Summary and recommendations
The East of England is one of the most vulnerable regions of the UK to the impacts of climate change, and also has some of the most intractable challenges for meeting net zero targets. From Essex to Lincolnshire, new partnerships and institutions are emerging to help drive climate action in the region. Lessons shared across these new networks include the need for more coordinated action, for strategic use of limited funding, and for the empowerment of Climate Commissions, Partnerships and Action Networks to help drive forward inclusive, expert-informed and place-sensitive climate actions. Such organisations and networks (which most often focus on mitigation action rather than adaptation) have a potentially crucial role to play in climate change adaptation in particular, and can help raise the profile of adaptation priorities at local and regional levels.
- Climate Commissions, Partnerships and Networks can be important convenors and catalysts for local, collaborative climate action. Local authorities and national government should provide resources to facilitate place-based climate action networks, which can act as critical friends of local authorities while also supporting the efforts of local authority officers who are working to enhance the institutional profile of place-based climate change action.
- Climate Commissions and similar bodies can be important catalysts for local action around climate change risks and adaptation. They have many potential roles to play: knowledge brokers, target-setters, and convenors of conversations about what successful adaptation would look like in different places. Such bodies should strive to raise the profile of adaptation in their work.
- Adaptation requires working closely with communities and stakeholders to i) understand risks and their wider context; ii) agree working definitions of successful adaptation; iii) implement policies and actions. Councils have an important coordinating and leadership role here, and Commissions and related bodies can play important advisory and supporting roles.
- Climate Commissions, local authorities and related bodies should work more closely together to develop regional networks for sharing best practice in climate change adaptation, with particular emphasis on the specific climate change impacts that affect their region.
- National government needs to recognise the significance of, and support, local climate action. “Local action without national support will be challenging”; but at the same time, “national policy without local buy-in will fail”. Support for the development and running of initiatives like place-based local climate commissions is one crucial means by which the national government can help drive local climate action forwards.
- Local authorities likewise need access to regular and reliable funding streams to enable them to realise the potential of local, placed-based climate action for achieving both net zero and adaptation objectives.
- Stronger and more coherent adaptation policy is needed at the national level. Currently, policies and statutory responsibilities (e.g. for reporting on adaptation) are fragmented and inconsistent. Greater consistency in adaptation policy will enable and empower local authorities to develop more effective placed-based adaptation policies.
- Statutory responsibilities for reporting on adaptation should be better linked between national, regional and local policymaking streams to enable climate commissions to highlight key areas of adaptation strategy implementation pertinent to their jurisdiction.
- Enhanced support is required from national government ministries, e.g. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), to empower the Local Government Association to develop further links between national adaptation policy and local placed-based climate adaptation action.
- National government and scientific institutions should recognise and address place-based knowledge needs to support climate actions and decisions at the local level, particularly with regards to adaptation. The development and provision of information relevant to local adaptation challenges can help raise awareness and understanding among stakeholders, and give them confidence to make consequential decisions.