Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Somerset: on the Frontline of Climate Change

 9th Jul 2019

9th July 2019 - Thanks to a major European grant (Interreg 2 Seas) Somerset has received £2.1m to help communities adapt to the climate emergency.

Somerset’s long coast and large areas of low-laying land make it one of the UK’s most climate vulnerable areas, facing significant risks from sea level rise, fluvial (river) flooding and drought.

The new project, known as Co-Adapt (Climate Adaptation through Co-Creation) aims to increase public understanding of the impacts of climate change, and open challenging conversations about how Somerset’s authorities and communities can best plan for a healthy and productive future. Co-Adapt’s focus areas are the Somerset Levels and Moors, Porlock Vale and the River Culm catchment, this straddles the border with Devon.

The project will use a revolutionary new approach known as Adaptation Pathways, this links nature-based solutions, like planting trees or restoring wetlands and floodplains, to the environmental changes they are designed to tackle, helping Somerset make effective plans in the face of an uncertain climate.

Along with reducing flood and drought risks, these nature-based solutions restore our ecosystems at a landscape scale and some actively lock up carbon from the atmosphere, helping to prevent further climate breakdown.  Through the project, partners in Belgium, Holland and France will also be testing out different approaches, with learnings shared between countries.

The adaptation options themselves will be developed through a consensus-based approach. Many groups will have the opportunity to input their experience and expertise, including policy makers, councils, infrastructure experts, landowners, farmers and communities. Through this process the project aims to increase understanding of the threats we face, encourage action on climate adaptation and ultimately to develop a suite of adaptation options, tailored to the needs of Somerset’s communities and landscapes.

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure and Chair of the Somerset Rivers Authority said: “Natural approaches to reducing flood risk are often less invasive and can be more sustainable in the longer term.”
“Councils across Somerset and the rest of the country declared a climate emergency earlier this year and these projects complement that perfectly. Like all effective climate change initiatives, they are the result of great partnership working.”

Steve Mewes, Policy and Campaigns Manager, at Somerset Wildlife Trust explains: “The impacts from previous decades of burning fossil fuels are yet to be fully felt, but we do know that regardless of work to reduce global emissions, there will be a degree of climate change – the impacts of which we need to prepare for now. The floods of 2013/14 were an early wake-up call for Somerset’s communities, and led to the creation of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan and the Somerset Rivers Authority. The plan made a commitment to develop long-term solutions to reduce flood and drought risks, the Co-Adapt project is a major part of fulfilling this commitment and being confident that we are adequately prepared for what lies ahead.”

Tim Youngs, Manager, of the Blackdown Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) adds: “We will be working with local communities helping the Culm catchment to ‘heal’ itself. In doing so, it will become more resilient to flood and drought and local people will benefit through reduced flood risk to properties downstream, enhanced biodiversity and improved water quality.”

The main partner organisations for the Co-Adapt project in Somerset are Somerset County Council, Somerset Rivers Authority, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG SW), the National Trust and Blackdown Hills AONB.

interreg

ENDS

For interviews and further information please contact:

Beccy Willmetts, Communications Office: 01823 653 414.
Email: rebecca.willmetts@somersetwildlife.org

Shelly Easton, Climate Change Adaptation Officer: 01823 652 473 / 07419 334805.
Email: shelly.easton@somersetwildlife.org

westhay moor

Photo: Guy Edwardes. Westhay Moor

Catcott lows

Photo: Andrew Kirby. Catcott Lows Drone image

levels

Photo: Guy Edwardes. Somerset Levels.

Images are attached for use with this news release.  They are granted on a one-time use basis, in association with this release and the photographer must be credited. More images available on request.

Notes to editors:

About the Co-Adapt project

The Co-Adapt project is designed to help Somerset adapt to Climate Change. The county is one of the UK’s most climate vulnerable areas, facing significant risks from sea level rise, fluvial (river) flooding and drought.

Co-Adapt will use a revolutionary new approach known as Adaptation Pathways, which links adaptation options with the environmental pressures faced. This means Somerset’s authorities and communities can make effective plans, even in the face of an uncertain climate.

The main project partners in Somerset are; Somerset County Council, Somerset Rivers Authority, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG SW), the National Trust and Blackdown Hills AONB.

Funding

The Co-Adapt project will bring £2.1m from the European Regional Development Fund into Somerset over the next three-and-a-half years for the projects on the Levels, Porlock Vale and the River Culm catchment.

A total of €7 million has come from the Interreg 2 Seas funding programme - a European Territorial Cooperation Programme covering England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders). The Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

Climate Mitigation and Adaptation

There are two main responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation.

  • Mitigation addresses the root causes of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Adaptation seeks to lower the risks posed by the consequences of climatic changes.

Both are necessary, because even if emissions are dramatically decreased in the next decade, adaptation will still be needed to deal with the global changes that have already been set in motion.

About Somerset Wildlife Trust – www.somersetwildlife.org

Somerset’s wildlife is part of what makes living, working and visiting the county so special. Somerset Wildlife Trust has been protecting vulnerable wildlife and preserving Somerset’s wild places for over 50 years and, with over 19,000 members, is the largest conservation charity in the county.  Alongside our members and volunteers, we work year-round to protect wildlife, transform landscapes and put nature back into people’s lives. 

Our reserves holding of over 1,700 hectares incorporates a diverse range of habitats from wetlands to woodlands, grasslands and meadows, and provide secure environments for a diverse range of wildlife such as Dormice, Otters, Hedgehogs, Barn Owls and many other species - as well as providing safe havens for some of Somerset’s most iconic species such as Bittern and Large Blue butterfly.

The majority of our work is made possible through the support of our members and people who live and work in the county who choose to make donations, fundraise for us or leave generous gifts in their wills. By working together with our members and supporters we really can make a difference.