Adapting to climate change

Adaptation is the process of adjusting to climate change and its effects, and to seek to moderate harm or exploit any beneficial opportunities of climate change.

While we must work to reduce climate change, the carbon we have already put into the atmosphere will have an effect for a long time into the future. This means we must adapt to the changes this causes - these impacts are sometimes described as being "locked-in". 

Most importantly, we cannot ignore the climate change risks we are facing globally and locally including flooding, hurricanes, bush fires – all natural hazards and risks faced every year. Adaptation actions taken today to manage these risks will have benefits long into the future.

What we mean by 'resilience'

Resilience is central to our adaptation response. It describes our ability to cope and bounce-back from a damaging event, such as a flood. 

For the council, this means finding ways to keep our services running despite the challenges climate change throws at us. We also want to help our communities and businesses find ways to cope with the effects climate change may have on them.

Future Fens Flood Risk Management

We are one of a number of partners in the Future Fens Flood Risk Management project co-ordinated by the Environment Agency. This is a major project, currently in phase 1 of 3, that seeks to develop a plan for future flood risk in the Great Ouse Fen area. The aim is to develop a long-term action plan to manage and adapt critical flood risk infrastructure in the Fens which accounts for climate change impacts such as sea level rise, volatile weather patterns and growth scenarios.

The key flood risk management infrastructure in the Fens is ageing. A new risk management system will be needed that is affordable and provides resilience into the future. The focus is currently on the development of a shared understanding across all partners and the community of the functioning of the Great Ouse Tidal River system in its management and distribution of water in this area is essential.

Later stages of the project, will involve working cross-sector (tourism, agriculture, conservation, flood management etc.) to develop a high level strategy and action plan based on an agreed approach to the future of the Fens.

To give you some idea of the project scale, it is equivalent to planning to develop the Thames Barrier in London.

You can find out more information about this project on the ADA website.

Summary of Fens Future Flood Risk Management project: data gathering, strategy drafting and then implementation

Other areas of focus

Cambridgeshire is a water scarce region and subject to increasing drought. By the 2050s, there is predicted to be a shortfall of 5-17% in the amount of water required to meet demand. We will support partners like our Local Planning Authorities, tenant farmers and Water Resources East (WRE) to consider suitable actions to manage this risk.

There are some areas of the county where water supplies for growth will be predicated on reducing water waste in existing communities. This may mean that policy trade-offs nationally will be needed such as improved resilience versus keeping water bills low. The demand for water resources to support growth could place our region’s natural capital at risk, if appropriate adaptive plans are not developed that conserve water quality, aquatic habitat and biodiversity.

We joined the Strategic Advisory Group for Water Resources East. WRE’s mission is to work in partnership to safeguard a sustainable supply of water for the East of England, resilient to future challenges and enabling the area’s communities, environment and economy to reach their full potential.

We are the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFS) for Cambridgeshire. This means we are a statutory consultee for all projects that could impact surface water drainage.

In this capacity, we endorsed the Cambridgeshire Flood and Water Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (opens PDF) in 2016. The SPD has been adopted by the county’s five Local Planning Authorities (LPAs). IT was developed with a wide range of partners including the Environment Agency, water companies and Internal Drainage Boards, to support the implementation of flood risk and water related policies in the Local Plans. 

We also recognise and strongly endorses inclusion of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) in new development, and are looking to working with other LLFAs and Highways Authorities to improve the business case for and cost effectiveness of retrofit SuDS and other nature-based solutions into existing areas.

Green and Blue infrastructure describes a network of green space and water assets which can deliver quality of life and environmental benefits for communities. It recognises the value of these assets, particularly in flood management.

Well designed and located multi-functional green Infrastructure can deliver a wide range of environmental services and make a significant contribution to both climate change adaptation and to improving our natural environment. Maximising the creation, co-benefits and longevity of multi-functional green and blue (water) infrastructure to reduce our vulnerability and exposure to climate change is essential.

We have previously had a leading role in encouraging development of a Green Infrastructure strategy across the county and we encourage continued leadership and support for these plans and policies.

We also works with other flood and water management partners to ensure joined up flood and water management. Multi-functional green and blue spaces can provide a huge range of benefits including recreation, temperature control, habitat, flood storage, water resources and water quality improvements.

Note: this work also has strong ties to some of the action taking place to improve the natural environment

As a council, we need to design climate risk plans to make sure we understand the impacts we might see to our services and how we can deal with them. The will enable continuity of services by supporting staff to continue to work and deliver services when extreme weather events occur.

Vulnerable people will feel the impacts of severe weather more strongly than others. Action will be needed to prevent the vulnerable in our communities becoming more susceptible to the impacts of climate change and strong ties with local communities will be essential. We are exploring how our existing support programmes, such as Think Communities, can help to deliver community adaptation to climate change.