrastructure Commission, 2018). Alongside this, there is a complementary set of demand-side measures that can be introduced by homes, many of which are no-regret and low-regret. Water UK (2016) assessed a twin track approach of demand management coupled with appropriate development of new resources and potential transfers as being the most suitable strategy for providing drought resilience in the future. They estimated that total costs per annum for all potential future scenarios (under the Business As Usual base demand management strategy) to maintain resilience at existing levels in England and Wales are between £50 million and £500 million per annum in demand management and new water resource options. If resilience to ‘severe drought’ is adopted, this increases to between £60 million and £600 million and for resilience to extreme drought, between £80 million and £800 million per annum. There are several studies that have looked at demand side measures for households that identify a large number of low and no-regret options. The study by Arup (2008) looked at a range of water saving measures, and estimated costs and pay-back times. A similar study was commissioned by the CCC (Grant et al., 2011) looking at cost-effectiveness of alternative household options, and this was updated by Wood Plc (2019) updating a previous cost-curve study.

These studies identify estimated measures with benefit to cost ratios above 1 for different house types, comparing new build vs. discretionary retrofit. The study provides unit-cost estimates for different measures, and calculated cost-curves to show their relative cost-efficiency. When considering wider benefits from a societal perspective (including avoided GHG emissions), additional no-regret measures are identified. Generally, end-of life upgrades and measures installed in new builds were more cost-effective compared to retrofits. These studies highlight the high economic benefits of further action.

5.11.3.3.2 Overall urgency Scores (H10)
Table 5.41. Urgency Scores for risks to water quality and household water supply
CountryEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigationFurther investigation
ConfidenceMediumMediumMediumMedium

Given the potential for increasing risks to household water supply and quality in the future – particularly for private water supplies – this risk is assessed as needing further investigation across the UK. Further investigation is required to better understand the degree of vulnerability in different parts of the country, how far some of the beneficial actions identified above could be usefully deployed and the degree to which this could reduce both water quality and supply risks.

5.12 Risks to cultural heritage (H11)

Climate impacts on cultural heritage, including tangible and intangible heritage, have already been observed. However, due to the difficulties of measuring and quantifying aspects of cultural heritage, such as the arts, cultural services and intangible heritage, there is a lack of longitudinal research that can be cited as evidence. The potential risks and opportunities from climate change for both intangible and tangible cultural heritage are numerous and include the potential to discover previously unknown heritage. Continued monitoring is essential to inform risk management, especially for areas at risk of flooding from all sources, landslides and erosion. In addition, cultural loss needs to be incorporated into adaptation and resilience thinking. Coastal heritage is particularly at risk from climate change (see H3 and H4) and heritage organizations and communities may need to accept the loss of some heritage assets, particularly for ones on the coast. However, at the coast and elsewhere, it is important that adaptation actions, such as flood defences, are not implemented in a way that damages heritage. Further research and adaptation is required to avoid unnecessary loss of cultural heritage.

5.12.1 Current and future level of risk (H11)

This risk describes effects of climate change on cultural heritage, including moveable heritage (museum collections and archives), archaeological resources, buildings and structures, cultural landscapes and associated communities, and intangible heritage (folklore, traditions, language, knowledge and practices) (ICOMOS, 2019). Cultural heritage is intrinsically linked to economic activity across the UK, particularly tourism through heritage tourism, repair and maintenance of historic buildings, regeneration projects, and voluntary and employment work (Historic England, 2017; 2019a; Reilly et al., 2018). The landscape and ‘natural’ places of the UK are closely related to cultural heritage (see Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021) (Historic England, 2020b). Thus, climate impacts that affect heritage assets may have knock on effects upon other sectors, including tourism, health and wellbeing, the natural environment, and vice versa.

5.12.1.1 Current risk – UK (H11)

Cultural heritage, including communities’, groups’ and individuals’ traditional ways of life, has always been exposed to natural processes of exposure, degradation and decay, but climate change is a threat multiplier and exacerbates the effect of current climate risks (Heathcote et al., 2017). Since CCRA2 there has been an increase in research on the mechanisms by which climate hazards currently affect heritage, as well as an increase in assessments of future risks to heritage assets across the UK and evidence of actions being taken.

The main current risks to cultural heritage relate to extreme weather fluctuations including increasing temperatures (heatwaves or fires), precipitation and flooding, coastal processes, and from unintended consequences of climate mitigation and adaptation measures within the heritage sector and across other sectors (Fluck and Wiggins, 2017). An overview of these risks is presented in Table 5.42.

Since CCRA2 there has been an increase in research on the heritage sector’s role in tackling climate change (including the arts, culture and museums sectors), and research on the mechanisms by which climate hazards currently affect heritage, as well as an increase in assessments of the future risks to heritage. These initiatives have been supported by a range of bodies such as the Research Councils through grants including the UKRI Climate Resilience Programme and the AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund Urgency Grants on Addressing Impacts on Cultural Heritage resulting from Natural Disasters and Climate Change.

Since CCRA2, research has provided a greater understanding of the threats posed by extreme weather fluctuations to cultural heritage, from historic buildings to communities. As with other aspects of the built environment, all buildings require maintenance, and either poorly applied material or inappropriate material will have a negative impact on both how a building performs and how efficient it can be. Historic England and others have been researching the reasons for the high resistance of some constructions to floods and driving rain, and have identified how greatly this depends on ‘traditional’ construction systems and materials, specifically solid walls constructed of permeable materials (stone, brick, mortars made of lime and earth), and permeable lime-based renders. By contrast, modern construction types (cavity brick walls, light-weight facades etc.) show little resistance to water, and can prove difficult or impossible to dry after flooding. A combination of laboratory research (e.g. Ridout and McCaig (2017b)), field observations (Ridout and McCaig, 2017a; 2017b) and careful monitoring of flood affected buildings (ibid) in England has demonstrated that, if well maintained with appropriate materials, traditionally constructed buildings can recover well from flooding, often better than their modern counterparts. The impacts of persistent or repeated flooding are less certain, however. Some work has been undertaken to develop toolkits to assess both flood impact and opportunities for the historic environment (e.g. The ‘FLOOD’ Dataset: User guidance on a GIS dataset mapping historic environmental risk and opportunity in respect to flooding in Worcestershire (Historic England, 2016a)).

Coastal assets are at risk from flooding and coastal erosion; the Dynamic Coastal National Coastal Change Assessment for Scotland has improved understanding of assets at risk significantly (Scottish Government, 2017a). Part of the sea wall protecting Hurst Castle near Milford-on-sea, Lymington, Hampshire collapsed on 26th February 2021[19]. Northern Ireland and Wales also have heritage assets located close to coastlines at risk of erosion.

Flooding of museums and archive collections can result in the damage to, or loss of, cultural heritage. In addition, floods can compromise and threaten other cultural practices, reducing community cohesion, damaging traditional or heritage-dependent livelihoods, and resulting in a loss of a shared sense of place from landscapes and places (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2014).

The impact of increases in precipitation intensity, beyond flooding, have been reported (Historic England, NI communities, Cadw and HES verbal report) but are yet to be systematically captured in published reports and the full extent of harm remains unknown.

Increased temperature and humidity can increase plant and fungal growth that in turn increases the rates of decay for stone and wood structures and the bioturbation of archaeological sites, as well as posing a challenge for indoor heritage, both moveable and immovable (Bertolin et al., 2014; Leissner et al., 2015).

Museum collections and archives hold unique and irreplaceable heritage, which can be damaged by unsuitable indoor environments, particularly poor management of temperature and humidity (Lucchi, 2017). Inadequate management could therefore leave such assets vulnerable to changes in these conditions due to climate change.

Increased temperature and humidity will also impact the huge number of individuals who engage with cultural heritage and cultural recreation through voluntary and employment work and other social activities. Warmer days can increase visitor numbers (see also Risk H2 on the potential for increased engagement with the natural environment) as well as encouraging cultural activities, recreational industries and festivities, and other cultural practices, that facilitate community cohesiveness and placemaking, including increased interaction with cultural landscapes. This has both positive impacts in terms of increasing heritage appreciation and revenue for sites, but also can lead to erosion from increased footfall and trampling (e.g. Pickering (2020)). Increased footfall is now included in some management plans (e.g. Stonehenge and Avebury, Orkney).

Increased heatwave incidence can lead to overheating of heritage buildings, affecting the buildings themselves and any collections within them, as well as being detrimental to staff and visitors (see Risk H1). Overheating in buildings has been identified as a challenge to heritage sites with several sites reporting problems . Contrary to warmer days, it can also result in the decline of footfall and community engagement with cultural heritage due to higher risks of heat exposure and stroke, particularly for the more vulnerable such as older people and children. This may have a particular impact on museums and other cultural activities.

Older buildings have survived because of their durability and adaptability. Continuing to adapt, upgrade, repair and maintain them so they remain useful and viable makes good social, economic and environmental sense (Historic England, 2020a). Research on the importance and effectiveness of maintenance for the resilience of heritage is underway around the UK; closely connected to this is the importance of heritage skills and practices for responding to and adapting to climate risks, and the risk to heritage posed by a loss of those skills (CADW, HES, Historic England NI communities verbal report). A recent Historic England research project, the Value of Maintenance, has shown that a ‘stitch in time’ approach to maintenance is required (APEC Architects, 2019).

Observed impacts of climate hazards are not systematically reported, and therefore the representation of risks to heritage in published literature cannot be considered representative of the true extent of the risks.

The table below highlights that all manifestations of climate change will affect both tangible and intangible cultural heritage with social and cultural costs and impacts including damage to the wellbeing of individuals and cultural values (IPCC, 2014).

Table 5.42. Observed impacts on cultural heritage from climate hazards
CLIMATE HAZARDImpacts on cultural heritageExamples of observed impacts
Heavy rainfall
  • Failure of rainwater disposal building envelope, with subsequent moisture/damp problems
  • Possible increases in roof leakage due to modern roofing designs, including the addition of insulation at rafter level and associated waterproofing materials
  • Waterlogging of gardens and archaeological site
  • Wimpole, Cambs
  • Westbury court gardens
  • Studley Royal Water Garden Adren Mill
  • Derwent Valley Mills

Drought

  • Increased risk of subsidence, and shrink swell impact on buildings
  • Desiccation of waterlogged archaeological sites
  • Exposure of new archaeological sites
  • Invisible deterioration of archaeological deposits (buried and full impact only apparent when excavated)
  • Changes in groundwater levels affecting parks and gardens
  • Long term impact on resilience of plants and trees
  • Nymans Gardens, National Trust site in Sussex
Flooding (fluvial, pluvial)
  • Harm to buildings from water ingress
  • More modern listed buildings may be at risk of catastrophic damage in a flood.
  • Carlisle Civic Centre was demolished because it was not possible to dry
  • Newgale submerged forest
  • Grinton smelting mill and watercourse
  • Ironbridge Gorge

High summer temps

  • Overheating of buildings leading to problems for fabric, building use, and for sensitive collections.
  • Increasing demand for air conditioning, which increases problems such as condensation and deterioration of sensitive materials
  • Yorkshire Dales Barn
  • Knebworth House
  • Ham House
  • Increased visitor numbers: some positive impacts, but increased footfall
 
New pest species:
  • More common and more rapid deterioration of stone and wood structures
  • Risk of new pests able to metabolise heartwood building timbers
  • Increased bioturbation of archaeological sites
  • Increased water temperatures lead to new pests affecting marine archaeology
  • Pests and diseases of landscape plants (increased numbers, and new types)
  • Tree disease threats from e.g. Xyella, Emerald ash borer and Plane wilt will have impact upon our designed landscape
  • Appearance of overwintering populations of termites
  • Asian longhorn beetle
  • Shipworm
  • Mompesson House
  • Castle Drogo
  • Hardwick Hall
  • Knole
  • English Heritage’s Operation
  • Clothes Moth – Brodswoth Hall
Changed growing seasons
  • Impacts on raw materials for repair of buildings
  • Increased plant growth on historic structures
  • 2020 failures of long-straw harvests
  • Blooming of desert plants across Royal Horticultural Society gardens
Wildfire
  • Potential loss of heritage assets
  • Potential to discover new archaeological sites
  • Changes to landscape management to reduce risk, e.g. fire breaks may harm cultural heritage
  • Woolsbarrow hillfort, Dorset, was damaged by wildfire
  • Saddleworth Moor
  • Winter Hill
  • Vale of Rheidol
Coastal change
  • Greatly increased rate of loss of coastal assets
  • Impact of adaptation schemes (e.g. construction of coastal defences)
  • Changes to salinity of groundwater affecting plant growth in historic landscapes, parks and gardens
  • Visible coastal erosion along ~ 15% of Northern Ireland coastline
  • Immediate vulnerability in Strangford Lough and the Foyle estuary. In Scotland, the Northern and Western Isles most vulnerable (containing two thirds of all high-priority sites)
  • Orford Ness lighthouse demolition
  • Liverpool Bay
  • Orfordness
  • Dunwich Greyfairs
  • Happisburgh VIllage Hallsands
  • The Garrison, St Mary’s
  • Hurst Castle, Hampshire
Oceanic changes
  • Changes to water chemistry leading to breakdown of marine heritage
  • Fishing is one of the UK’s most important maritime activities: changes in distribution of marine species change traditional fishing
  • Some warm-water marine species (e.g. squid, anchovies) more common and targeted by fishers
  • Disruption of traditional foods, as cod might not be able to persist around the UK in the future if sea water temperatures continue to rise
  • Increased acidification disrupts shellfish growth and harvest

5.12.1.2 Future risks (H11)

5.12.1.2.1 Future risk – UK

The impacts of climate change over the next century are expected to present serious challenges for the UK’s cultural heritage (Fatorić and Seekamp, 2017). The identified range of destructive or problematic impacts is numerous and complex, with arts and culture a dominant feature of people’s values, beliefs, practices, and livelihoods, as well as the more recognised and tangible assets of cultural heritage. These very qualities that make cultural heritage both vulnerable and complex can equally facilitate opportunities, such as enabling new discovery of our heritage and encouraging more experience-based approaches, participatory assessments, and storytelling to help towards adaptation and resilience.

5.12.1.2.2 Future risk – England

There is no current overall comprehensive assessment of future risks to heritage in England. Although Historic England reports annually on the Heritage at Risk (HAR) Register (Historic England, 2018) this does not consider future scenarios of climate change. The HAR Register does not currently include all heritage assets (scheduled monuments along with all non-designated assets are excluded). The HAR register does consider some hazards that are linked to current climate risks, such as flooding from all sources, as well as erosion, and plant and insect growth/damage. This reveals that over 23% of listed buildings in England are at risk of flooding, along with ~18% of Scheduled Monuments. More than half of all parks, gardens and battlefields are at flood risk, but this is likely to be less damaging to these assets than to built heritage.

5.12.1.2.3 Future risk – Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has identified significant implications for buildings from driving rain, and wind and moisture impacts (e.g. Armagh Cathedral) and this is likely to increase with climate change. A strategic risk assessment of potential climate change impacts, specifically coastal erosion and flooding, on archaeological heritage in Northern Ireland was conducted in 2013 (Westley and McNeary, 2014). Visible coastal erosion was present along around 15% of the Northern Ireland coastline and particularly vulnerable areas in the immediate term were Strangford Lough and the Foyle estuary (Westley, 2015; 2019). The dune system at Murlough could also be at risk (Cooper and Jackson, 2018).

5.12.1.2.4 Future risk – Scotland

A recent assessment of risks to coastal heritage assets has been conducted in Scotland. This was informed by a national survey of coastal archaeological heritage threatened by erosion, leading to a revised assessment of 145 sites as high priority with the sites identified as being at highest risk all being in Orkney and the Western Isles. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has completed the first phase of its Climate Action Plan 2020–2025 (Historic Environment Scotland, 2020).

This represents the first steps in the development of (i) a current climate risk register for the HES Estate; and (ii) a methodology for assessing the impacts of climate change on heritage assets in the wider historic environment. The risk assessment found that 53% of sites are at risk once ongoing mitigating factors and controls, such as routine maintenance, are taken into account. The assessment considered six different natural hazards and found 28 sites that record ‘Very High’ levels of risk in one, or more, of the six hazards investigated: high risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water or groundwater, or high risk of coastal erosion or slope instability.

HES has also published a Climate Change Impacts Guide (OPiT, 2019). The guide identifies many of the risks and hazards of climate change that are facing Scotland’s historic environment and offers owners, local communities and carers of historic sites routes to take action, to implement adaptation measures and enhance resilience to climate change.

5.12.1.2.5 Future risk – Wales

A recent assessment of risk was published as part of the new adaptation strategy. The Historic Environment and Climate Change in Wales Sector Adaptation Plan concluded that a large number of assets are potentially at moderate risk from a wide range of climate hazards (Historic Environment Group, 2020). Cumulatively, these risks were identified to be of high significance. Historic landscapes are particularly vulnerable as the cumulative loss of historic assets may affect the integrity and survival of the historic landscape as a whole. For example, the loss of hedgerows and boundaries leads to loss of fieldscape which may alter the spatial arrangement, pattern and understanding of vernacular buildings. The strategy considered the benefits or opportunities from climate change, such as a longer growing season, drying out of buildings and the associated reduced humidity, and changing leisure patterns (Chapter 3, Risk N18: Berry and Brown, 2021). The discovery of new historic assets in desiccated grassland and crops, visible as parch and crop marks, may also be a beneficial outcome. The conversion of formal lawns to meadow in response to the longer growing season in designed landscapes may increase species count in the natural environment and have the benefit of reducing mowing and maintenance costs, but may have a significant impact on the character of historic parks and gardens.

Heritage assets in Wales have been mapped against LiDAR, flood risk data and intertidal data to better understand the risks from climate change. Further work is planned to develop clearer identification and understanding of the threats, alongside an improved evidence base, that will enable prioritisation and plans for adaptation.

5.12.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H11)

Lock-in risks due to irreversible change are high, in the sense that most heritage assets are not moveable, but are finite and irreplaceable. This is particularly the case for the many heritage assets located along the UK’s coastline.

Thresholds differ between types of heritage asset and climate impacts, and are an area for continuing research and evidence collation. The current literature does not identify thresholds that are observed or operational.

5.12.1.4 Cross cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H11)

Specific interacting risks identified through the previous section include:

  • Erosion from rain and wind following wildfire and/or loss of vegetation.
  • In combination, impacts of high winds and driving rain impacting building structures.
  • Shrink swell resulting from changing levels of groundwater can impact land structures and embankments.
  • Increased humidity and increased risk of pests and diseases.

Climate impacts that affect heritage assets may have knock on effects upon other sectors, including tourism, health and wellbeing, and natural environment and vice versa.

  • Loss or damage of coastal heritage can affect the local economy where it is dependent on tourism (Roberts et al., 2015; Hall, 2016).
  • Maladaptation – responses to climate adaptation that causes harm to heritage assets decreasing their adaptive capacity, increasing repair and running costs.

Cultural heritage has a significant role in placemaking and facilitating cohesive communities and a sense of place, which contribute to wellbeing. Therefore, any damage or loss to cultural heritage could impact wellbeing (Historic England, 2016b, 2019b).

Within culural heritage, there are interdependencies between tangible and intangible heritage and how loss or damage to one from the impacts of climate change could impact the other. Further research is required to fully understand these impacts.

5.12.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H11)

The historic environment can support and be supported by the policy imperative to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 (Historic England, 2019b; Pender and Lemieux, 2020). Many heritage promotion organisations, such as the National Trust and funding bodies such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund promote high standards of environmental sustainability, including minimising emissions as environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on energy efficiency in buildings.

Measures that improve energy efficiency and therefore increase air-tightness and reduce ventilation may cause overheating in warm weather, poor indoor air quality, and moisture-related damage to the structure and internal environment (Lomas and Porritt 2017). These risks can be mitigated with appropriate ventilation or passive cooling.

Additionally, there is emerging evidence to suggest that understanding the design of traditionally constructed historic buildings or indeed the use of materials in relation to geographic characteristics can counter the view that these buildings are energy inefficient. In fact, disrupting the way these buildings can and should function via maladaptive ‘deep retrofit’ is a cause for concern, as they were often designed to function in a low-energy, zero-carbon manner (Newman, 2017).The increased emphasis on offshore renewables and attendant infrastructure placed on the seabed has the potential to destroy or damage cultural heritage underwater (McNeary and Westley, 2013).

A benefit of Net Zero will be less outdoor air pollution (less NOx and SOx) that damages and discolours historic buildings.

5.12.1.6 Inequalities (H11)

The Heritage sector has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which may have long term financial implications. There may be further implications for deprived areas in accessing funds for adaptation in the future.

Our understanding of future risk, exposure, and the vulnerability of human and mixed human-natural systems to climate change impacts are limited, with a particular lack of understanding towards socio-cultural dimensions and how these may be understood alongside other biophysical and economic impacts.

5.12.1.7 Observations regarding the impact of COVID-19 (H11)

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an immediate and severe toll on the cultural and heritage sector (Guest, 2020). The dramatic reduction in visitors in spring/summer 2020 led to a substantial drop in revenue which will have lasting impacts. One survey in late March 2020 by the Heritage Fund revealed that at that time 37% of organisations responding estimated they could survive for no more than six months, with 11% expecting to keep going for no more than two months. This lack of revenue, and indeed existence, of some heritage organisations is likely to impact their ability to adapt, and support that adaptation of cultural heritage assets, to future climate change impacts. Further, maintenance and repair work are vital first lines of defence in climate adaptation for heritage assets that have been delayed in many areas. The historic environment sector has launched numerous funds and support mechanisms to help businesses and charities working in heritage.

5.12.1.8 Magnitude scores (H11)

Table 5.43. Magnitude scores risks to cultural heritage

Country

Present Day

2050s2080s

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Medium

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low

confidence)

Hgh

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

Wales

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

Understanding of the current scale of risk has increased considerably across all four countries of the UK, particularly with regards to coastal erosion and flooding. The magnitude of this risk is considered to be medium now and high for the identified climate futures (Table 5.43) due to the large number of assets at risk and climate change projections regarding increasing temperature, humidity, intense rainfall, drought, flooding and coastal erosion; it is likely that this risk will remain high into the future.

The medium magnitude score has been designated due to the current risk to nationally iconic heritage assets, such as Hurst Castle in England, the immediate vulnerability of the Strangford Lough and the Foyle estuary in Northern Ireland, and the Northern and Western Isles that contain two thirds of all high-priority sites in Scotland. In Wales 12% of Scheduled Monomuents and 12% of Listed Buildings are in Flood Zone 3, and numerous nationally important coastal hillforts are at risk of erosion (Historic Environment Group, 2020). With climate change, these current risks are only likely to increase, with others emerging that have not yet been identified.

Confidence levels are lower for England and Northern Ireland than Scotland and Wales as less widespread mapping and risk assessment has been conducted.

5.12.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H11)

5.12.2.1 Effects of Current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H11)

5.12.2.1.1 UK-wide

Cultural heritage is impacted by climate change – both directly and indirectly though people’s activities as they respond to climate change. Cultural heritage can also provide a source of resilience for communities and inform adaptation by understanding millennia of history from a people-centred approach, and the oral or written history outlining adaptive measures and resilience. Culture, place and resilience are closely related; sustaining local heritage and quality of place is likely to be affected by climate change impacts but can also help build resilience. However, even though culture and heritage sectors are important institutions in most communities, cultural heritage has been largely absent from climate change considerations. Despite the deep connections between climate change and natural and cultural heritage, the experience and expertise of heritage and cultural professionals and local communities is generally not harnessed in identifying how to prepare for and adapt to climate change (ICOMOS, 2019). In many areas, the greatest risk to cultural heritage is from adaptation activity implemented without an understanding of the tangible and intangible cultural context, which can reduce the benefits of adaptation (ICOMOS, 2019).

The cultural heritage sector’s response to climate threats is well established and has often taken a ‘community-focused’ approach to managing the risks, through combining specialised skills in recording and surveying at-risk heritage assets, with the power and enthusiasm of local communities: thousands of sites have been recorded to date. National heritage organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales have developed and conducted various methods of assessing risk on coastal assets, with further developments planned.

Ultimately, heritage organisations, local communities and other stakeholders may need to accept loss of heritage assets, particularly on the coast, as an inevitability that is part of a natural process. Instead of viewing this as a failure, it can be seen as an opportunity to learn about the past in a way that would not have otherwise been possible (Harkin et al., 2020) and outputs of the Scottish Universities Insights Institute (Scotland 2030 call) funded project on Learning from Loss (Scottish Insight, 2018).

The management of heritage is intrinsically part of the solution to managing environmental change and building adaptive capacity with community knowledge, insights and skills. Whilst legislation is in place across the UK to protect designated sites and buildings, the same does not apply for non-designated assets which comprise most of our heritage. In many cases, historic coastal assets may be designated, with management plans in place, meaning that these parts of the coastline are often better understood and valued, and, in some cases, better protected than adjacent landscapes. Where historic assets are designated, the extent of land protected is often greater than the extent of the heritage asset itself, meaning there is a key role for these assets to play in the management of shorelines. Providing a soft buffer against the energy of waves and wind means that these wider landscapes often play a sacrificial role in protecting other valued assets behind them. The preservation of heritage and the historical character of a landscape has a positive effect on communities, while the ways in which heritage is managed can lead to a better understanding of the effects of climate change in other areas (Fluck and Wiggins, 2017). The archaeological record specifically is an important ‘store’ of past environmental data and provides a crucial long-term perspective on human vulnerability to changing environmental conditions (Jackson et al., 2017) on a scale that other disciplines are often unable to achieve.

Advances made since CCRA2 are primarily around understanding the assets at risk, the impact that could occur, and action to address and prevent these impacts (Historic England, 2020b). Action has increased more around understanding of how climate risks could impact (consequence) rather than how likely they are to occur (probability) and there is a need for further work in this area, as well as a greater focus on action on the ground. However, adaptation needs to be carefully assessed and planned as there is considerable potential for maladaptation through the use, for example, of incompatible materials following flood events (also highlighted in Chapter 4: Jaoroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021) . Without a change in action/investment and awareness there will be a shortfall in adaptation. In some instances, even with the investment of resources and expertise, the risks associated with climate change will result in loss of heritage assets. The extent of this challenge is currently only beginning to be understood. With resources being a key barrier to adaptation, the severe impacts of COVID-19 on the heritage industry are likely to have an impact for quite some time, and could delay or even put back plans to enhance the climate resilience of the UK’s heritage.

5.12.2.1.2 England

Since CCRA2, awareness of climate risk to heritage has increased. Historic England is undertaking research to map risks to buildings and heritage assets in order to improve decision making (Historic England, 2018). Historic England has also taken measures to increase flood resilience and recovery in historic and traditionally constructed buildings (Appleby Heritage Action Zone – due for completion in 2022).

Historic England research has shown that it is often the response to flooding that can pose the greatest risk to heritage assets, particularly buildings, rather than flood risk itself. Traditional building materials such as lime, wood and stone are extremely resilient, but post flood recovery often promotes the removal of affected materials, harming the historic buildings and reducing their resilience. Assessment of flood impact following floods in Hebden Bridge showed those traditionally constructed buildings that received minimal intervention following flooding recovered more quickly and experience fewer on-going problems in the following months and years. Those where traditional materials were removed and replaced with modern materials took longer to be occupied again and experienced problems with moisture months and even years after the floods (Ridout and McCaig, 2017b).

Historic England submitted its climate change adaptation report to the second, voluntary, round of Adaptation Reporting Power (ARP) (Fluck, 2016), is preparing its next ARP report for submission in summer 2021, and is in the process of developing an adaptation strategy. The Historic Environment Climate Change Adaptation Working Group (HEAWG) was established by Historic England and the Church of England in 2016 to support the historic environment sector in reporting on climate change adaptation (Harkin et al., 2020).

Additional work conducted on understanding and mapping the impact of climate change on heritage include (i) the use of historical documentary sources to develop an evidence base for furthering our understanding of the long-term patterns of coastal change that have resulted from climatic change and sea-level rise (www.archmanche-geoportal.eu); (ii) a pilot project commissioned by Historic England to develop a methodology for assessing environmental risk to heritage assets along the coast, which has highlighted the challenges of working with environmental data on a national scale (LUC, 2016), and (iii) further work by Historic England to integrate the UKCP18 projections and an update to the BGS-published Coastal Vulnerability Index in future rounds of work (Harkin et al., 2020).

5.12.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The second Northern Ireland Climate Change Action Plan, 2019–24 (Daera, 2019) included the implementation of the Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estate (NIEA, 2012), which introduced requirements for government departments to take heritage more seriously in their own adaptation work including engaging with heritage organisations, as well as implementing the requirements from The Impacts of Climate Change on the Built Heritage Report (NIEA, 2010; Harkin et al., 2020). Further requirements include Government departments conducting climate change risk assessments for heritage assets to inform their adaptation action, and proposing measures to build the resilience of vulnerable sites to these impacts. There is currently no review or evaluation of these action plans.

Current actions being progressed by the Department for Communities (DfC) and DAERA’s Historic Environment Division (HED) are as follows:

  • DfC has drafted an Action Plan on climate change and the historic environment to include research and the development of appropriate guidance, which is currently being considered internally.
  • An action plan document for HED 2021–2022 relating to climate change has been drafted and is going through internal processes of agreement and endorsement.
  • Hazard mapping for climate change is underway through a pan UK approach with the DfC’s sister organisations (HES, HE, CADW) and led by the National Trust, due for completion by end-March 2021.
  • An adaptation manual in conjunction with sister organisations as above is also underway which will relate specifically to managers of historic estates / buildings.
  • Energy Efficiency guidance for historic buildings is ongoing.

The Department for Culture’s Historic Environment Division commissioned a baseline assessment on the potential impact of climate change on the historic environment (Daera, 2019), but this is not yet available.

Condition surveys considering climate change are being conducted on Northern Ireland Water’s Historic Sites (Daera, 2019) that will inform the development of a strategy on climate change and the historic environment.

Individual local authorities have also conducted risk assessments and adaptation plans for the heritage sector. In 2019, Derry City and Strabane District Council conducted a review of the climate risks and vulnerabilities of its heritage assets and museum collections, assessed its current ability to adapt and identified adaptation actions to help improve the resilience of its heritage. This involved an analysis of previous/existing climate impacts, analysis of UKCP18 projections, and assessment of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s adaptive capacity. An adaptation plan was produced setting out key actions required and identifying lead and partner organisations, together with a timeframe for action. These actions focus on improving the adaptive capacity of Derry City and Strabane Council, including improving governance, resources, awareness and understanding of impacts and adaptation options to enable action on the ground (Derry City and Strabane District Council, 2020).

5.12.2.1.4 Scotland

Scotland’s second Adaptation Programme, 2019 (Scottish Government, 2019a) features climate change impacts and adaptation issues for the historic environment. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has taken the strategic lead on this in Scotland and recently published its updated Climate Action Plan (Historic Environment Scotland, 2020). With regards to climate adaptation, this focuses on the importance of mainstreaming climate change risk assessment into policy and operations, delivering innovation, developing solutions that support climate change adaptation and mitigation, continuing to promote maintenance and repair as the first line of defence and providing leadership on how to manage the loss of heritage assets. There has been notable progress in the refurbishment of historic buildings taking account of climate change, and a number of case studies and guides have been published by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) since CCRA2.

Adaptation or mitigation responses to climate change may also present challenges in the management of heritage. On the coast, this is made manifest by responses ranging from managed realignment to upgrading or construction of new sea defences. Such defences are unlikely to remain the preferred solution for managing future risk to coastal heritage assets, as they often cause or exacerbate damage in adjacent areas, alongside being costly to install and of high visual impact. Where sites have no hard defence in place, solutions may be sought to try and restore the natural defences lost by erosion. Where this is not possible, loss of heritage sites may have to be accepted, with programmes of excavation and recording conducted to document important information about the site before it is lost (e.g. Links of Noltland, Orkney) (Harkin et al., 2020). In some cases, communities are also moving sites to prevent them from being lost (Graham et al., 2017). These different levels of intervention are currently being explored by organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland (Harkin et al., 2020).

5.12.2.1.5 Wales

The Welsh Government’s second National Adaptation Plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales, (2019) (Welsh Government, 2019a), highlights the importance of protecting the nation’s historic assets from climate change impacts and includes a chapter dedicated to this issue. This was done to recognise the many different sectors that the historic environment blends with, and hence the climate risks they share.

CHERISH (Climate, Heritage and Environments of Reefs, Islands, and Headlands) is a six-year European-funded Ireland-Wales project which aims to raise awareness and understanding of the past, present and near-future impacts of climate change, storminess, and extreme weather events on the rich cultural heritage of the Irish and Welsh regional seas and coast.

The first action for historic environment in the national adaptation plan was to complete and publish the Historic Environment Climate Change Sector Adaptation Plan. Led by the climate change sub-group of Welsh Minsters, the Historic Environment Group (HEG) published its Sector Adaptation Plan in 2020 (Historic Environment Group, 2020). This was intended to raise awareness of the risks and opportunities of climate change for the historic environment and the need to adapt. Key actions focus on in the HEG sector plan are usefully summarised in the national adaptation plan:

  • Improving understanding of the threats and opportunities for the historic environment. Through knowledge sharing, spatial mapping, and other research, this key theme sets out to increase knowledge and hence provide better advice for potential adaptation action. An important example of this is the CHERISH project (detailed above).
  • Develop methodology and tools to build adaptive capacity. Importantly, this covers the publication of guidance to support adaptation at asset level on such issues as flood resilience for historical buildings.
  • Increase resilience by implementing actions to respond and adapt. The Historic Environment Sector Adaptation Plan sets out over 20 headline actions to be undertaken. This includes knowledge exchange and collaboration, mapping and monitoring of heritage assets, sites and landscapes, identification of prioritised further research, dissemination, promotion and collaboration, training, guidance and action focusing on developing adaptation plans and work programmes for vulnerable areas assets at risk, establishing stakeholder/community groups, and developing new planting regimes.

The Historic Environment Group also collects evidence of adaptation activity relevant to the historic environment to help evaluate progress against the published sector adaptation plan, and identify gaps and priority areas that require further attention.

The Welsh Government has also issued guidance on Flooding and Historic Buildings in Wales (Cadw, 2019). This provides guidance on ways to identify and understand flood risk and prepare for possible flooding by installing protection measures, and explains how to approach the protection of traditional buildings and avoid inappropriate modern repairs in the event of flood damage.

5.12.2.2 Adaptation shortfall

There is clear evidence with regards to progress in terms of developing the evidence base and putting strategic frameworks in place to manage risk, particularly in Scotland and Wales, however there is not yet sufficient action to reduce this risk to a low magnitude. In our view, strategies and plans need to be supported by commitments for action. The key priority challenges and emerging issues which need to be addressed to provide better advice to policy makers, and enable policy to be translated into action, are as follows:

  • Communicating the emerging prominence of ‘managing loss’ of heritage assets as a result of climate change, and the need for more robust systems of prioritising assets and intangible heritage for action. But, equally, demonstrating the value of heritage in understanding what the impacts of climate change are, how these assets or landscapes have a valuable role to play in managing the impacts of climate change, and how they can motivate people to take action – the loss of something ‘loved’ or ‘cherished’ is often a catalyst for prompting people into taking action.
  • The need for longer-term data capture to better understand the impacts of climate change on heritage assets. This includes understanding the impact of changes in ocean chemistry on decay rates of metal shipwrecks, changing rates of erosion on vulnerable coastlines (and projecting this into the future), impact of ground conditions upon green heritage, buried archaeology and stability of structures, impacts of repeated or prolonged flooding on all types of heritage.
  • Whilst increasingly robust data is available on individual environmental threats, e.g. sea-level rise, storminess, wind driven rain, storm surges etc., there is not yet sufficient understanding of how to quantifiably assess the impact of these in combination. This is when the damage will occur, not just from any one single climate driver. Similarly, understanding of impact is much greater than probability.
  • A potential conflict between retaining the integrity of historic assets and buildings and enhancing their resilience has been identified, for example the types of materials used to repair historic assets after a flood event. This highlights the need for greater awareness and cross-sector working to share good practice and ensure that cultural heritage is considered in all areas of policy and plan development, placemaking and action. This will help to build consensus, maximise the co-benefits and reduce the risk of maladaptation.
  • Intangible cultural heritage has a lower profile than buildings and assets and is more difficult to protect. More research is required into the impact of climate change on intangible heritage and the adaptation actions required.

5.12.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H11)

Table 5.44. Adaptation scores for risks to cultural heritage
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(Low confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Low confidence)

5.12.3 Benefits of further adaptation in next five years (H11)

Further action would be beneficial with regards to mapping climate related hazards that are relevant to heritage, in understanding the vulnerability of different heritage assets to these hazards and identifying those types of assets and locations that are most at risk. The complexity of ownership of heritage assets and the synergies with landscape, land management and the natural environment mean that this is complex. Standardising data collation and facilitating sharing would help further understanding of risks and opportunities.

It is very challenging to estimate the costs and benefits of adaptation for cultural heritage because of its heterogeneity. Costs are very site specific, and benefit analyses involve challenging valuation aspects that include direct and wider economic benefits, but also non-use values, the latter including option, existence, and bequest value. Further, in many cases, adaptation will be part of broader interventions targeting at risk areas, e.g. coastal or river flood management.

For particularly sensitive sites, there are options for monitoring and surveillance in order to recommend both preventative and remedial action. There are also some limited examples in the international literature with case studies (ex ante and ex post), as well as willingness to pay studies that provide some estimates to compare against potential costs (for specific cultural heritage sites). For example, Pollard-Belsheim et al. (2014) investigated the effectiveness of adaptation strategies to preserve coastal archaeological sites.

There are also some additional issues with the impact of climate change on artefacts inside museums and galleries. There is some evidence on the options for guaranteeing the appropriate indoor climate, which involve similar issues on the choice between mechanical or passive cooling. Coelho et al. (2020) examined such examples and report passive retrofit measures are cost-effective, but again, adaptation effectiveness will be extremely site specific. Once this is in place, then further action is required across the UK to enhance the resilience of built and natural heritage.

Societies benefit from and are dependent on cultural heritage, which includes ecosystem services (e.g. marine-based livelihoods and food security) and other cultural services (i.e. non-material benefits from ecosystems). However, understanding and attributing the impacts are complicated due to the complexities of assessing, measuring and quantifying cultural services and other social benefits related to cultural heritage. More work needs to be done on the risks and benefits of adaptation options and adaptive capacity, as well as other barriers such as institutional inertia and socio-cultural acceptability of risks.

5.12.3.1 Overall urgency scores (H11)

The overall urgency score is high for all countries with a recommendation for more action due to the high number of assets at risk and gaps identified in adaptation action and planning above. As with the magnitude scoring, confidence levels are higher for Scotland and Wales than England and Northern Ireland due to the additional available evidence.

Table 5.45. Urgency Scores for risks to cultural heritage
Country EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
ConfidenceLowLowMediumMedium

5.12.4 Looking ahead (H11)

The majority of cultural heritage experts believe that adaptation to climate change is possible but that further research is needed, along with practical tools (Sesana et al., 2018). Research is required, in particular, to better understand the vulnerability of different types of cultural heritage to climate hazards, and the effectiveness of adaptation options. Targeted research is needed to understand the impact of climate change on intangible heritage, moveable heritage (including museum collections and archives), archaeological resources, and cultural landscapes. The complexity of ownership of heritage assets and the synergies with landscape, land management and land use planning, and the natural environment mean that adaptation planning is complex, involving multiple stakeholders with multiple agendas.

There is also a pressing need for published literature to address the social implications of climate risk to cultural heritage, as this effect will ‘vary across societies and over time, depending on cultural resilience and the mechanisms for maintaining and transferring knowledge’ (IPCC, 2014).

5.13 Risks to health and social care delivery (H12)

Climate change will create disruption to health and social care services due to both the direct effects of floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather on hospitals and other health and care settings, which may damage buildings or disrupt the ICT and transport infrastructure upon which services rely, and indirectly, through the detrimental effects of extreme weather on people’s health and wellbeing, which will increase demand for services. These impacts will be felt not only within institutional settings, such as hospitals, residential and nursing homes for older people, or respite centres for disabled people, but will also affect people who receive care services in their own homes, and may prevent people from accessing critical services, such as GPs.

5.13.1 Current and future level of risk (H12)

Climate change will create disruption to health and social care services through the effects of floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather on hospitals and other health and care infrastructure. Extreme weather can damage buildings and equipment, and disrupt the ICT, energy, water and transport infrastructure upon which services rely. This assessment is UK-wide – it has not been possible to provide a detailed assessment of current and future risks for each nation.

The evidence about current and future risks relates to:

  • Observational studies of the impacts of extreme weather on health service delivery (quantitative and qualitative studies).
  • Observational studies and modelling studies of overheating risks in health buildings or specific rooms and building types (hospital inpatient wards, outpatient rooms, delivery rooms).
  • Flood risk mapping.

There are many challenges for health and social care providers, especially currently with a global pandemic. Challenges include ensuring continuity of service provision (including the ability of staff to get to work/reach clients), resilience of physical assets for social care and varied care settings (in the context of differing risks from heat/drought/storms/floods), and ensuring their institutional policies and operating practices are responsive to changing needs (for example, adjusting daily routines and management and operating practices in care homes to mediate risk in care settings during heatwaves) (Rajat Gupta et al., 2016).

5.13.1.1 Current and future risk of overheating in hospitals, care homes and related buildings – UK (H12)

Heatwaves cause problems with the functionality of hospitals, as well as the thermal comfort of patients and staff (Carmichael et al., 2013; WHO, 2009a). Reported impacts of heatwaves include:

  • Discomfort or distress of patients, and their visitors
  • Equipment failure, such as failure of essential refrigeration systems including morgue facilities
  • Disruption or failure of IT services
  • Disruption of laboratory services
  • Discomfort of staff (occupational health issues)
  • Degradation or loss of medicines

There is limited published evidence regarding the impacts of recent heatwaves (2018, 2019, 2020) in health and social care settings. Research on the effectiveness of England’s heatwave plan (Williams et al., 2019) suggested that health and social care managers found the Heatwave Plan was useful for helping them prepare for emergencies as it prompted them to take actions when alerted to do so. However, the messages did not appear to reach all those working at the frontline with patients, as many nurses said that they were unaware of the Heatwave Plan, and took few or none of its recommended actions during a heatwave alert. Nurses said that they often struggled to protect their patients as their organisations were not well-prepared for heatwaves.

There has been further research on overheating in hospitals, in terms of modelling and observational studies on individual wards/rooms within hospitals. But there is limited assessment of the overall extent of the problem. For example, high indoor temperatures were measured in Royal Berkshire Hospital (ultrasound area of the Maternity and Gynaecology building) during the hot summer of 2018, with temperatures above 28°C on several days (Gough et al., 2019). NHS England Trusts must report instances of overheating as part of their estates return information collection, but there are no systems in place for monitoring in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. In 2019–20, there were 3,600 instances of overheating above 26°C reported in NHS England Trust buildings (NHS, 2020). However, changes in reporting mean that data on the ‘proportion of clinical areas with thermal monitoring’ is no longer collected, which makes the instances of overheating difficult to interpret. A report on overheating in healthcare settings in Scotland found anecdotal evidence of overheating issues in four out of the five sites examined within the study (BRE, 2018). The zoning and control of the heating systems, solar gain, and lack of effective natural ventilation were identified as the most significant, and common, contributors to overheating in the five sites that were studied.

Modelling studies indicate that unshaded, well-insulated and thermally lightweight hospital buildings are inherently at risk of overheating, even in a cool UK summer (Fifield et al., 2018). It has been estimated that up to 90% of hospital wards are at risk of overheating during hot weather (Short, 2017). As heat exposure can have disproportionate health implications for the elderly or sick, there has been an increased research focus on overheating in health care facilities, including how different construction techniques may alter heat exposures, and staff awareness of overheating issues. It has been found that modular hospital buildings are at a significant risk of overheating (Fifield et al., 2018). Older hospital wards appear to be more resilient to hot weather conditions, as well as easier to adapt to be climate resilient (Lomas et al., 2012). Conversely, hospitals constructed during the 1960s and 70s using more lightweight methods were found to be at greater overheating risk (Short et al., 2012; 2015). These older wards pose a greater infection prevention and control risk, however, and this has implications for the methods of space cooling that can be used. The building materials and methods of cooling are important, but also some types of wards have restrictions (e.g. secure units) that mean that they are difficult to ventilate.

Health care facilities can have a high density of medical and non-medical equipment, and the anthropogenic and waste heat from this equipment can act to increase indoor temperatures (Gough et al., 2019). There is anecdotal evidence of equipment, including IT failures, during the heatwaves of 2018 and 2019.

The low awareness of the health risks that heat can cause in vulnerable people is a significant risk in care settings (Gupta et al., 2017). A study in Scotland found that staff were aware of the potential for indirect risks from overheating and staff fatigue was reported as an issue in one site (BRE, 2018). As the design, briefing and management of care schemes largely focuses on the provision of warmth and is reinforced by current regulatory practices, warm environments are prioritised due to its association with ‘good care’ (Gupta et al., 2016a).

Managing high indoor temperatures within care homes has several challenges (Gupta and Gregg, 2017). These include:

  • Lack of awareness or confusion in responsibility on how to manage building systems and controls to avoid overheating.
  • Lack of existing physical strategies (such as shading, cross-ventilation) to avoid overheating.
  • Diversity in thermal comfort perceptions of residents and staff, and an inability to predict or recognise residents’ discomfort regarding heat.
  • Engrained habits and practices of carers and residents can result in an inflexibility to adapt routines to short-term changes during hot weather in order to reduce the health risks.
  • There is no statutory maximum internal temperature for care schemes. Whilst health and care sector guidance is generally based on excess-mortality related static external maximum threshold temperatures, overheating within the building sector is more specifically related to thermal comfort.

Thermal modelling of future overheating risk in care homes showed overheating in most areas modelled in England (Gupta et al., 2017). Timing and magnitude of overheating was, however, different between the care home case studies. There are many building characteristics and factors which contribute to this, for example, the location of the care homes had a significant impact on the overheating risk.

As temperatures increase, it is very likely there will be an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwave events and extreme high temperatures, and healthcare buildings will overheat more frequently. Acute services will also need to address the increases in demand during heatwave events. The Met Offices estimates that a ‘hot’ summer such as 2018 has a probability of approximately 10% in the period 1981 to 2000, is currently 10-20%, but this will increase to probabilities on the order of 50% by mid-century (Murphy et al., 2018).

5.13.1.2 Current and future risk of flooding in hospitals and other health infrastructure – UK (H12)

The current and future flood risk of health system assets, including hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries and emergency services has been assessed by Sayers et al. (2020a) (see Table 5.46 and Figure 5.17). Approximately 10% of hospitals are situated in areas of significant flood risk in the UK. Surface water flooding is shown to be the greatest risk to health and social care assets. This may be due to its widespread and spatially distributed footprint when compared to fluvial flood events of comparable magnitude.

 
Figure 5.17. Flood risks for health and social care assets for current year (2020) Source: (Sayers et al., 2020a)

Flood events have damaged health care infrastructure and equipment in recent years but there is no overall assessment of the total impact of flooding in either disruption to services or financial costs. There have been several reported examples of impacts on health services from flooding events, particularly in terms of both patients and staff unable to access services:

  • A qualitative study after flooding in Lincolnshire showed that floods reduced capacity in the health system to cope with routine health provision (Landeg et al., 2019).
  • Hospitals have also been affected by flooding in England. A comprehensive study of rainfall and ambulance services in England has shown that even low-magnitude floods can cause a reduction in ambulance response times, leading to impacts in provision for vulnerable groups at locations such as care homes, sheltered accommodation, nurseries and schools (D. Yu et al., 2020).
  • In January 2021, Storm Christoph nearly led to the flooding of a COVID-19 vaccine factory in Wrexham. Workers pumped water from the area and cleared gullies around the site after the building experienced mild flooding.

In all nations, a significant proportion of health and social care assets are at risk of flooding and this will increase by 2050 and the 2080s in scenarios of both 2°C and 4°C global warming in 2100 (assuming no change in infrastructure). Table 5.46 shows the increase in risk of 1 in 75-year floods for hospitals, GP surgeries, emergency serives and care homes (Sayers et al., 2020a). The largest increase in risk is in England.

Table 5.46. Current and future flood risk for health and social care assets with different combinations of climate change pathways and population scenario, with Reduced Whole System (RWS) adaptation: numbers assets in probability band “significant”. Source: Sayers et al. (2020a), see reference for further details.
 

Present

2050s2080s
Population ProjectionLowHighLowHigh
Climate pathway (global warming reached in 2100) 2C4C2C4C2C4C2C4C
ENGLAND
Emergency services4957298357358428419858541001
GPs surgeries247436624205369042354243505642995127
Hospitals105513361451135014661463161714911649
Care homes218732863864331538793901474539624823
SCOTLAND
Emergency services86103106104107104115106117
GPs surgeries87115127116128123135125137
Hospitals190252262254264260267264272
Care homes495961596159636064
WALES
Emergency services8198106100108103121108127
GPs surgeries515559566057706073
Hospitals161717171817181820
Care homes487178738077878194
NORTHERN IRELAND
Emergency Services273337353835403843
GPs surgeries99128130131133126133133144
Hospitals111616161716171719
Care homes486063626561676573

5.13.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H12)

To avoid lock-in, there is a need to ensure new and refurbished hospitals and care settings are designed for the future climate (Fifield et al., 2018). A failure to plan heat management in new care homes and care in the home could lock-in large numbers of people to heat risks (Watkiss et al., 2019b).

Future care policy could have important lock-in risks, e.g. a policy towards greater independent care in the home might actually increase future risks. This is a risk where there is a potentially high need to consider future pathways (and adaptive management) because the UK is likely to experience a growing risk (extreme heat) that it has not faced historically, and that will involve potentially large levels of change depending on the future rate of global warming.

There are thresholds related to overheating risks for buildings and rooms or wards. For example, thresholds are used for tolerable indoor temperatures in modelling in care homes (26˚C). The Northern Ireland Nursing Home Standard requires temperatures in areas occupied by residents to be between 19˚C and 22˚C. It is not possible to develop population wide thresholds specifically for health and social care systems.

The heat alert thresholds within the Heatwave Plan for England include actions for the health and social care agencies and professionals. These are currrently being updated, based on new evidence regarding population level impacts. Heat alert thresholds are operational thresholds for managing episodes of hot weather. It is important to note that many heat related occur on days that are not ‘alert’ days, and therefore strategies take into account a range of measures.

As the climate warms, there are likely to be thresholds for comfort, especially for patients and health/social care professionals, that are exceeded. There will also be toleration thresholds for equipment that are likely to be exceeded unless action is taken.

5.12.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and inter-dependencies (H12)

As the risks relate to risks from heatwaves and flood events, some of the evidence described in Risk H1 (higher temperatures) and Risks H3/H4 Flooding and coastal change are relevant here.

Disruptions to infrastructure from extreme weather can have knock-on impacts to delivery of health and social care (WSP, 2020).

  • Power or IT outages can cause significant issues. In 2015, a flood caused a power cut to the Royal Berkshire hospital. The hospital had to close its accident and emergency department to all but life-threatening conditions.
  • Disruption to transport infrastructure (for example roads being flooded) can cause transport delays and impact ambulance and emergency vehicles (Yu et al., 2020).

5.12.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H12)

The health systems in England, Wales and Scotland have commitments to decarbonise and reduce emissions. NHS England has published a report that more clearly defines the pathways and interventions required to achieve the Net Zero ambition (NHS England, 2020). As has been addressed in detail elsewhere (Risks H1, H2, H5), measures undertaken to increase energy efficiency in buildings need to take account of risks to overheating (and indoor air quality).

Dynamic thermal simulation of a retirement village retrofit to nearly zero energy standards was found to increase the overheating risk of the buildings, with mitigating options unable to eliminate overheating risk (Salem et al., 2019).

5.12.1.6 Inequalities (H12)

Inequality in access to health and social care exists within the UK. There has been little additional evidence regarding inequalities in access to care in relation to extreme weather events.

5.12.1.7 Magnitude scores (H12)

Due to the large number of assets at risk of overheating and at risk from flooding, the magnitude of risk is medium to high in all countries (Table 5.47). Both economic costs of impacts (damage to infrastructure) and disruption to services are considered here. However, there is a lack of evidence on these risks leading to a medium level of confidence. Overheating risks are likely to be significant in England and Wales after mid-century, especially under high rates of warming. The costs of damage to hospitals from flooding can be significant but there is no overall estimate of these costs on a national basis.

Table 5.47. Magnitude scores for risks to health and social care delivery
CountryPresent Day2050s2080s
  

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(High confidence)

High

(High confidence)

Northern Ireland

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Scotland

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Wales

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

High

(Medium confidence)

5.13.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H12)

5.13.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H12)

5.13.2.1.1.UK-wide

The health and social care systems in the UK are devolved, and also complex in terms of the multiple agencies that deliver care. There are national regulators who are responsible for standards of care in hospitals, care homes and other related services. Local authorities are responsible for commissioning some community care services. Many care homes are also owned or managed by the private sector or third sector.

There is still relatively little published evidence on the evaluation of emergency planning in hospital and other health care settings. There have been several papers and reviews that address resilience to climate risks more generally in health systems (Marinucci et al., 2014; Paterson et al., 2014). The World Health Organisation has developed a framework on health system resilience to climate change (WHO, 2018b). The US (CDC) has also developed the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to support health officials to develop strategies and programs to prepare for the health effects of climate change.

A range of building interventions or building designs are available to address overheating risks (see also discussion in Risk H1). Even with good evidence of effectiveness, there are, however, limitations in addressing overheating in care settings. Building types for hospitals and care homes vary widely and adaptation measures may not be universally effective. Even within the building level, wards can respond differently than other type of healthcare rooms (e.g. outpatient rooms). Measures that mitigate overheating risk or enhance resilience will need to be tailored to each building’s construction and location, and each individual space’s orientation and occupancy pattern.

5.13.2.1.2 England

There has been some action to address overheating in hospitals and health care buildings in England. DHSC and its arm’s length bodies have developed measures to improve patient safety and increase resilience to heatwaves in health and social care buildings.

For example, DHSC have been working with the NHS to address overheating risk in mandatory Green Plans (formerly known as Sustainable Development Management Plans – SDMPs). The NHS aims to embed adaptation into daily practice by 2023, by including it as a key element of Green Plans. Green Plans must be submitted by all NHS providers. This will be supported by guidance from Greener NHS, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I). The NHS Standard Contract is mandated by NHS England for use by commissioners for all contracts for healthcare services other than primary care. The Service Conditions of the full-length NHS Standard Contract 2020/21 includes conditions that require trusts to adapt the Provider’s Premises and the way services are delivered to mitigate risks associated with climate change and severe weather.

From April 2017, the NHS has required Trusts and commissioners to submit information on:

  • the percentage of clinical areas covered by thermal monitoring
  • the number of overheating events in clinical areas
  • the presence of an organisational adaptation plan

This requirement has now been removed, so there is now less information on overheating risks than in previous years.

NHS England has undertaken a review of emergency planning preparedness and response in 2019 but the results are not yet available. All NHS Trusts in England have to respond to the survey of emergency planning, following a commitment from NHS England to address the response to extreme weather.

The Heatwave Plan for England includes specific guidance for care homes (and persons needing care at home) (PHE, 2018b). Care home owners and managers consider building designs to reduce overheating under current and future climates as a low priority, and due to perceived conflicts between cooling and occupant requirements, there is a lack of investment in adaptation strategies (Gupta et al., 2016b). There is risk of lock-in from inappropriate building designs for care homes.

The Greater London Authority piloted an audit process to produce evidence-based recommendations for reducing the occurrence of summertime indoor overheating and exposure to elevated temperatures in care settings by residents (Oikonomou et al., 2020). The report found that care homes could benefit from simple measures incurring minimal or no cost at all, such as switching off unnecessary heat sources and applying rules for window opening and use of curtains, to highly efficient, albeit more complex and expensive, solutions that could be implemented in the longer term. These include the application of external shading, high albedo finishing materials and green roofs. Occupant behaviour plays a significant role in overheating reduction.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has a role to oversee the quality of care in England. CQC have engaged in additional work to raise awareness about overheating risk, for example through publicity of #TempAware on social media[20]. Assessments of health and care services focus on the importance of people experiencing a safe environment that is responsive to their personal needs. This includes considering the building temperature and how individual hydration and nutritional requirements are being met, and is underpinned by the guidance developed by the CQC.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertake inspection of residential care homes but do not explicitly assess the risk of overheating or heatwave management. However, they inspect for evidence of:

  • How risks to people are assessed and their safety monitored and managed, so they are supported to stay safe and their freedom is respected.
  • How equipment, which is owned or used by the provider, is used to support people to stay safe.
  • How the premises and safety of communal and personal spaces (such as bedrooms) and the living environment are checked and managed to support people to stay safe.
  • How the provider manages risks where they provide support in premises that they are not responsible for.
5.13.2.1.3 Northern Ireland

The Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland has three main responsibilities:

  • Health and Social Care, including policy and legislation for hospitals, family practitioner services and community health and personal social services.
  • Public Health, which covers policy, legislation and administrative action to promote and protect the health and well-being of the population.
  • Public Safety, which covers policy and legislation for fire and rescue services.

The second Nothern Ireland Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Daera, 2019) highlights the risks to health and social care delivery from climate change, including from hazards such as extreme heat and flooding, but there are no specific actions listed in the programme to address these hazards in health and social care settings.

Care homes have guidance for temperature ranges (Revised Residential Care Home and Revised Nursing Homes Standard – ‘the temperature in areas occupied or used by residents should be between 19°C – 22°C’). A stakeholder event held in 2015 found that there was limited action on health and social care in adaptation planning. Climate change adaptation was not seen as a priority. The ability to adapt older, existing health and social care buildings in terms of overheating can be difficult due the building design. There is also a perceived conflict with using air conditioning as a retrofit (stakeholder event 2015 run by Climate NI).

5.13.2.1.4 Scotland

The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (Scottish Government, 2019a) makes reference to a large number of different policies and projects designed to help the health and social care sector adapt to climate change.

  • Climate Hazards and Vulnerabilities Risk Screening Tool for Healthcare Assets: launched in summer 2019, the tool aims to inform NHS Scotland risk assessment and planning processes, including identification of the risk of damage and loss to healthcare assets and sites.
  • NHS Board Climate Change Risk Assessments and Adaptation Plans: NHS National Services Scotland (NHS NSS) recently undertook an NHS Scotland-wide climate change impact assessment to consider the key climate risks for each NHS Board. This included a flood risk assessment of over 250 NHS sites. Building on these initial studies, NHS NSS have now developed a Climate Change Risk Assessment tool which enables NHS Boards to assess their climate risks and integrate these assessments into resilience planning at each site. Work is now in progress across all NHS Boards to transition from the initial impact assessment to full adaptation plans.
  • NHS Scotland’s Sustainability Strategy will provide clear ambitions and actions against 16 areas of focus, including Climate Change Adaptation. NHS Scotland’s Sustainability Assessment Tool (NSAT) enables NHS Scotland Boards to assess their sustainability performance across different areas of focus, including Climate Change Adaptation.
  • NHS Standards for Organisational Resilience. These are designed to support NHS Boards to enhance their resilience. There are 41 standards that cover a range of topics that NHS Boards need to be prepared for, including climate change.

As mentioned above, territorial NHS Health Boards are required to undertake climate change risk assessments on their estates and have developed tools to undertake such assessments and integrate these assessments into resilience planning at each site. The NHS Highlands region has completed the first risk assessment, but the results are not (yet) publicly available. NHS Health Scotland is producing a report on the links between health inequalities and climate change, with a physician statement setting out key issues. A report on overheating in healthcare settings in Scotland is also in progress.

5.13.2.1.5 Wales

The Welsh Government and NHS Wales have made progress in increasing resilience to extreme weather. A Building Note (Welsh Government, 2017) focuses on the strategic approach to resilience planning for healthcare estates, procurement, design and planning, building services, and engineering. This focuses on impacts of severe weather incidents, flood risk, coastal change, water supply and changes to biodiversity and landscape and wildfires. This is a comprehensive tool for managing the estate and assets. However, the extent of implementation and influence is not understood, although reference to it does not feature in elements of health and social care planning in Wales.

Some hospitals have installed sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) to address risks from (pluvial) flooding. Examples include the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend and Cynon Valley Community Hospital in Rhondda in Wales.

River Basin Management Plans for Western Wales, the Severn and Dee Rivers and 11 catchment summaries focus on climate risks soils, water, trees, biodiversity, water demand, and supply and character. They provide only a broad indication of risks because health and social care assets are not identified, but included within the broad category of non-residential properties.

The Welsh Government’s national adaptation plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (Welsh Government, 2019f), includes a policy commitment to address the climate risks through the ‘SH3 Update’ and revise plans and advice in line with research to increase understanding of the future risk extreme weather brings to health and social care delivery via increasing understanding and improved contingency planning. However, there is little evidence of discourse and analysis on climate risk to health and social services in strategy or governance. A climate change Health Impact Assessment commissioned by Public Health Wales is underway, and includes impacts on healthcare delivery.

5.13.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H12)

For all four UK countries, policies or plans are in place to increase adaptation within the health system. Our assessment is that this will only partially address the risks now and in the future, but not fully allow risks to be reduced to low magnitude levels. Adaptation actions are likely to be insuffucient for higher levels of warming.

There is less evidence regarding policies in the social care system, including care homes. Current evidence shows that there may also be issues about the implementation of plans throughout the health systems, particulary for frontline staff.

As well as a lack of available evidence on action being taken for Northern Ireland in particular, there are some specific gaps in planning and implementation remain, including:

  • Lack of awareness of heat risks and responses among frontline staff, as shown in care homes (Gupta and Gregg, 2017) and hospitals (Williams et al., 2019). Gupta and Gregg (2017) found that in care settings specifically there was:
    • A lack of existing physical strategies (such as shading, cross-ventilation) to avoid overheating.
    • Diversity in thermal comfort perceptions of residents and staff, and an inability to predict or recognise residents’ discomfort regarding heat.
    • The possibility of inflexibility in adapting routines to short-term changes during hot weather in order to reduce the health risks due to engrained habits and practices of carers and residents.
    • No statutory maximum internal temperature for care schemes; whilst health and care sector guidance is generally based on excess mortality-related static external maximum threshold temperatures, overheating within the building sector is more specifically related to thermal comfort.
  • Lack of monitoring of indoor temperatures in health and social care settings. The requirement for NHS Trusts and commissioners to report on overheating risk and incidents of overheating through the Estates Returns Information Collection (ERIC) in England has been removed.

Further, evaluation of the heatwave plan for England (Williams et al., 2019) concluded that:

  • Heatwave planning was largely seen as an exercise in emergency preparedness and focused on ‘warning and informing’ through the alert system, rather than as a strategic objective of long-term public health and environmental planning.
  • The role of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in planning and implementing local heatwave plans was not clear; in some areas CCGs were reported to be taking a key role in planning and co-ordinating the health response, while in others they were said to be acting in a more supportive role, with NHS England taking the lead.
  • Emergency planners, mainly in local authorities and acute trusts, said that they adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach, employing professional judgment before escalating actions during a heatwave.

The evaluation of the Heatwave Plan indicates gaps in implementation, particularly among front line staff. There is limited evidence regarding actions in Wales and Scotland specifically, so we assume that some of the issues highlighted above may apply across the UK, but our confidence in this assessment is lower.

5.13.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H12)

Table 5.48. Adaptation scores for risks to health and social care delivery
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

Partially

(Medium confidence)

5.13.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H12)

This risk needs to be managed strategically at a national level. Regional/local level climate risk assessments should be carried out by Trusts, Health Boards and local government social services (where these are not already happening) to help them plan forward with climate risks in mind. As highlighted in the sections above, a particular issue is around heat risks in care settings, and thus there are similar issues for passive versus mechanical cooling options as for all buildings (see H1). There are obvious potential benefits from ensuring new care homes and hospitals are designed for the future climate. This is particularly important given the high risks and potential for lock-in involved, i.e. the higher costs of retrofitting later. There are also potential options for retrofitting existing care homes and hospitals.

For hospitals, there is some literature on hospital design (including retrofitting) that emphasises passive approaches (Giridharan et al., 2013; Fifield et al., 2018) which highlight the potential benefits of such designs, but also highlights that other drivers, notably economics, are preventing uptake. However, the costs and benefits of actions, especially for retrofitting existing buildings, will be very site specific.

There is some analysis of potential adaptation options for care homes (Oikonomou et al., 2020) (Gupta et al., 2016a; PHE, 2018b). These studies identify a range of options, including in care home operation (monitoring, early warning, emergency response), passive and mechanical cooling, and enhanced regulations, standards and guidance from care sector bodies and Government departments. Some initial work has been undertaken to explore a cost-benefit evaluation of building adaptations designed to protect against heat risks to residents of care homes in England (Ibbetson, 2021). The work found that various physical adaptations have the potential to at least be cost-effective and reduce heat risk. For example, in one case study, external window shading was estimated to reduce mean indoor temperatures by 0.9°C in a ‘warm’ summer and 0.6°C in an ‘average’ summer. In this case, for a care home of 50 residents, over a 20-year time horizon and assuming an annual discount rate of 3.5%, the monetized benefit of reduced Years of Life Lost (YLL) would be between £44,000 and £230,000 depending on which life-expectancy assumption is used. Although this range represents appreciable uncertainty, it appears that modest cost adaptations to heat risk may be justified in conventional cost-benefit terms even under conservative assumptions about life expectancy and should therefore be considered as an important complement to operation responses.

Other adaptation options can be considered low regret (i.e. heat management plans, some passive ventilation measures). Further investigation of the range of adaptation options across the UK would be highly beneficial.

Given these gaps in understanding, further action is therefore needed to specifically address the risk of overheating in residential care buildings. Adaptations through design measures (such as glazing improvement (where needed), draught proofing, shutters, reflective surfaces, green cover and green space, and ceiling fans) can help to reduce the risk of overheating in the next five years (see also discussion of housing interventions above).

Monitoring of indoor temperatures and other indicators would be an additional response. Indoor temperature/ thermal comfort monitoring could be installed in a stepwise method, to monitor changes over time.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have long term implications for the resilience of the health and social care sector. The pandemic has caused additional stress on the health and social care system due to increased demand (likely to last until 2022) and additional pressures on local finances (likely to last longer term).

5.13.3.1 Overall urgency scores (H12)

Table 5.49. Urgency scores for risks to health and social care delivery
CountryEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
ConfidenceMediumMediumMediumMedium

Our assessment is that the progress in research and action at the national and local level to implement strategies to address climate risks goes some way to managing the increasing risks from climate change, but this is only partial. Given the medium to high projected risks in the future due to climate change combined with this adaptation shortfall, the risk has evaluated as more action needed in all countries. Confidence is medium, as there are gaps in the evidence available about how far implementation of adaptation strategies is underway, particularly at the local level across the UK.

5.13.4 Looking ahead (H12)

Implementation of indicators and monitoring methods to track adaptation actions and resilience across the health and social care sector is needed in advance of CCRA4. There are key reporting issues that could be improved in order to get a better understanding of the preparedness of this sector to climate change. Research on technologies, including building design is needed that is appropriate for care settings.

5.14 Risks to education and prison services (H13)

Climate change is likely to cause disruption to education and prison services. The majority of current evidence on climate risks and education relates to the impact of heat in schools. Children are more vulnerable to heat risks, especially young children and those with special needs, and are reliant on teachers and other adults for support. There is evidence of planning in line with 2°C and 4°C climate scenarios being developed in England and Wales for both schools and prisons. However, further adaptation measures are essential in each nation to avoid lock-in with building designs and adapt to the future risks of overheating, flooding and other climate hazards.

5.14.1 Current and future level of risk of education (H13)

The evidence base for current and future risks is fairly limited for devolved nations. It is not possible to assess current and future impacts by UK country, but risks for education and prison services are presented separately.

5.14.1.1 Current risk (H13)

5.14.1.1.1 Current risk: Education sector (H13)

The majority of current evidence on climate risks and education services relates to the impact of heat in schools. Children are more vulnerable to heat risks, especially young children and those with special needs, and are reliant on teachers and other adults for support, knowledge and guidance, particularly at early school age (GLA, 2020). The Department of Education has highlighted that Special Education Needs schools are a priority for heat risks. High indoor temperatures have adverse effects on health and wellbeing (see Risk H1) but also effect cognitive performance and the ability to learn (Wargocki and Wyon, 2006).

There is no current evidence regarding the prevalence of high indoor temperatures in schools and educational buildings across the country. However, local studies and evidence from pupils and staff have identified current serious issues:

  • A study in Southampton revealed that of nine factors, the summer heat had the largest detrimental impact on learning experience (Arup, 2014).
  • Schools in London have also reported that concentration levels of children had been affected as a result of high temperatures in recent years (GLA, 2020).
  • A survey of teachers found that 90% reported taking additional measures to reduce the classroom temperature, including purchasing portable air conditioners (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018b). The majority of respondents reported that high temperatures had an impact on student performance, with half reporting that the reduction in productivity was ‘significant’.
  • Some new student residences experienced internal temperatures above 30°C, partly because window openings were inadequate (CIBSE, 2020).

Buiding design of schools is key determinant of heat risks. Some naturally ventilated modern schools often have more problems with increased risk of overheating. System-built schools (e.g from the 1960s and 1970s), Victorian schools and some well-designed new schools are at a lower risk of overheating due to having significant thermal mass and cross ventilation (Teli et al., 2011; Teli et al., 2012; CIBSE, 2015). Overheating problems in older schools may be due to retrofitting and poor ventilation (Montazami et al., 2015), particulary when retrofits were to address space heating in winter (DCLG, 2012; Teli et al., 2017). Newly built schools may also present a risk if poorly designed, without taking heat risk into consideration (GLA, 2020). GLA (2020) provided an example of a new primary school building equipped with modern control systems, high levels of insulation and glass, which experiences regular overheating. The complexity of the control system was found to make temperatures more difficult to manage rather than easier. Overheating risks can occur outside of the school building in playgrounds and surrounding areas due to a lack of shading or through trapping of heat in surfaces such as tarmac and dark coloured materials (GLA, 2020).

Indoor temperatures can be difficult to regulate due to high classroom occupancy, activity and the volume of IT equipment (Lykartsis et al., 2017). Schools built with mixed mode or mechanical ventilation systems may be more able to comply with current overheating criteria but are not necessarily more resilient to future climate change due to the fixed ventilation rates of mechanical systems (Lykartsis et al., 2017).

10,150 schools in England are assessed as being exposed to a significant probability of flood, along with 432 and 292 schools in Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively (Figure 5.18) (Sayers et al., 2020a). The majority of this risk is associated with surface flooding. There is also concern that many school buildings have flat roofs and are more susceptible to damage from heavy rain. However, there has not been an overall assessment of flood risk to schools. Severe damage to buildings entail significant costs, and alternative venues need to be found to ensure continuity of education. For example, a primary school in Northwich that was severely damaged by Storm Christoph could not be used for two months and pupils were receiving lessons in the local leisure centre. In 2007, 158 London schools flooded due to heavy rainfall and surface water flooding (JCSC, 2019). The 2007 floods resulted in school closures across England with a total of 400,000 pupil school days lost. which was estimated to have an economic cost of £12 million, not including damage to property (EA, 2010).

As mentioned in risk H5, an additional risk that has been identified is landslides, particularly in relation to coal tips in Wales. The Aberfan disaster in 1966 involved a rainfall-induced landslide of a coal tip onto a school and houses, killing 116 chiildren and 28 adults. In February 2020, a major slope failure followed heavy rain at the Llanwonno tip near Tylorstown, prompting an urgent review of legislation and plans for monitoring and remediation (Welsh Government, 2021e). Most of the 2,000+ coal tips in Wales are in the south of the country, and 294 have been identified as high risk (Fairclough, 2021). Annual mean precipitation in South Wales has increased over the last century (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021), and we suggest that it is possible that climate change may have already increased the risk of future slope failures.

Figure 5.18. Current (2020) flood risk for schools by devolved administration and flood type. Source: Sayers et al., 2020a.
5.14.1.1.2 Current risk: Prison services

There is limited published evidence of the impact of climate hazards on prison buildings and inmate and staff health in the UK.

UK prisons are vulnerable to high ambient temperatures due to the current strategy from central government promoting insulation and specific building materials (Jewkes and Moran, 2015). In the summer months, temperatures exceed comfortable conditions due to thermal efficiency and limited natural ventilation. The HM Inspectorate of Prisons report included concerns from inmates during inspections which included difficulty of breathing, continuous heating, high ambient temperatures in cells and limited oxygen from poor ventilation (HM Inspectorate of Prisons, 2017). The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) received nearly 500 reports and complaints of overheating in 2016–17 (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018c). Solutions such as air-cooling technologies have been suggested to not be acceptable for prison conditions (Jewkes and Moran, 2015). Currently, there is no systematic evidence monitoring the indoor temperatures inside prisons in the UK (Brown, 2017).

A number of prisons are at risk of flooding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland although no recent published estimates are available. The 2008 National Flood Risk Assessment estimated that 13% of prisons are at risk of flooding (EA, 2009), and within London, three prisons are at risk of a 1 in 30-year flooding event and seven are vulnerable to a 1 in 100-year event (JCSC, 2019).

Evidence from the US highlights the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable and captive populations. Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage to US prisons in the exposed area, and inmates were without power, food, water for four days (Motanya and Valera, 2016). Heat-related deaths have also been reported in the US – 14 heat-related deaths and over 90 cases of heat-related illness or injury over 9 years in Texas, for instance (Motanya and Valera, 2016).

5.14.1.2 Future risk (H13)

5.14.1.2.1 Future risk: Education sector (H13)

Higher temperatures are likely to increase heat risks in the future, especially in the south of England, with London experiencing the highest levels of overheating (GLA, 2020) . Projected electricity consumption by schools indicate that a cooling load under current weather conditions will be 25% of annual electricity consumption and 82% under predicted future conditions (Lykartsis et al., 2017).

The CIBSE Schools Design Group on climate change adaptation made recommendations based on the modelled response of recently built schools in England to climate scenarios (Taylor et al., 2020; Department for Education, 2020). The recommendations have informed the current ‘Specification 21’ rewrite of the DfE Generic Design Brief and Output Specification. Findings include:

  • In a UK scenario consistent with 2°C global warming[21], the overall number of classrooms not achieving current standards for thermal comfort is low.
  • However, there are schools with substantial numbers of classrooms that do not meet the standards. The classrooms most at risk were found to be those with an increased exposure to solar gains – for example, south-facing, top-floor classrooms. Risks were higher in London and the south east of England, with dense urban areas also representing an increased risk because of the urban heat island effect.
  • Conversely, there was some evidence that schools with higher standards of insulation and increased potential for ventilation in classrooms performed better.
  • In a UK scenario consistent with 4°C global warming[22], the majority of classrooms do not achieve the target comfort criteria, although impacts could be mitigated with effective design strategies such as cross-ventilation, thermal mass, high ceilings and room depth.

A significant number of schools are projected to be at increased risk of flooding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Table 5.50). In scenarios of 2°C and 4°C global warming by 2100, the number of schools located in the highest all-cause flood probability category by 2080 is projected to increase by 32% and 95% respectively, assuming no change in adaptation or in the number of schools (Table 5.50). The Greater London Authority projected that schools in London will be at a high risk of surface water flooding in the future, especially during winter months. This risk is attributed to London’s Victorian natural drainage systems and use of impermeable materials which exposes the city to a future risk of pluvial flooding. In London, 643 schools (22%) are estimated to be risk of a 1 in 30-year all-cause flood, and 781 (27%) are at risk from a 1 in 100-year all-cause flood (JCSC, 2019).

Table 5.50. Current and future flood risk for schools with different combinations of dates, climate pathways and population projections under the Reduced Whole System adaptation scenario: numbers of schools in probability band “significant”, all source flood type Source: Sayers et al.(2020a), see reference for further details.
 

Present

(2020)

2050s2080s
Population projectionLowHighLowHigh
Climate pathway (global warming reached in 2100)2C4C2C4C2C4C2C4C
ENGLAND (Total = 24,323)
Schools107101489016780150301693416956198161724320168
NORTHERN IRELAND (Total = 1832)
Schools439522549537566530576568618
SCOTLAND (Total = 5046)
Schools387551584560591574597587612
WALES (Total = 1569)
Schools515863596462746577

If any schools are exposed to risks from landslides or coal tip slope failures, we suggest that this risk may increase with more intense heavy precipitation projected in future (Chapter 1: Slingo, 2021).

5.14.1.2.2 Future risk: Prison services

The Ministry of Justice have published Preparing for Climate Change: A Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which highlights the key risks to prisons across the UK (Parry and Cole, 2020). Flooding, storms and drought are indicated due to the risk of loss of building use and increased financial costs of repair or finding alternative accommodation for inmates. Overheating is a key risk to prisons as high temperatures impact the welfare of inmates, staff and visitors. The buildings may also not be usable, causing increased costs which compromise prison capacity. Unlike overheating, lack of heating (too cold rooms) is a breach of Health and Safety standards and also has been recognised as a problem in several prisons (Parry and Cole, 2020).

There is a risk to prisons from prisoner litigation following a climate hazard that is poorly managed (Jewkes and Moran, 2015). A consequence of more specific standards of prison environment legislation is it may give prisoners precedent to contest their safety within their cells and the indoor prison environment, hence why UK prison standards are currently so vague (Jewkes and Moran, 2015). Increased events of high ambient temperatures, especially during 23-hour lockdowns, may provide evidence of infringement of human rights.

5.14.1.3 Lock-in and thresholds (H13)

There is considerable risk of lock-in for this risk because a significant part of the built enviroment in the UK is not adapted to future climates (CCC, 2019a).

It is important that new educational and justice buildings are designed appropriately for future climates to avoid lock-in. New buildings often have high levels of insulation and air tightness, low thermal mass and large glazing areas which can exacerbate heat risks if appropriate ventilation and passive cooling are not installed.

There are also lock-in risks for poor refurbishment and reuse of older buildings that do not adequately consider overheating and the nature of the existing building fabric and use. There are lock-in risks for urban areas that enhance rather than reduce urban heat islands (see Risk H1).

As discussed in Risk H1, heat responses are subject to a range of thresholds. Unlike lower temperature limits, there are no upper limits to how hot a classroom can be.

Lock-in will arise if development in flood risk areas is not resilient to current and future flood risk, and where flood risk management measures are currently, or will become, insufficient to manage the risk.

5.14.1.4 Cross-cutting risks and Inter-dependencies (H13)

As the risks relate to risks from heatwaves and flood events, some of the evidence described in Risk H1 (higher temperatures), Risks H3/H4 (Flooding and coastal change) and Risk I8 (Risks to water supplies) are relevant here, particulary in relation to interventions in buildings and flood risk management policy.

Failures to adapt other sectors to flood risks can cause knock-on impacts. For example, a failure to address risks to infrastructure will have cascading social impacts, e.g. bridge closures could prevent people getting to work or children to school. A combination of flooding and electricity failures can disrupt services to schools and prisons.

Climate change may also have an impact on historic and heritage sites (Risk H12) under the management of the MoJ including prisons, courts, probation facilities and memorial sites (MoJ, 2019b).

5.14.1.5 Implications of Net Zero (H13)

As the UK Government has pledged to reach Net Zero by 2050, this may have implications for increasing the risk of overheating in buildings. The DfE ‘Specification 21’ will include requirements for achieving Net Zero Carbon schools in operation, and sets a framework for sustainability and embodied carbon in the new Sustainability Technical Annex.

New and retrofitted buildings, including educational facilities and prisons, will increasingly have energy efficiency measures integrated to align with the overall UK Net Zero objectives. These measures could have consequences for increased overheating in the summer due to increased air-tighness and reduce ventilation unless they are desinged appropriately, with overheating and indoor air quality considered.

5.14.1.6 Magnitude scores (H13)

Table 5.51. Magnitude score risks to education and prison services
CountryPresent Day2050s2080s
  

On a pathway to

stabilising global

warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathwayto 4°C global

warming at

end of century

On a pathway to stabilising global warming at 

2°C by 2100

On a pathway to 4°C global warming at

end of century

England

Medium

(Medium confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

High

(Low confidence)

Northern Ireland

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Scotland

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Wales

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

Medium

(Low confidence)

The present day magnitude is medium in all countries (Table 5.51). For England, EAD from flooding to schools was estimated to be £12 million for lost school days after the 2007 floods, which justifies the medium score. Based on this evidence and studies on overheating in schools, the confidence score is medium for England. Our expert judgement is that similar (but relative) levels of flooding impacts could occur in the Das, therefore the scores are judged to be medium with a low confidence.

Our judgement is that for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the scores remain medium in 2050 and 2080, with a low confidence reflecting the lack of evidence for both schools and prisons.

There is little evidence of current or future impacts to prisons in England, although overheating risks are likely to become significant, after mid-century under high rates of warming and no adaptation. There are likely to be a large number of assets at risk of overheating and at risk from flooding, with a potentially large population affected in England by the 2080s. The scores for 2080 are therefore high with a low confidence.

5.14.2 Extent to which current adaptation will manage the risk (H13)

5.14.2.1 Effects of current adaptation policy and commitments on current and future risks (H13)

5.14.2.1.1 Education
5.14.2.1.1.1 UK-Wide

Education services in the UK are devolved, and specific policies for each UK nation are set out below.

Overheating in schools can be managed in part by operational measures, as often heat risks are caused by human behaviours such as using lights and electrical equipment, poor use of heating systems, heat build-up through the day not being released during the night and inadequate ventilation practices. Therefore, key practices that should be adopted include installation of automatic ‘off’ switches, isolating or re-locating heat sources, installing presence sensors for lighting, ensuring calibration of thermostats and sensors, and ensuring windows are accessible for opening and have sufficient night-time ventilation practices in place (especially given that it is probably impractical to leave windows open overnight due to security issues). Further measures that can be practiced by students and staff include dress code relaxation, regular hydration, encouraging of sun cream and hat use, limiting outdoor activity and using shade and regulating temperature through window ventilation and use of blinds. Schools need to develop plans for heat wave conditions to enable them to remain open. This could include the use of external shelters, fitting of shading devices, increased ventilation using forced draught ceiling fans and introducing earlier start and finish times.

Evidence indicates that schools are at risk of overheating and are likely to fail against overheating criteria without retrofit of significant adaptive measures (Lykartsis et al., 2017; CIBSE, 2019). Implementing and reliance upon cooling systems in schools will allow for thermal comfort, although at the cost of an increase in energy use (Lykartsis et al., 2017; Teli et al., 2017).

5.14.2.1.1.2 England – Education

The Department for Education (DfE) has published revised guidelines on ventilation, thermal comfort and indoor air quality in new and refurbished schools. It sets out the regulatory framework and gives performance levels for compliance with UK regulations and further non-statutory guidance (Education and Skills Funding Agency, 2018).

DfE deals with overheating through revisions to Building Bulletin 101, which is quoted in Part F and L of the Building Regulations, and more frequent revisions to the current ‘Output Specification’ which is applied across all centrally-funded educational building programmes, in both new and refurbished schools. Ongoing revisions to Specification 21 and BB101 will be informed by the research carried out by the CIBSE Schools Design Group Climate Adaptation group (assessing both 2°C and 4°C warming scenarios) and other NERC and EPSRC funded research projects that are completed or ongoing (DfE, 2020). Specification 21 and Net Zero projects are addressing overheating in a proactive design process which aims to lead to a next generation of schools that do not overheat.

The cooling heirarchy given in Section 8.1.3 of Technical Annex 2F of the DfE Specification (DfE, 2020) advocates the use of passive measures before the use of mechanical cooling (DfE, 2020). There are many measures that can be implemented, such as shading and cross ventilation, before the use of mechanical cooling is required. If active cooling systems are needed, designers are required to ensure they are the lowest carbon options and that they are used for peak cooling but not full cooling.

In England, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation in 2021 proposing to introduce an overheating standard in new residential buildings, which includes residential educational settings (such as university halls of residence) as part of the Future Buildings Standard (MHCLG, 2021). If brought into policy this would likely help to tackle the risk of overheating in new residential educational buildings.

Local authorities are mindful of school estates meeting the highest standards of sustainable and environmental design set out in the Building Better Schools and Principle Six of the School Estate Strategy (LfS National Implementation Group, 2016). The Greater London Authority (GLA) has also recently released some guidance to support schools and academies adapt to climate change (GLA, 2020).

The recent understanding of the ventilation transmission route for COVID-19 has meant that ventilation design in schools is being re-evaluated by a number of groups from the risk perspective of the transmission of respiratory disease as well as for climate change adaptation risks including the risks of overheating and poor air quality from traffic and other pollution.

Recent policy announcements on flood risk management in England have included a focus on schools. The Government’s revised funding formula for flood defence spending, announced in 2020, includes new funding streams to protect critical infrastructure including schools (Defra, 2020b). There are many examples of local initiatives available for developing sustainable drainage systems on school estates, often led by local authorities. The GLA has developed a guidance document for London schools to manage flood risk (GLA, 2020). Additional operational changes are scarce in the context of reducing flood risk in schools, however regular maintenance of roofs, gutters and drains will promote drainage of rainfall, avoiding water pooling which may lead to damage. Additionally, schools are advised to raise equipment to be above flood level and where possible have backup power generation to prevent power outages (GLA, 2020).

5.14.2.1.1.3 Northern Ireland – Education

The Education Authority in Northern Ireland has developed severe weather emergency guidance for schools. During periods of severe weather, it is important that schools take steps to minimise the potential impact on school buildings and facilities (EANI, 2019). The resources provide information about preventative measures that schools can take to minimise damage to the school estate in extreme weather conditions and how to protect school premises. The guidance is based on Met Office weather warning alert levels and gives information on the impact, likelihood and actions that the Education Authority and Schools should take in response to extreme weather events at each alert level.

5.14.2.1.1.4 Scotland – Education

Scotland’s Schools For the Future Programme will invest £2.8 billion in constructing, rebuilding and refurbishing over a hundred schools across Scotland (Scottish Government, 2019a). Scotland’s Adaptation plan states that the schools programme will ensure that new and refurbished schools are fit for climate change, although there is little information on how this will be achieved.

5.14.2.1.1.5 Wales – Education

Education Wales published a 21st Century Schools and Education Funding Programme Guide in 2018 to ensuring educational facilities are sustainable, which covers both mitigation and adaptation actions. The guide suggests useful references and examples for design teams and schools to consider when building new educational facilities or retrofitting existing buildings to ensure climate change readiness. The guide highlights four key risks to schools and colleges; overheating, water efficiency, construction and building fabric materials, and flooding. Advised overheating measures include using overheating assessment models that consider future climates and historic weather files as a standard design process. Design teams and developers must consider how to achieve adequate ventilation and avoidance of overheating through automation of windows, integration of CO2 monitoring systems and mitigating heat gains, e.g. amount of people, lighting and IT equipment in classrooms. Funding requirements for the UK industry standard for assessment and certification, BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology), request new educational projects to maximise water savings through the selection of water-efficient sanitary strategies and effective metering methods. During the assessment of new developments, it is important to consider the building materials selected for use in the construction of new schools, colleges and other educational facilities. These materials are required to be robust to withstand heavier and more intense rainfall, higher wind speeds and other extreme events. The guide indicates that opportunities to maximise water attenuation on site should be discussed within project teams and integrate SuDS into plans.

The Eco-Schools programme has led to a number of adaptation benefits for schools in Wales. One example is highlighted as a case study in the Welsh Government’s adaptation plan, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales (2019). Rhyl High School in Denbighshire benefitted from funding to install Sustainable Urban Drainage. As well as protecting the school, the project also reduced the risk of flood to local homes in the area.

5.14.2.1.2 Justice
5.14.2.1.2.1 UK-Wide – Justice

The UK has three separate criminal justice systems: England and Wales (MoJ), Scotland (Justice Directorate and Scottish Prison Service), and Northern Ireland (DoJ). Adaptation strategies focus on ensuring buildings are fully functional and resilient to extreme weather.

BREEAM primarily assesses non-commercial building environmental credentials (NAO, 2017). It is a requisite for all newly built prisons to be awarded an excellent BREEAM ranking (NAO, 2017). This rating has been achieved in only one UK prison at time of writing (April 2020); HMP Thameside.

5.14.2.1.2.2 England and Wales – Justice

Adaptation policy for prisons and court services in England and Wales is addressed by the Ministry of Justice, with overheating being a priority for action (Cole and Soroczynski, 2018). The MOJ’s Estates Directorate are involved in research to combat solar gain, allowing prisoner control of cell temperature, considering solar power options and replacing poor building management systems (Cole and Soroczynski, 2018). The development of the Prison Estate Transformation Programme recognises the importance of climate resilience and incorporates this into the MoJ strategy (Cole and Soroczynski, 2018). A key consideration is the scope to mitigate flood risk, waste reduction, heating systems and to limit carbon emissions through building materials and design (Cole and Soroczynski, 2018).

MoJ requires all new buildings to be delivered to at least BREEAM Excellent standard and have explored whether achieving Outstanding is possible and cost-effective. This is set out in the MoJ BREEAM policy (MoJ, 2019a). The MoJ has reported some commitments already in action including reducing water consumption (Cole and Soroczynski, 2018; Cole, 2018).

The recent Ministry of Justice’s Adaptation Strategy requires that sites assess risks using UKCP18 and use this assessment to inform adaptation plans/actions. A set of measures are recommended, but there is no analysis of costs and benefits (Parry and Cole, 2020). The strategy says that sites should:

  • Build in more natural ventilation, solar shading and natural cooling.
  • Improve Building Management System (BMS) controls.
  • Have emergency plans in place that consider the likely intensity and frequency of heat.
  • Deliver against objectives through an action plan to be used to monitor progress of initiatives and actively support the strategic objectives and continuous improvement throughout the estate.

Recent developments to flood and coastal erosion risk management policy for England and Wales, described above, should also include enhanced protection for prisons as critical infrastructure, though we have been unable to find specific quantitative information on the uptake of SuDS or other flood risk management measures.

5.14.2.1.2.3 Northern Ireland – Justice

There is no current evidence of adaptation action for prison and justice services in Northern Ireland.

5.14.2.1.2.4 Scotland – Justice

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) does not currently have a policy and strategy to mitigate future climate-related risks in place (Scottish Prison Service, 2018). However, the SPS have reported that each prison has a dedicated waste recycling facility, including rainwater harvesting systems. Surface water source control from hardstandings is a key consideration for new or refurbished facilities and SPS design and construction project teams are required to consider design requirements for the safe removal of surface water from buildings, without damage to the buildings or to people around the building, and without posing a risk to the environment by flooding or pollution. SPS design and construction project teams must also consider the use of more sustainable, permeable design options and ensure that surface water runoff to ground utilising a sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS) authorised by SEPA.

5.14.2.2 Adaptation shortfall (H13)

There is evidence of planning and guidance in line with scenarios of 2°C and 4°C global warming by 2100 being developed in England and Wales, for both education and justice. Education policy in Scotland and Northern Ireland also makes reference to the need for adaptation of schools and other facilities, though the specific requirements appear from the evidence above to be more general. There is less evidence available for planning for a range of climate scenarios and hazards in the justice sector in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Further adaptation measures are likely to be needed in each nation to avoid lock-in with building designs, in particularly new or refurbished buildings and adapt to the future risks of overheating, flooding and other climate hazards.

There is a shortfall in adaptation planning in relation to prison guard occupational health, inmate safety and building resilience to climate risks, especially for Northern Ireland and Scotland. The prison population is ageing, and this is likely to exacerbate the impact of extreme weather in the future (Motanya and Valera, 2016).

5.14.2.3 Adaptation Scores (H13)

These adaptation scores take into account plans and policies in place for both education and justice services for overheating and flood risk. In general, there is a lack of evidence of specific policy in both sectors in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are policies and guidance in place in England and Wales to address overheating in schools and prisons, which account for high climate scenarios, but these may not be enough to fully address future risks under climate change. There is less evidence of specific policies to manage future flood risk, though new strategies for flood and coastal erosion risk managemet should include enhanced measures for critical infrastructure, including in the education and justice sectors.

Table 5.52. Adaptation scores risks to education and prison services
Are the risks going to be managed in the future?
EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Partially

(High confidence)

No

(Low confidence)

No

(Low confidence)

Partially

(High confidence)

5.14.3 Benefits of further adaptation action in the next five years (H13)

5.14.3.1 Education (H13)

Across the education system, many schools are limited in their resources, are older buildings, and staff lack sufficient knowledge, hindering effective climate adaptation planning to respond to and recover from extreme events. The general set of adaptation interventions for schools are similar to other buildings, although there are additional low regret options for behavioural responses and emergency plans. There is some specific information on potential options and general affordability (e.g. GLA (2020)), as well as potential benefits (noting these include reduced cognitive and learning issues, mental health, and lost school days). Thompson et al. (2015) report on several projects under the Innovate UK’s Design for Future Climate, Adapting Buildings (D4FC) programme, which included schools, with reported costs for adaptation measures. There is also some international literature which identifies the benefit to cost ratios for greening schools (Kats, 2003, 2006; Zhang et al., 2018) which report higher costs, but net benefits when considered on a life cycle basis. However, costs and benefits vary on a case-by-case basis, and between retrofits and new buildings.

Further adaptation measures are essential to avoid lock-in with building designs and adapt to the future risks of overheating, flooding and other climate hazards. Importantly, the first step for adaptation is developing a school climate adaptation plan with specific targets, strategies, tasks and roles to ensure its delivery and effectiveness. This plan must be centred to ensuring child health and wellbeing, thus engagement across the whole school system, including school decision makers and external support is necessary with the aim to increase the school’s adaptive capacity. A whole school approach is desired to reach optimal effectiveness, considering positive and negative measures and how they interact, but also how this plan integrates with the wider school agenda. Having a school climate adaptation plan delivers multiple positive outcomes including reduced bills, increased learning opportunities, improved biodiversity and better air quality.

A variety of adaptation measures targeted at school buildings have also been proposed by the Greater London Authority that are specific to London Schools, but are likely relevant to the UK-wide context (GLA, 2020). These include multiple modifications to roofs such as green or blue roofs and cool roofs which are reflective or light in colour. As overheating is increasingly becoming a high risk to schools, many measures suggested are around cooling technologies and ventilation. Examples of these systems include windcatchers – natural ventilation systems harnessing wind blowing to ventilate indoor areas – automated window ventilation, hybrid natural and mechanical ventilation, and mechanical cooling or air movement (air conditioning). Additional measures to manage heat risks include thermal massing and solar shading – interception of sunlight to reduce heat entering buildings.

Many measures have been proposed as effective adaptive strategies for school outdoor grounds across difference space requirements and resource availabilities (GLA, 2020). For schools with limited space availability, rain planters and gardens, tree and shade structures, drain filters and permeable or green surfaces are effective ways to manage heat, flood and water scarcity risks through increasing shade, water availability, biodiversity and promoting draining of excess water. Additionally, schools with more space availability can install or adopt below- or above-ground rainwater attenuation tanks and ponds to store excess rainwater and potentially regulate local temperature, reducing the urban heat effect. Furthermore, some measures require a large area, thus schools with the available space can implement a swale – a shallow ditch to store, transport and absorb run-off – or a basin – a shallow depression in the ground covered in grasses to capture water, reducing run off.

Schools should also consider ways to reduce the risk of water shortages by limiting their reliance on the mains water supply (see Risk I8 in Chapter 4: Jaroszweski, Wood and Chapman, 2021). To reduce water use, schools can install tap aerators and low flow taps which reduce flow of water through taps by up to 50%; also dual flush toilets allow two available flush volumes, reducing water consumption. Furthermore, reducing usage through behavioural changes to minimise consumption and wastage will have a positive impact on London’s water supply. Additional building modifications include increasing the permeability of surfaces to replenish the water table, which has added benefits for reducing flood risk and harvesting rainwater for non-drinking purposes (GLA, 2020).

5.14.3.2 Justice Services

There are a set of similar adaptation options for prisons as for schools, both non-technical and technical, with similar types of issues, i.e. building heterogeneity, and whether a scheme is retrofit versus new. The recent Ministry of Justice’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Parry and Cole, 2020) requires that sites assess risks and use this assessment to inform adaptation plans/actions, and a set of measures are recommended, but there is no analysis of costs and benefits. There is some information (Jewkes and Moran, 2015) on recently completed prison projects which are designed to meet the BREEAM Excellent standard and include some relevant information of practical examples of adaptation.

5.14.3.3 Overall urgency Scores (H13)

This is a new risk that was not considered in previous UK climate change risk assessments. The scores have been judged as more action needed. In England and Wales, as discussed above policies and guidance are in place for overheating. Further evidence of these reducing vulnerabiliy is needed. Policies are in place to address flood risk for critical infrastructure, but there is a lack of evidence on how well education and justice buildings and land are being protected compared to the rising risk. In Scotland and Northern Ireland more action is needed for both education and justice buildings on flood risk and overheating.

Table 5.53. Urgency scores for risks to education and prison services
CountryEnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
Urgency scoreMore action neededMore action neededMore action neededMore action needed
ConfidenceMediumLowLowMedium

5.14.4 Looking ahead (H13)

Further evidence is needed to understand the health impacts climate change will have on schools and prisons. Furthermore, indicators need to be developed to assess the impact overheating has on children in schools, as well as inmates in prisons. Building standards must include regulations for appropriate ventilation and adaptive measures as well as appropriate energy efficiency strategies.

5.15 Challenges to adaptation

Many of the challenges to adaptation that were identified in the previous risk assessment remain (Kovats and Osborn, 2017). This section summarises the key barriers to adaptation across the risks discussed in this chapter and addresses two key policy areas where action has been limited (planning and housing policy).

There are several barriers that may become more significant in the future. The evidence presented in this chapter for all 13 risks to health and wellbeing suggests that adaptation to current climate risks is currently limited by:

  • Limited incorporation of the full scope of planning policy and its means of implementation in local planning processes and construction practices in new developments. (See section on planning below).
  • Fragmentation of services both locally (with local agenda-setting priorities), and also fragmentation across sectors. This is particularly relevent for adaptation in the health and social care system.
  • In some areas, governance structures are not sufficient to address climate change risks, for example for communities threatened by sea level rise.
  • Lack of economic studies to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of adaptation options and with due consideration of environmental, health and social co-benefits.
  • Lack of understanding when sustainability thresholds or capacities have been exceeded.
  • The lack of action in building standards, housing design, performance and construction remain. Although steps have been taken to try to address these gaps, these have not been completed at the time of writing (see housing section below).
  • The lack of incentives for retrofitting existing properties (see housing section below).
  • Lack of monitoring of appropriate indicators that reflect climate risks to health and public health actions.
  • Climate change policies for mitigation. For some risks, policies to achieve Net Zero may undermine adaptation strategies or make them harder to achieve. However, there are also synergies, where adaptation and mitigation goals can be addressed at the same time (see Net Zero section below).
  • Lock-in is a key concern for our capacity to adapt to future climate risks. Future adaptation to climate risks will be limited by lock-in, which is described in relation to each risk. In addition, adaptation will be limited by:
  • Organisational and systemic factors that inhibit adaptation and flexible decision making. Further fragmentation of services in the public sector and in health and social care systems will also impede adaptation.
  • Despite clear national and local policies on green infrastructure (nature-based) solutions there are barriers to implementation (discussed in more detail in Chapter 3: Berry and Brown, 2021).
  • Housing and planning policies that do not sufficiently consider climate adaptation and the health and well-being of occupants (see sections below).
  • Building in flood zones as flood risk increases as a result of climate change and is not sufficiently resilient to changing risk. A spatial shift in flood zones as a result of climate change could result in more homes built over the last decade ending up in higher flood zones over their lifetime without further mitigating action.
  • Lack of implementation of strategies that require changes in behaviour. Especially the low uptake of adaptation strategies by households (e.g. retrofitting and Property Flood Resilience, PFR). There is good evidence that the level of understanding of current risks by individuals is low in the general population and those at high risk.

There are some risks that are beyond the limits of adaptation. These include major climate events, and the Low Probability High Impact events described in Chapter 1 (Slingo, 2021) and Box 5.1.

Investment in EPRR (emergency planning, preparedness and response) is an important part of addressing climate hazards. Under the Civil Contingencies Act, local authority emergency planners and frontline agencies produce and update the Community Risk Register and plans to respond to a series of events including severe weather (including heatwaves and flooding), pollution events, pandemics and other serious incidents. Climate change as a long-term challenge is not included within the responsibilities of the Civil Contingencies Act, which is predominantly focused on response to individual incidents that may occur in the near future. At present they do not focus on increasing climate risk over the long term, but could offer insight in responses, resilience, and the scale and nature of climate risks.

5.15.1 Evidence for adaptation at local level

Local authority action on climate change has increased in recent years. Approximately 70% (of all District, County, Unitary & Metropolitan Councils have declared a climate emergency in the UK[23]. The 2019 UK City leaders’ Survey indicated that a top spending priority was climate change mitigation (Neuhuber et al., 2019). However, climate emergencies tend to focus on Net Zero, often with supporting routemaps to reduce emissions; adaptation is rarely considered. This is a wider issue as policy makers tend to focus on one side of the coin, either adaptation or carbon reduction, whereas the real win-win solutions will be achieved by addressing both.

Adaptation actions are within the remits of a wide range of departments within local government and other agencies that operate at the local level (planning, water resources, flood management, agriculture, energy, transport, environment, and public health). The siloed approach can be a barrier to action as there is often no clear lead agency to promote adaptation responses (Lorenz et al., 2019).

Evidence is limited on the implementation of adaptation actions. Local adaptation is primarily at the planning and implementation stage, with raising awareness being the common priority (Lorenz et al., 2019). Surveys of local authority environmental officers found that local governments were ‘thinking about climate change adaptation’ (Ipsos MORI, 2010; Porter et al., 2015). Public health consultants within local authorities did not have explicit remits or approaches for climate adaptation strategies however; often action followed public health’s emergency planning functions (Woodhall et al., 2019).

A report from the Committee on Climate Change (2015) stated that from a survey of 90 local authorities, 40% have a published adaptation strategy (JBA, 2015). Furthermore, nearly a third more were in the process of developing a plan or could refer to their County Council strategy. Primarily, adaptation plans focused on raising awareness and staff training, although some specific actions were highlighted, including sustainable drainage systems, water efficiency, passive cooling and green infrastructure (JBA, 2015). In 2017, this report was updated; support from central government had diminished and local government progress was limited (CCC, 2017). Current and future funding from central government being marginalised has led to closure of the Environment Agency’s Climate Ready Support Service, the Local Government Association’s ‘Climate Local’ initiative, Climate UK and over half of UK regional climate change partnerships (CCC, 2017). A key message highlighted was that due to the departure from the European Union, local authorities will not have access to EU funding and resources such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (CCC, 2017).

The Environmental Audit Committee also noted the lack of action at local authority level and recommended that Defra does more to monitor progress in adaptation and also ensure that adaptation guidance for local authorities is updated regularly. As the risks from climate change grow, funding for Regional Climate Change Partnerships should be reinstated (Environmental Audit Committee, 2018b, paragraph 45).

Despite no mandatory policy for health systems to develop mitigation and adaptation policy (except in Scotland where public bodies are required to report on adaptation), a variety of national initiatives (NAP, SDU, PHE, Environment Agency) are encouraging climate action in the local health and social care sector. A survey of 152 areas was conducted by the Environment Agency, of which 29 boards responded (CCC, 2015). 18 of the 29 boards (strongly) agreed that plans were in place to address negative impacts to health from extreme weather and climate change (CCC, 2015). A systematic review of policy documents highlighted that adaptation plans were more prominent in the health sector in the final quarter of 2013–2015 and that increased political support for CCA can have a significant impact on sector funding and resource allocation (Lorenz et al., 2019).

A report from the WHO highlighted how CCA policies in 20 EU countries impact public health, and reported that 65% had a specific climate change and health programme (WHO, 2018b). Additionally, 90% ensured that health was represented in all climate change action/processes (WHO, 2018b). European public health systems have strengthened to cope with the impacts of climate change through improving early warning systems, addressing vulnerable populations and strengthening infectious disease surveillance. A European Environment Agency (EEA) survey of the 32 member countries in the European Economic Area indicated most were in either the formulation (10/30) or the implementation (9/30) stage with few at the monitoring and evaluation stage. All responding countries reported to be at least at the agenda-setting phase of their climate change adaptation plan (EEA, 2014).

5.15.2 Adaptation through the planning system

The planning system in the UK is fully devolved (Table 5.54). The planning system is relevent for risks that are mediated by the built environment, including flooding (H3, H4), heat (H1, H2, H6), air quality (H7), and building fabric (H6).

  • National Planning policies in England and Northern Ireland state that plans must ‘include policies designed to secure that the development and use of land in the local planning authority’s area contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change’. The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) indicates that this will be a consideration when plans are examined, therefore it is important that thought is given to this matter within local plans.
  • Northern Ireland is developing a new Housing Strategy that will set out targets for new homes. The NI Strategic Planning Policy Statement states that ‘the planning system should help to mitigate and adapt to climate change’. However, there is little evidence regarding specific actions for managing heat risks (indoor or outdoor).
  • The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 makes the future National Planning Frameworks part of the development plan for day to day decision making purposes. The 2019 Act also sets out a range of policy and strategy which needs to be considered in the preparation of the National Planning Framework, and includes ‘the programme for adaptation to climate change prepared under section 53 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009’; i.e. the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. As such for Scotland, the planning system role in adaptation has been strengthened for future iterations of national policy. The next National Planning Framework (no. 4) is already in preparation and due in draft form in Autumn 2021.
  • The Future Wales: National Plan 2040 (2021) is Wales’ national development framework, setting the direction for development. It is a plan with a strategy for addressing key national priorities through the planning system, including climate resilience and achieving decarbonisation. Planning Policy Wales (Edition 11, 2021) includes policies that contribute towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. For adaptation, these include the location of new development, the design of buildings, the strategic importance of green spaces and the Welsh government’s approach to managing development in areas of flood risk. It is supplemented by a series of Technical Advice Notes (TANs), Welsh Government Circulars, and policy clarification letters which together with the PPW provide the national planning policy framework for Wales.
Table 5.54. Planning guidance for adaptation
Country Current policy and guidanceEvidence for planning in managing flood risksEvidence for planning in managing heat risks
England
  • National Planning Policy Framework
  • Planning Practice Guidance for climate change and flood risk and coastal change

9% of planning permissions granted for properties on the flood plain; these should have requirements that resilience measures are incorporated but there is no monitoring evidence as to whether this is achieved.

All policies focus on directing development away from the flood plain.

SuDS are discretionary not mandatory.

Some evidence at a city level especially for London. Focus on green infrastructure in Birmingham, Manchester and other cities.
Northern Ireland
  • Regional Development Strategy 2035
  • Strategic Planning Policy Statement

No data available for properties granted planning permission on the flood plain.

All policies focus on directing development away from the flood plain.

SuDS are discretionary not mandatory.

 
Scotland
  • National Planning Framework 3
  • Scottish Planning Policy
  • Planning Advice Notes

No data available for properties granted planning permission on the flood plain.

All policies focus on directing development away from the flood plain.

SuDS are discretionary not mandatory.

 
Wales
  • Planning Policy Wales (Edition 10) Technical advice notes

No data available for properties granted planning permission on the flood plain.

All policies focus on directing development away from the flood plain.

SuDS are mandatory.

 

Planning policies do permit development in areas at risk of flooding providing floor levels are raised, and/or household resistance or resilience measures are incorporated (see discussion in H3). Housing development continues to occur on the flood plain (MHCLG, 2020). Whilst climate resilient homes can be built on the flood plain, either with community level defences in place or with PFR measures, further evidence regarding the degree to which resilient measures are being incorporated is required. Planning applications for development in areas at risk of flooding need to be supported by independent evidence that flood risk from all sources, including surface water and taking account of the implications of climate change, has been assessed and mitigated. The proportion of planning decisions made against advice remains very low.

There is little evidence so far that adaptation (heat risks) has been taken into account in planning decisions, and based on internal analysis by the CCC (as discussed in the CCC’s 2021 Progress Report) it is not clear if Local Plans are incorporating overheating in terms of building design and layout.

The planning system in England is subject to change. In 2020, the Government published a White Paper to consult on proposals to reform the planning system.

5.15.3 Adaptation through housing policy

Adaptation is inextricably linked to wider government objectives about the built environment, in particular climate change mitigation. The specific risks above describe these issues for planning and design in relation to overheating, flooding, household energy, subsidence, wind damage and damp, cold homes.

As with planning policies, UK housing policies and regulations are devolved. The current regulations relating to thermal efficiency, overheating, air quality and moisture penetration are set out in Building Regulations and Standards for new homes and refurbishments. There are also a range of wider regulations, standards and guidance documents that are relevant.

There is likely to be significant house building undertaken in the next few decades in order to meet government targets for new homes (see section 5.1.3). These homes will be built to current regulations and may therefore need to be retrofitted in the future in order to meet Net Zero targets and ensure thermal comfort, good levels of indoor air quality for occupants and property level flood resilience. New and existing homes also often do not perform in line with minimum standards of performance expected by law due to issues with knowledge, skills, supply chains, occupant behaviour and quality assurance. Failure to perform in line with standards means locking in homes with risks to health from heat and cold, potentially higher costs to household for damage or energy costs, and greater risks of flooding (CCC, 2019a). Improving Building Regulations, that take a ‘whole-building’ approach to energy efficiency, ventilation and overheating, and ensuring compliance against standards is the best option to reduce future risks to health and wellbeing in new builds (CCC, 2019a).

In England, the Government plans to introduce a Future Homes Standard by 2025, so that new build homes are future-proofed with low-carbon heating and high levels of energy efficiency. A consultation published by MHCLG in January 2021 sets out plans to incorporate an overheating standard into Building Regulations to be introduced alongside the Future Homes Standard. The consultation proposes to introduce a new regulatory requirement for overheating mitigation, alongside consideration of usability and new statutory guidance for occupiers (for energy efficiency, ventilation, and overheating), with the aim of reducing overheating risk in new-build residential buildings.

Reduced fuel poverty and improved health are major benefits associated with the energy efficiency programmes undertaken by UK and Devolved Governments. The UK Clean Growth Strategy (2017) highlights the need to improve the energy efficiency of our homes with the aspiration for all homes to be of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C standard by 2035 (HM Government, 2017). The Sixth Carbon Budget pathways take into account the need to look at ventilation and passive cooling alongside energy efficiency in retrofits. However, current policies to reduce the carbon emissions of the housing stock could result in some unintended consequences (CCC, 2019a). Energy efficiency measures such as insultation can make homes more air-tight, which has implications for overheating (see Risk H1), moisture (see Risk H5) and indoor air quality (see Risk H7). A more integrated approach to decision-making and incentives for retrofitting adaptation measures could help to ensure that direct benefits and co-benefits can be optimised and made more explicit.

Occupant behaviours are also key for developing robust adaptation and mitigation strategies (McGill et al., 2015; ZCH, 2016; Palmer and Walls, 2017). There is a lack of information on how people can operate existing buildings effectively, or guidance on what adaptation measures can be done to their home. For example, barriers to PFR installation (Risk H3) include lack of motivation from householders, lack of familiarity and access to information, costs and behavioural biases to taking action, and lack of professional skills and knowledge (CCC, 2019a).

5.15.4 Net Zero: interactions between mitigation and adaptation

Adaptation to climate change needs to be considered in the context of the major policy and other changes that are needed to meet the Net Zero target of the UK Government (Priestley et al., 2019). The main sectors for action related to housing, household energy, agriculture and food systems.

There is great potential to benefit health and wellbeing through Net Zero Pathways, and these have been discussed in detail within each risk. The benefits from reduction in outdoor air pollution are potentially large. Williams et al. (2018) modelled reductions in ozone and PM2.5 in urban areas associated with UK low carbon policies. There are also significant health and economic benefits from homes adapted to cold weather, active travel and diets low in animal products.

Key issues where there is a synergy or conflict with adaptation and mitigation objectives are summarised in Table 5.55. This table summarises the information already discussed in the individual risks.

Table 5.55. Summary of risks where adaptation is likely to be affected by Net Zero objectives
CCRA3 Risk/opportunityNet Zero objectiveComments Key current plans and policies to address Net Zero objectives at a national level
H1: Risk to health and wellbeing from high temperatures
  • Increase in energy efficiency in buildings
  • Increase in low-carbon heating systems
  • High levels of insulation installed in new and existing homes can increase risk of overheating if appropriate adaptation measures are not implemented.
  • Energy Company Obligation
  • Renewable Heat Incentive
  • Scotland’s Energy Efficient Strategy
  • Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales
  • Northern Ireland Sustainability Energy Programme
  • Review of Part L of Building Regulations (England and Wales)
H3. Risks from flooding
  • Not specific to flooding in the context of health
  • Flood defences have high embodied carbon.
  • Natural Flood Management (NFM) has the potential to sequester substantial amounts of carbon, particularly if undertaken on a large scale involving woodland planting, soil carbon improvements and land use change.
  • Carbon Planning Tool (Environment Agency) and similar tools under development in Scotland and Wales.
  • Nature-based solutions for carbon capture.
H5: Risks to building fabric
  • Increase in energy efficiency in buildings
  • High levels of energy efficiency in new and existing homes can increase the airtightness of the building. This can increase the risk of damp and mould growth.
  • Increased energy efficiency could reduce the burden of disease due to cold homes.
As Risk H1
H6: Risk from changing energy demand
  • Increase in energy efficiency in buildings
  • Increase in low-carbon heating systems
  • Net Zero objectives will affect energy technology, fuel choice, energy efficiency depending how it is met. The focus should be on designing energy systems for a changing climate, including both future heating and future cooling demand.
  • Passive measures for space cooling would reduce summer demands for energy.
As Risk H1
H7: Air quality
  • Reduce emissions for energy production, industry and transport
  • Increase in energy efficiency in buildings
  • Reducing emissions will improve outdoor air quality and reduce the impact of future climate exacerbating poor air quality.
  • High levels of energy efficiency in new and existing homes can increase the airtightness of the building. This can increase exposure to indoor air pollutants if appropriate ventilation measures are not implemented.
  • Clean Growth Strategy (2019)
  • 25 Year Environment Plan
  • As Risk H1 for indoor air quality
  • Review of Building Regulations Part F (England and Wales)
H9: Food safety and food security
  • Changes in land use and food production
  • Changes in food consumption (types of food, sources of food)
  • Food safety risks may change, especially as animal products are more prone to contamination.
  • Reductions from less meat in diet, or increased contamination by pesticides (for increased local production). UK’s future trade relationship with EU may result in increased dependence on domestic food supply.
  • Health benefits from diets low in animal fat.
  • Agriculture Bill
  • Environment Bill
  • National Food Strategy
  • Fisheries Bill
  • 25 Year Environment Plan
H11: Risk to cultural heritage
  • Increase in energy efficiency in buildings
  • Reduce emissions for energy production, industry and transport
  • High levels of insulation and energy efficiency installed in historic buildings can increase risk of overheating, damp and mould growth, and poor indoor air quality due to increased air tightness if appropriate adaptation measures are not implemented.
  • Reduction in emissions should lead to less NOx and CO2 being emitted in cities, which can become acidic and corrode/discolour buildings.
  • Clean Growth Strategy (2019)
  • The Assessment of Energy Performance of Non-Domestic Buildings (Scotland) Regulations 2016
H12: Risks to health and social care delivery
  • Reduce carbon emissions associated with buildings (energy efficiency), travel and products (e.g. pharmaceuticals).
  • Restrictions on air conditioning and space cooling measures.
  • Same as H1 and H5.
  • NHS England Net Zero plan
  • NHS Long Term Plan
  • NHS Green Plans
  • Sustainable Development Strategy for NHS Scotland
  • Carbon Neutral Public Sector 2030 target (Wales)
H13: Risks to education and prison services
  • Reduce carbon emissions associated with buildings (energy efficiency) and travel
  • Restrictions on air conditioning and space cooling measures.
  • Same as H1 and H5.
  • Carbon Neutral Public Sector 2030 target (Wales)

5.15.5 COVID-19 pandemic and response: implications for adaptation in the UK

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant impacts on the UK population, as well as changes in policy and policy structures. The implications of the pandemic and responses (including lockdown and social distancing) have been described in individual risks where relevent. These are also summarised in Table 5.56. There are likely to be long term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic that will have important implications for adaptation, particularly in the health and social care sector.

More positively, the impacts of COVID-19 may have raised awareness of the importance of understanding major threats that can disrupt lives and livelihoods including low probability, high impact events. The pandemic may also lead to a renewed focus on reducing health and social inequalities.

Table 5.56. Implications of COVID-19 for managing climate risks
CCRA3 RiskRisk ManagementObserved impacts
Heat and indoor air quality – H1, H7

Guidance on shielding, social distancing and lock downs may lead to more people staying indoors during hot weather, therefore exposed to high indoor temperatures and poor indoor air quality, particular for high risk individuals.

Significant shift to home working may increase exposure to high indoor temperatures and non-optimal thermal comfort and air quality.

Impact of 2020 on mortality heatwave was much higher than in previous heatwaves (PHE, 2020b)
Flooding – H3

Evacuation due to flood and storm events can increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19, as social distancing is not possible.

Mental health risks from flooding may be exacerbated during the pandemic, particularly if people have to leave their homes.

Gaps in response to floods
Emergency planning – H1, H2, H3, H4, H12, H13

Pandemic has revealed some gaps in emergency planning response.

Emergency planning has also been limited by resources and persons being diverted to pandemic response at LA and national level.

Gaps in response to floods in Jan/Feb 2021 due to pressures on emergency services and health services.
Inequalities in climate risks, esp. food poverty, energy poverty – H6, H9

Economic impacts of the pandemic have led to decreases in household income.

Renewed focus on health inequalities.

Reported increase in food poverty in 2020 (Loopstra, 2020; Environmental Audit Committee, 2020a)
Public health response – H1, H2, H3, H4, H7, H8, H9, H12, H13

Health bodies have seen a redeployment of staff to deal with the pandemic response. This may have affected progress in other areas of work, including climate change.

The migration of PHE into the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) may disrupt programmes and relationships in the short-term due to organisational change, and in the longer term the priorities of UKHSA may be different thus reducing capacity and capability to address adaptation to climate risks.

Reorganisation of public health services and financial pressure on local authorities may lead to reduction in focus of health improvement measures (Rimmer, 2020)

Cultural heritage –

H11

Loss of revenue (due to lockdown and other measures) likely to reduce some options for adaptation. 

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