“The impacts of climate change are going to intensify into the future and councils are warning people and places will be left increasingly vulnerable without further preparation."
Risks to people’s health from heatwaves is the greatest priority climate concern for councils, according to a new Local Government Association survey on local climate preparedness.
Last year brought record breaking temperatures, wildfire incidents and significant infrastructure disruption, with extreme heat leading to thousands of excess deaths across the country, and the year before dealt with significant flash flooding.
The LGA said urgent action is needed to prepare our villages, towns, and cities for the impacts of climate change. It is calling for government to enable urgent acceleration of local adaptation action as part of its forthcoming National Adaptation Programme (NAP).
The NAP sets out the actions that government and others will take to adapt to the challenges of climate change in England over a five-year period. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are currently working on the third iteration of the NAP which is expected to be published this summer and will run from 2024 to 2029.
The LGA said it must include more to raise the awareness of how people and partners can adapt to climate change, that it should improve the availability of data to prepare for climate risks in places and that policies and investments should reflect adaptation as well as net zero efforts.
Councils are also calling for government guidance on critical thresholds for different weather patterns. This would include the threshold temperatures that different services can change or close, from play areas to libraries.
Over 300 councils have declared a climate emergency, and many are assessing risks and developing plans. They deliver wide ranging services including on roads, flooding, fire, natural environment, housing, public health, and social care.
An LGA survey also found that:
· Damage to critical infrastructure and buildings, including roads and homes ranks as the second greatest concern for councils. Widespread risks to people and the economy from climate related failure of the power-system was the third greatest risk.
· 21 per cent of responding councils said a “lack of data” was a barrier in addressing climate impacts to communities and service delivery. “Lack of funding and/or available finance” was also the top identified barrier (93 per cent) faced by authorities.
Cllr Linda Taylor, environment spokesperson for the LGA said:
“The impacts of climate change are going to intensify into the future and councils are warning people and places will be left increasingly vulnerable without further preparation. Councils need support to prepare their communities for impacts of climate change now.
“The extreme heat we all experienced last summer is just one of many effects we expect to reoccur, the year before that we had significant flash flooding. Councils need the funding and resources to adequately reduce the risks to lives and livelihoods.
“As the leaders of local areas, councils are at the forefront of local climate action, they must be made able to protect their residents.”