Adapting to climate change

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The climate doesn't respond immediately to changes in atmospheric gas concentrations. This means that some degree of global warming is inevitable regardless of how successful we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Planning ahead for climate change

We need to take action now to make sure that Council services and buildings are resilient under future climatic conditions. The cost of inaction on climate change is likely to be far higher than the cost of taking planned action now. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, the cost to the UK economy for the snow event in 2010 was £600 billion per day. 

The Council has assessed the potential impact of climate changes on its services and functions to allow us to prioritise specific areas of focus. 

The key risks and adaptive measures are summarised below: 

1. Flooding as a result of increased winter rainfall

Flooding in London ColneyIncreases in rainfall is likely to lead to more flooding of rivers and the urban drainage system (pluvial flooding). Forward planning is thus needed to ensure that floods are prevented where possible, through sustainable urban drainage. We also need to make sure that we manage flood situations better for the safety and well-being of local residents. 

The picture illustrates the value of putting preventative adaption measures in place (waterproof gate) in contrast to the costly emergency response of delivering sand bags.

2. Higher summer temperatures

Average summer temperature are expected to increase across the UK.  While higher temperatures bring opportunities in terms of tourism and outdoor activities, excess heat is also fatal, especially for the frail or the elderly.  The heatwaves the UK experienced in 2009 caused around 300 deaths. Providing shaded outdoor areas for the public in urban areas, schools and recreational areas will be important.   

3. Reduced summer rainfall

Reduced summer rainfall could be a particular problem for our area as the East of England is already the driest region in the UK. With more homes set to be built in the region, water shortage could become a serious problem for householders and businesses. This will have an impact on crop yields, will increase the incidence of subsidence and will also have impacts for local businesses.

As a Council we are introducing a range of measures to reduce long-term water consumption:

  • In our parks and green spaces we have replaced many of our seasonal flower beds with annual seeding, permanent planting and bulbs, reducing water use by 80%.
  • New bathrooms fitted to Council homes incorporate water efficient taps and toilets.
  • Replacement of all bedding plants with annual seeding, permanent planting and bulbs
  • Hanging baskets are no longer provided
  • New toilets (e.g. in Verulamium Park) are fitted with waterless urinals and automatic taps.

4. Storm damage

Winter storms are likely to increase in intensity and frequency which may lead to increased damages across the district both on trees and buildings. The Council will ensure that refurbishment work as well as new developments are designed and built to cope with such storms. 
Date of last review: 24 February 2016