Chitra Nadarajah, Strategic Manager for Climate Change at Hampshire County Council talks about how they are working on climate change.
Like hundreds of other local councils across the UK, Hampshire County Council declared a climate emergency in the summer of 2019 and set a target to be carbon neutral by 2050, in line with national government.
The need to reduce our carbon emissions has been almost universally agreed by local authorities – this is highly significant and will result in a step change across the country. What has had little attention is the need to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change, both now and in the future.
At Hampshire County Council, a local authority who has been at the forefront of climate action, we uniquely set a target to build resilience to the impacts of a two degree celsius rise in temperature. This target was unanimously agreed in January 2020, recognising the critical role we have in ensuring that not only are we resilient and able to continue to deliver our services, but also ensuring that our infrastructure, environment and communities are prepared too.
Climate change has already had a significant impact in Hampshire. Flooding and extreme weather events alone have caused damage to homes, infrastructure and our natural environment. These impacts have had far reaching consequences for us as an authority and for our communities. Climate change doesn’t just cause physical or financial damage, it also has much deeper, longer term effects on health and wellbeing. For these reasons we believe that resilience has to be at the very core of our response to climate change.
Our services teams will be working together to both reduce carbon emissions and build resilience. We will be doing this in a holistic way, using a joined up approach, and ensuring that any actions taken to reduce emissions do not increase our risks to climate impacts. A good example is that if we switch to using materials on our highways that are less carbon intensive to manufacture, we need to ensure they are also resilient to extreme weather, increased rainfall and other impacts. We want to make sure that we do not compromise services in the drive to carbon neutrality, but that they go hand in hand.
To achieve this for an authority of our size and reach is complex and nuanced. We therefore commissioned the Carbon Trust to develop an adaptation framework alongside our carbon pathway, in a trailblazing programme due to launch in the coming weeks. This work will help us establish our carbon pathway and budgets to remain in line with the Paris Agreement of 1.5 degrees celsius. At the same time, it will develop a pathway for resilience to two degrees. We chose to adapt to a two degree rise, because it seemed like a sensible and pragmatic approach. It also sends a clear message that we intend to comply with international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
This holistic approach to climate action, linking together mitigation and resilience, will also bring efficiencies and innovation. It will ensure that engagement with partners and stakeholders is more comprehensive and will establish effective ways we can meet our two targets. Key partners and stakeholders will include a wide range of organisations like district, town and parish councils, The Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion amongst others.
We will also be using insight-led, behavioural change approaches to engage with and support residents to make small, achievable changes to their everyday lifestyles. This will be key for obtaining large scale change across communities. We will also be rolling out grassroot campaigns aimed to help communities work together to achieve shared goals, on everything from energy to flood defence. By bringing mitigation and adaptation together we hope this will help residents understand what they can do, and empower them to take action not only to contribute towards reducing emissions in Hampshire, but also to prepare themselves and their homes for climate change.
We hope that our approach will inspire other local authorities and businesses to consider including resilience in their thinking and planning, making sure we are all doing our part to take the best steps towards a sustainable future.