Jsna Banner

Environment - Climate Change & Sustainability   Download this section

The world’s climate and weather patterns are changing. Global temperatures are rising, causing more extreme weather events, like flooding and heatwaves. The impacts from such changes are likely to affect most of us in some way during our lifetimes.

Human activity such as burning fossil fuels to heat our homes or sending waste to landfill is producing harmful greenhouse gases which are contributing to a warming of our climate. Throughout history the climate on Earth has changed. But leading scientists now agree that atmospheric concentrations of the major greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – have increased significantly since pre-industrial times because of human activities.

There remain potential implications for public health around extreme weather conditions, specifically heat waves, and fuel poverty during cold or prolonged winters and for the wider community in terms of disruption to services, transport and logistics and business continuity.

According to the Yorkshire and Humber regional adaptation study (2009) the following future climatic conditions are likely to occur.

Future Climatic condition 2020 2050 2080
Increased summer temperature + 1.3°C + 2.3°C + 3.3°C
Decreased summer rainfall -8% -19% -23%
Increased winter temperature + 1.3°C + 1.9°C  + 2.9°C
Increased winter rainfall 4% 11% 15%
Increased storminess Increase over time
Increased rainfall intensity Increase over time
Rising sea level 22cm by 2050, 36cm by 2080*

Source: Weathering the storm: Yorkshire and Humber regional adaptation study, 2009 UK Climate Change Projections

Such changes in climate will impact on us all differently. For example in recent years

  • the heatwave during the summer of 2003 resulted in over 2,000 excess deaths across England and Wales, and is estimated to have cost the UK economy £500 million. 30,000 additional deaths were recorded in 2003 in Europe (source: Euro surveillance).
  • In 2007, the summer floods were classed as a national disaster, costing £4 billion and thirteen lives. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), subsequent insurance claims averaged between £75,000 and £112,000 per business. More than 5 million homes are currently at risk of flooding in England - just 1 cm of flood water can cause over £15,000 worth of damage. 
  • The wet weather in summer 2012 cost rural Britain at least £1 billion, according to an investigation by BBC One's Countryfile. Costs to farmers in lost output amounted to £600 million, while visitor numbers fell by 12%, costing the tourism industry an estimated £478 million.

However we can take preventative and precautionary action to both tackle and prepare for a changing climate. The council and UK government are committed to reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to a changing climate. The council has a Climate Change Framework and Action Plan to deliver local reductions in greenhouse gas emissions including work to improve the energy efficiency of homes across the City. However, no matter how successful locally / nationally we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, some degree of climate change is now unavoidable. Therefore we need to adapt and build resilience.

‘Climate Adaptation’ involves changing the way we do things to prepare for the potential impacts of climate change. This means we will be better protected against negative impacts like flooding and more resilient and able to cope with them should they arise.

The earlier we plan for adaptation and climate resilience, the less it will cost and the better equipped we will be to cope with potential changes.

To reduce greenhouse gases nationally there is the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan. This aims to deliver a 34% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 through a raft of policy and measures. However, even if successful, there will be some degree of climate change experienced in the UK due to current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

To better understand the specific risks that climate change poses to the UK, the Government carried out the first ‘UK climate change risk assessment’ (CCRA) in 2012. The assessment gives a detailed analysis of 100 potential impacts of climate change. Subsequently, the government also produced a National Adaptation Plan (NAP). This programme contains a mix of policies and actions to help the UK to adapt successfully to future weather conditions, by dealing with the risks and making the most of the opportunities.

Specifically relating to health sector, the CCRA identifies risks to the health of the UK population, particularly to the most vulnerable, as well as to the effective delivery of public health, the National Health Service (NHS) and social care services.

On 1st July 2013 a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) was launched. This programme contains a mix of policies and actions to help the UK to adapt successfully to future weather conditions, by dealing with the risks and making the most of the opportunities. 

In addition to this work, separate sector bodies have also published detailed research and risks, including Health effects of Climate Change in UK 2012. This report highlights predicted future health risks including those associated with temperature:

  • Heat-related mortality is projected to increase steeply in the UK in the 21st century. We estimate this increase to be approximately 70% in the 2020’s, 260% in the 2050’s, and 540% in the 2080’s, compared with the 2000’s heat-related mortality baseline of around 2,000 premature deaths (Health Protection Agency, 2012).

The following table identifes a broader range of climate change impacts:

Climate Change Health Impact

 Sources: Sustainable Development Unit 2014 (Under the Weather Toolkit) (Sources referred to within above table as denoted by numbers:

3 Public Health England (2012). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012. Available: www.hpa.org.uk/hecc2012;

4 Public Health England (2012). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012. Available: www.hpa.org.uk/hecc2012

5 Brown, L et al (2014) Impact of drought on vector-borne diseases – how does one manage risk? – Public Health, Volume 128 Issue 1, p 28-37;

6 Public Health England (2012). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012. Available: www.hpa.org.uk/hecc2012;

7 Public Health England (2012). Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012. Available: www.hpa.org.uk/hecc2012;

8 Defra (2013). National Adaptation Programme. Available: www.gov.uk/government/policies/adapting-to-climate-change Paragraph 122;

9 Goldman, A et al (2013) The health impacts of windstorms: a systematic literature review, Public Health Vol 128 Issue 1 p 3-28;

10 World Health Organisation. Determinants of Health. Available: www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/)   

Through research carried out by Arup on behalf the City of York Council it is likely that by 2050 City of York may experience the following;

  • Increased frequency of extreme rainfall events
  • Drier summers (May - July) and wetter winters (November, December and January)
  • Increased average daily temperatures (2.5°C)
  • Increased frequency of heatwaves.

As a result of these changes, the City of York is potentially at increased risk of suffering;

  • A significant increased risk of social-economic and environmental damage and disruption caused by increased flooding (pluvial and fluvial), heatwaves, and seasonal changes in rainfall and temperature
  • Estimated Annual Damage from climate change with a financial cost of the order of £95M to £158M (based on 2010 prices) per annum by 2050
  • Increased risk of elevated mortality and morbidity, with increased risks to public health and well-being from flooding and heatwaves
  • Changes to local biodiversity and the availability/quality of water resources;
  • Increased demands on public sector organisations to respond to more frequent and severe weather events
  • Potentially increased demands on public open space, recreation and tourism facilities
  • Increased disruption to service delivery, transport and logistics and business continuity
  • Potential decline in quality of key assets (e.g. cultural heritage) and York’s quality of life, wellbeing and sense of place
  • Increased risk of bad publicity and negative public perception occurring from repeated flooding events

In addition to better national and sector specific data on the issue, in 2012 locally, City of York Council (CYC) withdrew its draft Core Strategy and began to develop a new draft Local Plan for the City. Both are strategic long term spatial plans for the city illustrating how the city will develop and grow. This work also coincided with the publication of a new National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF).

The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) is clear that local planning authorities, working closely with their communities, should proactively plan to mitigate (reduce carbon emissions) and adapt to climate change. There is a statutory duty requiring local authorities to include policies in their local plans which help them adapt to climate change. A current draft Local Plan for York is out for consultation and contains sections relating climate change and flood risk and including a policy specifically on Sustainable Urban Drainage. All relevant policies adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, over the longer term, taking full account of flood risk. City of York Council also is also developing a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy which will also take climate change into consideration.

To reduce carbon emissions across the city there are various strategies delivering key programmes of actions. The Climate Change Framework and Action Plan coordinate this action and accelerate action in key areas such as renewable energy generation.

To ensure we are resilient to a changing climate, a local Climate Impact Profile (LCLIP) (Arup 2010) has been undertaken to aid understanding of the city’s current and future risks and vulnerability to a changing climate.

The following city strategies also have climate mitigation and climate adaptation actions embedded into them:

  • Climate Change Action Plan 2010 – 2013
  • Local Plan
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
  • CYC in 2011 carried out a climate change risk assessment on key services across the city.

There are 6 key areas being focussed on:

  • City of York Council and local partners to evaluate the National Adaptation Programme and cross reference this with local work undertaken to date to ensure York is increasing resilience to current climate extremes;
  • Raise awareness of the need for climate change adaptation in local businesses /organisations and the cost of inaction;
  • Ensure York is taking timely action for long-lead time measures (especially in health and infrastructure sectors);
  • Carry out work to investigate major evidence gaps in information to help the City prepare for a changing climate, and begin to address these gaps;
  • Develop and implement a Local Plan for York that proactively plans to mitigate (reduce carbon emissions) and adapt to climate change (2014);
  • Develop and implement a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy (2014)

In addition to this work, and since 2012, City of York Council and Yorkshire energy partnership have continued to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency in homes across the city. Over 1200 homes have benefitted from new loft and cavity wall insulation in 2012/2013. In 2013, under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, City of York Council also was required to publish a report which shows how it intends to continue to tackle home energy conservation in the coming years.

This work and associated action plan Housing Plans and Strategies will complement the City’s current Climate Change Action Plan and help create warmer homes that are also more resilient to future extreme cold weather events. It will especially help alleviate excess winter cold related deaths and the numbers of cold, damp homes). It is also helping the city reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impacts of future climate change.

The economic case for taking timely action is also clearer. According the National Adaptation Programme (Annex on the Economics of NAP) adaptation can create and protect economic growth. Adaptation is fundamentally an economic issue. Adaptation protects growth and allocative efficiency (avoiding economic costs). Cost effective adaptation delivers a net benefit and avoids unnecessary damage costs of climate change that would hinder economic growth. Adaptation activities may have a range of other economic impacts in addition to their aim of avoiding damage.

As an example (Department for Environment & Food and Rural Affairs, 2013):

  • The estimated costs associated with the potential mental health effects of the 2007 floods in Hull (including treatment, lost work time and reduced quality of life) was in the range of £4 million to over £600 million, depending on assumptions.
  • The costs of temporarily closing a hospital for 10 – 60 days could be in the range of £2 million to £20 million.

Without taking timely action and building resilience, it will leave the UK (and more locally York) at risk from suffering unnecessary damage costs of climate change. In such scenarios it would be cheaper to invest in adaptation than face the consequences of inaction.

  • Relating to reducing carbon emissions a refreshed Climate Change Action Plan will be drafted. The city also has a Low Emission Strategy (which focuses on reducing emissions from the transport sector). This will be accompanied by an Action Plan in due course. Collectively, these will contain a series of action to carry out now and in the future
  • Relating to climate resilience, review the results of the Local Climates Impact Profile (LCLIP) and evaluate actions that need attention now, in the future and ones to keep a watching brief on
  • Specifically relating to health, York’s Health and Wellbeing Board could consider leading actions to ensure York’s Health sector becomes climate ready. This can be done through following the principles as set out in Sustainable Development Unit’s Under the Weather Toolkit (2014) and could include assessing how the JSNA addresses climate resilience
  • Economic Partnership could choose to raise awareness of the need for climate change adaptation in local businesses /organisations and the cost of inaction;
  • Carry out work to investigate major sector delivery gaps and evidence gaps in information to help the City prepare for a changing climate, and begin to address these gaps
  • Develop a wide ranging sustainability strategy that incorporates Sustainable Development Unit recommendations from the Sustainable Development Strategy for Health and Care System 2014 – 2020

Refresh the Climate Change Action Plan to ensure climate adaptation and resilience remain an essential area of actions to be delivered.




References

This page was last updated on 20 April 2015
This page will be reviewed by 20 April 2016