Climate Change is one of the defining global challenges of our age and compelling evidence shows that substantial changes to our climate are already unavoidable. This research is therefore founded on the key message that action towards the adaptation of climate change is vital and urgent.
It examines the important role of planning in reducing the vulnerability of urban regions through the Environmental Impact Assessment process (EIA). This is done primarily by reviewing Environmental Statements for urban regeneration projects, as well as through responses to questionnaires and emails and an in-depth literature study. It aims to show if and how some of the UK’s high profile and controversial urban regeneration projects have considered climate change adaptation and what role EIA played in this incorporation.
The findings show that all reviewed projects considered the adaptation of climate change to varying degrees. It is considered in the flooding assessment for all projects and the proposal for sustainable urban drainage strategies was also found to be in all statements. Despite this, clear consideration in other impact chapters such as Landscape and Ecology was lacking. Long term baselines for projects were hardly used in many projects but when used, they were found in CO2 related impact chapters such as traffic and air quality. The smaller scaled urban regeneration projects showed a clear gap in holistically approaching the issues of climate change by frequently mentioning it under the loose umbrella of ‘sustainable development’. The larger projects such as the Olympic Village and Bilston Urban Village showed a holistic approach and purposefully integrated it in the earlier stages of the EIA, allowing for the predicted impacts to influence the design and decision making. Furthermore, the responses from the questionnaires and emails showed that the extent to which climate change considerations are factored in is difficult to predict due to many variables such as the type of development, funding and different economic and political conditions. The results also showed that although there was a sound agreement on the integration of climate change adaptation in EIA, however it was found that many adaptation measures were often put aside for other planning goals.
With the European Commission currently working towards incorporating climate change considerations in the EIA directive and the UK aiming to publish its first National Adaptation programme this year, this research comes at a very crucial time.