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Councils 'failing over climate change policies'

By Tom Campbell 

Published online at on Monday 16th July 2012

Councils are only just starting to involve vulnerable communities in their climate change adaptation plans, warns a new report.

The study, commissioned by social policy research charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), says that social vulnerability to climate change was not a priority in most of the plans surveyed.

Where this was identified as a priority, the report adds, the focus was more on places vulnerable to climate change, such as areas at risk of flooding, rather than on the people likely to be affected.

Hugh Ellis, chief planner of campaign group the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “Adaptation is as much about securing the welfare of our communities as it is about tackling climate change. Extreme weather events such as the floods and droughts experienced in the UK are set to increase.

“Local authorities have a responsibility to protect their people, property and resources. The findings of this JRF report are extremely important in highlighting the need to consider people as well as places in our responses to tackling climate change.”

According to the report, work to help vulnerable communities prepare, respond to and recover from climate change impacts, such as flooding and heat waves, was also a low priority.

In addition, the study urges councils and other local organisations to try to use localism, neighbourhood planning, the new Community Infrastructure Levy development tax and local nature partnerships, which the government wants to strategically manage local areas’ natural environment, to help bring about socially just adaptation.

“Specific opportunities were identified for optimising adaptation, such as an increased focus on localism, local nature partnerships, neighbourhood planning and funding mechanisms such as the Community Infrastructure Levy,” it says.

The report also calls on the government to ensure that social justice is considered in climate change adaptation through its National Adaptation Programme to address climate change risks due to be published in 2013.

The study was written by a team from consultancy SQW and the University of Leeds.

Socially Just Adaptation to Climate Change can be viewed here.

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