Category: Infrastructure

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

By Kieran Cooke

There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: by building with bamboo.

Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It’s used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle – and for brewing beer.

Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.

It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30% and 40% of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.

“Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant’s vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.

The resulting images revealed an intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo’s strength and stiffness.


“Nature is an amazing architect”, says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. “Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials.”

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.

“People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings”, says Shah. “To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.

“Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately.” 

This article was originally published on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Dil on Unsplash
Scour risk to UK bridges disrupting over 8 million journeys per year

Scour risk to UK bridges disrupting over 8 million journeys per year

By Anna Haworth

New analysis shows that ‘scour’ risk to bridges from flooding in the UK is causing over 8 million passenger journeys to be lost each year, with an accompanying economic cost of up to £60 million.

Working as a Climate Risk Analyst comes with the slightly unsettling side-effect that I sometimes find myself pondering the climate resilience of the infrastructure around me. I live in the North of England, in the picturesque town of Kendal in the Lake District. For all its natural beauty, it is an area of the country where the infrastructure is often tested by the weather. This year has been no exception, as heavy rains in August have caused the closure of one of the town’s main road bridges for several weeks, as it was found to be experiencing ‘scour’. The extra time this added to my journeys afforded me more opportunity to consider the climate-preparedness of the UK’s infrastructure.

‘Scour’ is the washing away of bridge foundations during flood events, and can cause substantial damage to the structure, leading to transport disruption and safety risks. It is cited as the most common cause of bridge failures in the UK and US. Back in December 2015, severe and widespread flooding in my home county of Cumbria caused damage to 235 road and foot bridges, showing just how widespread this threat is to transport infrastructure.

I first became aware of the severity of this issue during Acclimatise’s involvement in the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment back in 2012. The assessment identified bridge scour as one of the most significant risks facing the transport sector. Ever since I have been keeping an eye on this evolving field of research with interest.

Last month, our friends at the JBA Trust and the University of Oxford, published a new paper on the risk to the British railway network from scour caused by flood events. This research considers the railway network as a whole, including the potential for flood events that might cause more than one bridge to be damaged by scour. Although events of this type are rare, they have occurred in the past and could do so again.

Flooding and bridge failures are not completely predictable, and so the research team took a probabilistic approach to account for uncertainties about the resilience of bridges during flood events. They also used flood event scenarios that are more extreme than anything seen in the historical record but are statistically plausible. Such scenarios would result in severe network disruption, especially when they cause either one or two bridges to fail within the network.

The research team accounted for the frequency and severity of floods using a probabilistic model of river flows that captures the spatial patterns and correlations in extreme events across Britain. They then looked at the consequences of bridge failure in terms of risk of disruption to passenger journeys, which can be translated into an economic estimate of the risk.

Based on this analysis, it is estimated that the risk of bridge scour equates to an average of 8.2 million passenger journeys being lost annually. From an economic perspective, the risk of disruption to passenger journeys can be valued at between £6 m and £60 m annually. This figure represents a partial view of the true risk, which also includes safety risks, impacts on rail freight, operational costs (e.g. related to speed restrictions and delays) and repair costs.

It is important to note that the research model used is based on historical records of bridge failures, and historical river flow data. This means that it is informed by real events, but does not account for future changes in climate. In the future, climate-driven changes in hydrological regimes should be incorporated into such modelling studies. This will help the industry and emergency planners to prepare for the impacts and operational consequences of extreme flood scenarios. Furthermore, scour risk is typically managed through the application of engineering standards and guidance; these will also need to be revisited to test their robustness to future climate conditions.

Although it is economically unfeasible to protect all bridges against all conceivable events, and therefore some residual risk has to be tolerated, it is crucial that infrastructure owners and operators understand the true scale of the potential risk, and that critical infrastructure is designed and maintained to withstand more extreme future climate conditions.

The full Risk Analysis article is available here

Image: Stramongate Bridge, Kendal Taken during the floods of 3rd February 2004. Copyright John Cowking and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

Lessons from New Clark City: Can Ecosystem-based adaptation unlock urban resilience?

By Lydia Messling

Ecosystem-based adaptation principles have governed the decision making processes in developing a brand new city on the outskirts of Manila: New Clark City. Without spending billions on large-scale technological fixes or man-made barriers, New Clark City’s greatest defence against natural disasters will instead come from nature itself. By using ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) measures, solutions have been devised to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, by using and enhancing the features that already exist in the ecosystem.

Currently under construction, New Clark City in the Philippines will be a centre for business and governance, accommodating up to 1.2 million people. Building such a large city is already an ambitious task, but the Philippines has the additional challenge of managing its exposure to many different types of natural disasters, from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, to typhoons and flooding. Any new development needs to be resilient to shocks and stresses, particularly as climate change will make extreme weather events more severe.

The Bases Conversion Development Authorty (BCDA), assisted by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, have therefore chosen to apply EBA principles to ensure the city remains smart and disaster-resilient for years to come. EBA principles have informed different stages of the design and planning process, from choosing the location, the building materials, through to the buildings and street layout. Here’s how EBA principles have been applied:


Located in Carpas, Tarlac, the 9,450 Hectare development steers clear of fault lines, reducing the risk of destruction from earthquakes. Being situated at a higher elevation and further inland than Manila, New Clark City is less likely to be flooded, with a minimum elevation of 177ft about sea level. Nestled between two mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre mountain to the east and the Zambales mountain range to the west, New Clark is offered natural protection from typhoons. Whilst there may be some concern about the nearby active volcano Mount Pinatubo, responsible for the second largest eruption in the Twentieth Century, volcanologists say another big eruption is not due for few hundred years.

Building material

Ingeniously, developers are making use of one of the most devastating results of volcanoes – lahars. Lahars are a type of mudslide made up of volcanic material, slurry, and rocky debris. This unstable material violently flows down the sides of volcanoes, often reaching speeds of 22 miles per hour, destroying everything along the way. These lahars do not just occur when there is a volcanic eruption, but can be triggered by melting snow and ice, heavy rainfall, and earthquakes shaking the loose material. As the topography of the area is well known, volcanologists can predict where lahars are likely to flow. Whilst New Clark City will hopefully avoid these destructive mudslides, lahars will be central to its construction. Builders will combine local lahar material with cement to build the city. Removing lahar material can also enhance the profile of the stream and river beds that it flowed down, which further benefits flood resilience, irrigation and water quality. Manufacturing cement usually consumes a large amount of water and energy, meaning that the associated carbon emissions are very high. By adding lahar to the cement, the builders can reduce the amount of water and energy needed. 


Creating lots of green space is central to the design of New Clark City. The plans are to preserve the river and many trees that are already growing in the area, which will be ideal for helping build flood resilience, improving air quality, and temperature regulation. The addition of wide drainage systems and “no-build zones” means that when a flooding event does occur, New Clark City will be better equipped to respond and limit the impact of it. Instead of being one large block of concrete, the flood water will have controlled run-off and escape routes by using the natural features of the land. For example, the city’s design includes a large central park area that will also act as a flood basin.

Whilst following EBA principles drastically reduced the risk of damage from typhoons and earthquakes, they will not eliminate flood risk completely for New Clark City. In fact, there still remains the possibility that large earthquakes may affect the city, and flooding, despite the elevation and defence planning, may occur. However, the simple, pre-existing features of the ecosystem have helped identify ways in which exposure to risks can be limited and how to quickly and efficiently recover from a natural disaster, making New Clark City resilient.

Cover photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash.
GIZ Report Highlights Practical Aspects of Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation

GIZ Report Highlights Practical Aspects of Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation

By Will Bugler

A new report from the German development agency GIZ, provides practical advice on how to integrate ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) measures into policies and planning. Using practical case studies from Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Philippines, and Viet Nam, the report highlights the benefits of EbA approaches for building resilience to climate change and other environmental shocks.

The report, ‘Emerging Lessons for Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation: Strategic Entry Points and Processes,’ also stresses that more needs to be done to improve awareness and understanding of EbA approaches, to ensure that they are employed more widely.

The benefits of EbA are well covered in the case studies, showing that such approaches can prove more cost-effective than hard infrastructure approaches, while being just as effective at reducing climate risk. The report also stresses the EbA approaches also often come with many co-benefits, such as improved environment, space for leisure activities and cleaner air.

However, EbA approaches are still overlooked in favour of hard infrastructure development. The report notes that there has been progress towards EbA mainstreaming in many countries, several barriers to its wide adoption remain. Chief among these is a general lack of understanding of EbA approaches and when it is appropriate to use them. There is also a lack of good evidence of their efficacy either as stand-alone solutions or used in combination with hard infrastructure.

The report highlights several entry-points where EbA approaches can be integrated into policies and planning through:

  • influencing policy processes;
  • strengthening institutional collaboration;
  • engaging multiple stakeholders;
  • improving effectiveness of communication; and
  • increasing capacity.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Cover photo by Elke Karin Lugert on Unsplash.
New York City launches updated climate resilience design guidelines

New York City launches updated climate resilience design guidelines

By Will Bugler

In April 2019, New York City released new and updated Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines that apply to all city capital projects, with the exception of coastal protection projects. The guidelines direct planners, engineers, architects, and others involved in project delivery on how to use regionally-specific future climate projections in the design of city facilities.

The guidelines are designed to be used throughout all stages of the project design process, starting with the initiation of capital planning and through final design. They provide step-by-step instructions on how to supplement historic climate data with specific, regional, forward-looking climate change data in the design of City facilities. The guidelines aim to ensure that resilient design becomes an integral part of the project planning process for City agencies and designers.

The Guidelines are an effort to incorporate forward-looking climate change data in the design of all City capital projects. Existing codes and standards already incorporate historic weather data to determine how to design for today’s conditions. However, with climate change the past is no longer a good guide to the robust design standards that will be required in the future. The guidelines therefore incorporate the work of the New York Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), which provides city-level climate projections.

Developed by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resilience (ORR), the Guidelines encourage resilience approaches to infrastructure development in the city. A successful resilience strategy, the guidelines say, is one that “provides co-beneficial outcomes, reduces costs over the life of the asset wherever possible, and avoids negative indirect impacts to other systems.”

Instead the guidelines encourage infrastructure projects to take an integrated approach from planning to implementation, ensuring that they are a cohesive part of exiting processes that address goals defined by the City. The guidelines suggest that this is best achieved by:

  1. integrating “soft” resiliency strategies (operational measures or investments in green infrastructure) and “hard” resiliency strategies (built or intensive investments);
  2. addressing multiple climate hazards with single interventions; and
  3. reducing climate change risk in concert with other goals (e.g., energy efficiency or reduction in greenhouse gas emissions).

A copy of the NYC Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines can be downloaded here.

Photo by Namphuong Van on Unsplash

Report finds climate change could make insurance too expensive for most people

Report finds climate change could make insurance too expensive for most people

By Georgina Wade

Insurers have warned that climate change could make insurance unaffordable for the majority of people. This comes after Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, blamed global warming for $24billion in losses resulting from the 2018 Californian wildfires.

Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s chief climatologist says that costs could soon be more widely felts, with premium rises already under discussion with clients holding assets in vulnerable areas.

            “If the risk from wildfires, flooding, storms or hail is increasing then the only sustainable option we have is to adjust our prices accordingly,” he said. “In the long run it might become a social issue.”

The majority of California’s 20 worst forest blazes since the 1930s have occurred this millennium. Wetter and more humid winters prompted new forest growth which became tinder dry in the heatwave conditions that preceded the 2018 fires. The report concludes that the wildfires, which killed 85 people, were broadly consistent with climate change.

Nicolas Jeanmart, the head of personal insurance, general insurance and macroeconomics at Insurance Europe, said rising premiums could pose a threat to social order.

            “The sector is concerned that continuing global increases in temperature could make it increasingly difficult to offer the affordable financial protection that people deserve, and that modern society requires to function properly” he said.

Furthermore, climate models are predicting increases in the intensity and frequency of California’s wildfire season. The Munich Re analysis uses the same monthly meteorological data in combination with financial losses to graph the trend’s rise since 2001. The data shows that while average annual wildfire losses trailed well below $5billion, in 2017 and 2018 they leapt to more than $20 billion.

While it is easier to link climate change to patterns of severe weather rather than isolated events, insurers concluding that climate change is the root cause of such an event could make insurance companies think carefully about the pricing and availability of similar insurance policies.

Cover photo by John Middelcoop on Unsplash.
Resilience planning can uncover investment opportunities at the city level

Resilience planning can uncover investment opportunities at the city level

By Will Bugler

Unlocking investment for new infrastructure is vital for municipal governments to ensure climate-resilient urban development.

Despite this, countries in Asia are faced with a huge infrastructure investment gap. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that countries in Asia and the Pacific will need to commit over $26 trillion for infrastructure spending by 2030 if the region hopes to sustain growth while meeting the combined challenges of poverty reduction and climate change. [1] However, the principal brake on investment is not lack of funding, or a lack of will from large investors, but a lack of identifiable, bankable projects at the city level.

To address this, cities are in need of support to develop robust, integrated, and climate-responsive infrastructure plans. Investing in a resilience approach to urban planning can support municipal governments to develop such plans and unlock a multitrillion-dollar urban investment opportunity.

Traditional approaches to infrastructure planning, led by national governments and which prioritizes infrastructure investments based on national planning, have not been successful in identifying good quality, infrastructure investments at the city level. A recent report from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank identifies several reasons why such ‘top-down’ planning approaches have been unsuccessful, and challenges the myth that cities in the developing countries “just need access to global capital markets” to invest in resilience. Three of the most significant challenges identified in the report were:

  1. Lack of government capacity – Chief amongst areas of capacity deficit identified were: (i) the inability to plan and implement resilience investments; (ii) an inability to generate sufficient revenue to meet existing obligations and maintain ongoing programs; and, (iii) general challenges to infrastructure development.
  2. Lack of private sector confidence – The report found this to be driven by governance constraints (financial regulations and complexity, the policy environment including corruption, political uncertainty, and absence of financeable proposals) as well as lack of data and standards to benchmark asset performance.
  3. Challenges in project preparation – The report found that governments had limited experience with project identification and preparation and limited resources to commit to project preparation. This means that the pipeline of well-developed, financeable urban infrastructure and resilience projects offered to investors is limited.

There is some evidence to suggest that resilience approaches to urban planning can go some way to addressing these issues. Work under an ongoing ADB trust fund provides support to city-level resilience planning methods that aim to deliver better-quality infrastructure and uncover more bankable infrastructure projects in cities across Asia.

The Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility administered by ADB, with contributions from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Governments of Switzerland and United Kingdom, is working in at least 25 cities in 8 countries in Asia to embed resilience into ADB’s investments. The fund is a significant testing ground for resilience approaches to urban planning, as it aims to link $150 million of funding to over $1 billion of ADB loans.

Resilience planning for urban development

To date, UCCRTF has approved over $100 million in projects that support climate-resilient urban development, and a significant proportion of this funding has gone to upstream support to urban planning at the city level. The trust fund has begun to address many of the challenges for developing a pipeline of investable infrastructure assets beginning in the early stages of urban planning.

Identifying suitable infrastructure developments and projects, based on good quality urban plans, requires effective, long-term town-planning and climate vulnerability assessments based on good quality local data. This is no small barrier for Asian cities, especially the thousands of smaller cities with limited municipal budgets. One statistic that demonstrates the stark reality of the capacity deficit in city planning is the number of qualified urban planners – in the United Kingdom there are 38 per 100,000 population; in India there are 0.23.

The lack of planning at the local level means decisions over new infrastructure for cities are often decided at the national level. This top-down approach tends to favor larger physical infrastructure investments, and risks being influenced by the prevailing political climate at the time.

The UCCRTF approach to project identification and prioritization fundamentally shifts the emphasis of urban infrastructure planning from the domain of national governments to city-level decision makers and the citizens themselves. The diagram below shows the four stages of UCCRTF planning. It establishes a systems-centered approach that emphasizes local-level agency, stakeholder engagement, and knowledge and capacity building as central parts of ADB’s infrastructure investment processes.

Phases of urban climate change resilience (UCCR) planning supported by UCCRTF activities.

Introducing a systems-centered approach in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the UCCRTF approach was piloted in seven towns. The ADB project officer secured funding from UCCRTF to support the towns of Bagerhat, Cox’s Bazaar, Faridpur, Gopalganj, Kushtia Myenmensingh, and Patuakhali to prepare climate-resilient integrated urban plans. A team of consultants prepared climate risk and vulnerability assessments (CRVA) for the towns to determine the problems faced due to changes in climate. 

The analysis included climate modeling information on the cities, combined with city-level data on disasters. Socioeconomic information was also incorporated in order to target interventions for the poor and vulnerable. Local knowledge on historical disasters was gathered through focus group discussions with the local residents.

The resulting CRVAs were then used to guide the preparation of climate-resilient integrated urban plans (CRUIPs) and the formulation of actionable priorities for implementation in the next five years.

The CRIUPs, developed for five cities (Cox’s Bazaar, Faridpur, Gopalganj, Kushtia, and Myenmensingh) through the UCCRTF technical assistance were carried forward into an ADB loan project, and provided reference for the identification of priority investments.

For Bagerhat and Patuakhali, the UCCRTF provided additional financing of $6 million for the construction of cyclone shelters, drainage, emergency access roads, and the preparation of an integrated drainage plan and a fecal and solid waste management plan. These interventions were also identified through the CRUIP process.

Promoting resilience in Pakistan

The resilience planning approach was also applied in Pakistan, particularly for the two regions of Greater Abbottabad and Greater Peshawar, and for three cities: Abbottabad, Mardan, and Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Here, the CRVAs combined two approaches, the top-down approach with climate risk assessments through climate modeling and the bottom-up approach with vulnerability assessments of vulnerable areas and communities through focus group discussions. In addition, guidelines for mainstreaming climate risks and vulnerability assessments into regional integrated urban plans and city development plans (CDPs) were also prepared.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, cities were supported to integrate the assessments into their outline CDPs and project prefeasibility studies. This formed part of the evidence base for final CDPs and the identification of suitable investments.

UCCRTF supported the identification of climate-resilient urban infrastructure and recommended innovative climate resilience measures and technologies for the engineering designs of proposed projects. Furthermore, it supported institutional capacity building on climate resilience at the municipal level.

One statistic that demonstrates the stark reality of the capacity deficit in city planning is the number of qualified urban planners – in the United Kingdom there are 38 per 100,000 population; in India there are 0.23.

A new approach

UCCRTF’s approach breaks with traditional processes in several important ways. Firstly, being positioned within ADB, project officers can tap UCCRTF support for a host of ‘soft’ resilience-building measures such as capacity building, training, and peer learning at the city level. Investment in soft measures that boost the urban planning capabilities at the city level will help to increase the quality and quantity of bankable infrastructure investment opportunities.

Secondly, the process by which the UCCRTF develops the climate assessments, urban plans, and infrastructure prioritization is characterized as ‘iterative-inclusiveness’. This involves understanding urban climate vulnerability and infrastructure needs through a thorough stakeholder engagement process that goes well beyond consultation. This entails many workshops and meetings with representatives from local communities, the private sector, and government at the municipal, regional, and national level.

While still in its early stages, the UCCRTF process is beginning to show its value. In particular the resilience approach has been effective in: 

  1. improving city-level environment and climate data;
  2. improving the quality of urban plans;
  3. identifying investable infrastructure opportunities; and
  4. providing a robust evidence base for project developers.

The UCCRTF approach to urban resilience planning has the potential to transform the way multilateral development banks and other institutional investors identify and prioritize urban infrastructure investments. Embedding resilience principles into the project planning phases may help to find bankable investment opportunities that contribute to creating livable, resilient cities.

Cover photo by FancyCrave on Unsplash.
European Commission: Adapting to climate change is more urgent than ever

European Commission: Adapting to climate change is more urgent than ever

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

In a recent evaluation of the 2013 European Adaptation Strategy the European Commission (EC) asserted that adapting the regions and economic sectors of the European Union (EU) to the impacts of climate change is now more urgent than was forecasted in 2013.

The finding was shared in a report on the implementation of the adaptation strategy and lessons learned, published on 12 November. The recently released IPCC report about the impacts of 1.5 °C versus 2.0 °C global warming added even more urgency to the EC’s findings.

“The need to adapt remains and it has actually grown, as impacts of past emissions unfold through heatwaves, storms, forest fires at high latitudes or destructive floods.”

Miguel Arias Cañete, DG CLIMA

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Our collective work on adaptation has shown we not only know more but can also do more to prevent the worst climate impacts projected by 2050. The need to adapt remains and it has actually grown, as impacts of past emissions unfold through heatwaves, storms, forest fires at high latitudes or destructive floods. This evaluation provides a credible basis for the EU policy on adaptation to explore new directions, improvements and also alignment with international developments since 2013.”

Expected annual damage to critical infrastructure in European regions, due to climate change, by the end of the century (million EUR). Source: European Commission.

The EC’s evaluation showed that the adaptation strategy had delivered on its objectives to promote action by Member States, ‘climate-proof’ action at EU level and support better-informed decision-making. However, it is very clear that Europe is still vulnerable to climate impacts and more work needs to be done in order to build resilience. The findings will undoubtedly provide food for thought for the upcoming UN climate change conference COP24.

Some of the key findings of the evaluation are:

  • The current adaptation strategy is still relevant, and the Commission will be guided by its objectives.
  • Major infrastructure projects financed by the EU budget have become climate-proof and will withstand sea level rise, flooding or intense heat.
  • In the future, an effort must be made to ensure most, or all, EU cities have a thorough adaptation plan to protect citizens from both extreme and slow-onset climate hazards. The plans should also cater for specific vulnerabilities of certain communities (e.g. the EU’s Outermost Regions) and the different risks faced by the very diverse regions in the European continent.
  • Adaptation must support and be supported by the protection of the EU’s biodiversity (nature-based solutions).
  • The contribution of the private sector to enhance society’s resilience must be encouraged: the Commission’s efforts will continue to be channelled through its Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth and the subsequent legislative proposals adopted in 2018.
  • Climate services for specific adaptation needs should develop into business opportunities, based on reliable and standardised data and the incentives provided by Copernicus and other European Earth observation initiatives.

Cover photo by  Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay (public domain).
CCC: England’s coastal defences need ‘urgent’ rethink to cope with climate change

CCC: England’s coastal defences need ‘urgent’ rethink to cope with climate change

By Jocelyn Timperley, Carbon Brief

New policies are “urgently” needed to protect homes and landscapes from coastal flooding and erosion in the long term, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says.

These coastal risks will increase in the future due to climate change, the committee says in a new report to government. But long-term action can help to manage their impact, it adds.

The current approach to protecting the coastline in England “really isn’t fit for purpose”, Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, tells Carbon Brief. “We’re trying to encourage an honest conversation about that.”

One metre

England will “almost certainly” have to adapt to at least 1m of sea level rise at some point, the report says. Some model projections indicate that this will happen over the next 80 years – within the lifetime of young people alive today. [Sea levels are expected to rise 48cm by 2100 – if global temperature rise are kept to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels].

Rising sea levels will increase the frequency of the most damaging coastal floods, the CCC says, and increase rates of coastal erosion. It adds:

“Many of England’s coastal defences are likely to be at risk of failure as sea levels rise. For example, a sea level rise of 0.5m is projected to make a further 20% of England’s coastal defences vulnerable to failure.”

The CCC says these changes must be accounted for in long-term land-use and coastal defence plans. But the public are not clearly informed about current or future risks of coastal erosion and flooding, it says.

There is also a possibility of accelerated ice sheet melt – and, thus, higher sea level rise than 1m – in the absence of more mitigation on climate change, Professor Jim Hall, who leads on flooding and coastal erosion at the CCC, tells Carbon Brief. “What we’re talking about here very much has a global mitigation context,” he says.


Losses from coastal erosion and flooding are already being felt today, the CCC says, with damages amounting to an average £260m per year. There are 520,000 properties in England in areas at risk from coastal flooding and 8,900 properties are in areas at risk of being lost through coastal erosion, the CCC adds.

The CCC estimates the total value of assets at risk from coastal flooding to be around £120-150bn, though it says this is difficult to quantify.

By the 2080s,1.5m properties – including 1.2m homes – may be at risk of coastal flooding, it says, with a further 100,000 at risk from coastal erosion. Around 1,600km of road, 92 railways stations and 12 substations and nuclear power stations could be at risk from coastal erosion or flooding by 2100, the CCC adds.

[All of the UK’s operating nuclear power plants are on the coast; they are responsible for their own coastal defences and, according to Hall, they look a lot further into the future with respect to sea level rise than is typically done for coastal communities.]

The population at risk of coastal flooding could almost quadruple by 2080, according to the CCC’s earlier 2017 risk assessment, as shown in the chart below.

Population at 0.5% or greater risk of coastal flooding in England in any given year up to the 2080s. The lower range shows a 2C, low population growth and higher adaptation scenario; the higher range shows a 4C, high population growth and lower adaptation scenario. Source: CCC Climate Change Risk Assessment (2017), using data from Sayers et al. (2015).

Other research has shown the damage from coastal flooding in the UK could be very high in the absence of upgrades to protection. One Nature Climate Change study found the UK could see up to €236bn in annual damages and 1.1 million people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100. It found the UK to be the worst hit European country by far, although others will also be severely affected.

The CCC notes that the risks of harmful coastal flooding and erosion “cannot be eliminated altogether”. However, stronger actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change could reduce the risk for 400,000-500,000 people in England by 2100, compared to a “baseline” level of climate adaptation, it adds.

Shoreline plans

Strategic responsibility for overseeing English coast rests with the government’s Environment Agency, Hall tells Carbon Brief. But local authorities also have some responsibility, in particular in areas of coastal erosion.

These two groups work together to develop local Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), which identify responses to future coastal changes using a 100-year policy framework. They were first developed in the mid-1990s and revised between 2006 and 2011. The map below shows how they are split up into 22 separate areas.

Shoreline Management Plan areas in England and Wales. Source: CCC, using Environment Agency data.

But as they stand, these plans “cannot be relied” on to reduce the risks from coastal flooding and erosion, the CCC says. This is because they are not legally binding and contain unfunded proposals. Implementing current policies to protect England’s coast would cost £18-30bn in total, the CCC adds, depending on the rate of climate change.

Importantly, many of the unfunded coastline protection plans are far less “cost-effective” than the measures funded by government today. Hall says current plans for around 150 kilometres of coastline are not cost-beneficial to implement. This raises the need for honest conversations with those affected about “the difficult choices they face”, he says.

“There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save,” said Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, at a briefing for journalists on the new report. “That’s why we need those discussions, that’s why people need information, so they can take rational decisions about the level of risk they are prepared to take.”

Shoreline Management Plans the core reason why the CCC’s concludes that England’s current approach to protecting the coastline “isn’t fit for purpose” says Stark. “They are non-statutory, they’re unfunded, and they give this kind of illusory protection,” he tells Carbon Brief.


Sustainable coastal adaptation is possible with long-term commitment and proactive steps by the government, Stark says.

The report sets out several ways forward, from simple acknowledgement and communication about changing coastal risks by the relevant authorities to the development of more rigorously implemented local plans. There is also a need for more evidence-based, quantified outcomes, the CCC says, since much of government policy fails to outline actions that can be assessed in terms of their impact on overall exposure or risk.

However, the government will also need to make long-term funding and investment available in the face of coastal risks, the CCC says, including to help affected communities cope with inevitable changes.

This funding needs to be based on a “broader and more inclusive economic case” than is current practice, the report adds, since areas where investment in hard defences is uneconomic tend to lose out. It says:

“[T]hese places also need funding to assist them to adapt to inevitable changes, so whilst hard defences may not be fundable they still need support for a broader package of adaptation actions, including community engagement, asset relocation and compensation to move households where appropriate.”

This article was originally published on Carbon Brief and is shared under a Creative Commons license, click here to access the original article.

Cover photo by David Baird, licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
3 reasons the private sector should invest in Nature-based Solutions to become more climate resilient

3 reasons the private sector should invest in Nature-based Solutions to become more climate resilient

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Note: There is a survey at the end of this article to find out about private sector involvement in nature-based solutions, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, make sure to complete it if you know of good examples!

In the past few years, ‘nature-based solutions’ has emerged as a new umbrella term for measures “inspired and supported by nature”. Nature-based solutions cover a range of methods that are tried and tested, such as ecosystem services, green-blue infrastructure, ecosystem-based adaptation, and more. This new term provides a new category of sustainable practices that utilize the natural world, which can be used by policy and decision makers to tackle many societal issues, such as climate change.

The recently released special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put the urgency of immediate and effective climate action front and center once again. Not only is a swift reduction of greenhouse gas emissions extremely important, but, with the amount of warming that has already happened, climate change adaptation is also top of the priority list.

Climate change presents many challenges to the private sector, in particular for companies whose products or services are dependent on natural resource or have assets that are exposed to the elements. Companies will need to consider how to protect their assets from damages caused by extreme weather events, how to maintain services in the face of a changing climate, and how to maintain access to increasingly scarce natural resources. Not planning for climate change impacts can result in service failures with severe economic or reputational losses and cascading impacts to other sectors.

So, how can nature-based solutions help companies deal with climate and climate-related risks and why should the private sector invest in them? Here are three reasons to begin with:

  1. Nature-based solutions often take advantage of existing natural resources that regenerate themselves, consuming less energy and remaining unaffected by power loss as opposed to many gray infrastructure solutions. An example of this could be water treatment of industrial wastewater through wetlands rather than a wastewater treatment facility .
  2. Many nature-based solutions are self-sustaining and don’t lose performance capacity over time. Depending on the solution it might even improve. Gray infrastructure solutions lose value over time and have a finite life expectancy after which they need to be replaced or decommissioned. This could be, for example, restoring or establishing oyster reefs to break wave energy and reduce coastal erosion instead of building artificial wave breakers.
  3. Nature-based solutions have many co-benefits that can range from mere aesthetics to biodiversity conservation, decreasing water runoff and thus flood risk, and having a beneficial impact on human health. These co-benefits can significantly improve the reputation of private companies. Take for example a company that installs rainwater harvesting features in the form of vegetation and underground water storage to use the harvested water in bathrooms on their premises, thus reducing its impact on the local water supply, providing a pleasant green environment to its employees, and having a positive impact on local biodiversity.

In order to effectively make the business case for nature-based solutions and encourage the private sector to increase its investment in them, the Inter-American Development Bank, UN Environment, Acclimatise, and UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre are working on a project that will identify the barriers and enablers to private sector uptake of nature-based solutions, specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Despite the potential benefits and vast applications of nature-based solutions, few examples of private sector use in Latin America and the Caribbean have been profiled. Through this project, we seek to identify examples of implementation, the barriers and enablers to uptake by the private sector and what steps could be taken to increase the consideration and use of nature-based solutions to build infrastructure resilience.

If you know of any good examples in the region, please fill in the survey and tell us about them!

Fill in the survey in English by clicking here.

Complete la encuesta en español haciendo clic aquí.

Cover photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash