To increase resilience, it is important to understand the problem, get the right people involved and develop an adaptation plan which sets out the actions needed


Implementation of this plan should achieve a reduction in vulnerability overall and reduce the potential for disproportionate impacts for some people and communities. See the resources on partnership working for more information.


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Following a step-by-step process can be helpful to address adaptation. A suggested process is set out here (see Figure 1 below) along with advice on how to achieve each step. It is important that the process is applied proportionately and that it doesn't become overly arduous and bureaucratic. In essence the process elaborates the basic steps used in plan-making and appraisal: identify the problem, plan, deliver, monitor and provide feedback. It also reflects the main stages in the UKCIP Adaptation Wizard (Getting Started, Current Climate Vulnerability, Future Climate Vulnerability, Adaptation Options, Monitor and Review), but has an additional focus on ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable communities are prioritised.


The level of detail and investigation applied in relation to understanding impacts, developing responses and establishing a monitoring and feedback system should be proportionate to the size and complexity of the issue being addressed. So, for example, developing a communications campaign for care homes to be alert to the potential impacts of hot weather and the actions they can take would require less detailed investigations and monitoring than identifying the location, materials, layout and operating requirements of a new retirement village.

Figure 1: Climate Change Action Planning Process


Getting started

When embarking on the process of adaptation action planning, the first step is to ensure that the relevant organisations and individuals are involved. The exact organisations and individuals that will be involved will differ depending on the local context and also the scale at which action is taken (from neighbourhood level to local authority or another scale). So for example, for a local authority wide adaptation plan, establishing a cross-departmental steering group involving organisations outside of the council operating across the area would be a sensible starting point. But, a local flood action group would probably be led by members of the local community and involve local authority or local resilience forum support rather than leadership. At this stage, you may not know who is likely be most affected by climate change impacts, but if you already know about specific groups that are likely to be affected or who have already been affected locally (e.g. those identified in the datasets provided in this resource and any others who are not, such as gypsies and travellers, homeless people, or people with specific illnesses or care needs), it is important to ensure appropriate representation within the organising body as soon as possible. This is essential for achieving ownership and ensuring that needs are properly recognised.


Trusted voluntary and community organisations, such as Age UK or refugee community organisations, are often best placed to engage and inform vulnerable groups, but may also need to make connections in their own work to climate change concerns. More information about actions relating to the needs of older people and other vulnerable groups can be found here.


Community flood groups have been established in many parts of the UK, involving local businesses and residents to ensure that their needs are met. For example, in Purley, Surrey, a community flood group (Purley Flood Defence Group) was established to address the disruption caused by frequent flooding, particularly in the business area. Croydon Council contacted a number of affected individuals who set up Purley Flood Group by involving local residents and businesses who were interested in reducing the impact of flooding. The group met with all the relevant agencies, and developed a flood plan. Funding was provided by the Greater London Authority to develop the plan and to provide equipment such as flood wardens, tools and protective clothing.  The group now maintains constant contact with Croydon Council which provides them with flood alerts and they keep the Council updated regarding blocked drains and are getting a good response. They also get flood alerts from the Council. At the moment these have been just flood alerts and no action has been needed. Actions like this improve community cohesion and adaptive capacity, i.e. local communities’ ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from flood events. More information about community engagement can be found here.


Increase the profile of climate change adaptation


Increasing the profile of climate change concerns and the need for adaptation is important to embed responses across organisations working with vulnerable groups. Climate change needs to move out of its traditional environmental silo and become mainstreamed if we are to be properly prepared for its impacts. It should be built in at all levels from national policy making down to residents groups and should be automatically considered as a risk in relation to business continuity. Many local authorities no longer have dedicated climate change or environmental sustainability officers and many lower tier authorities never had such positions. This reduces institutional capacity for adaptation and makes coordination more difficult and inefficient. However, it also spreads the responsibilities throughout an entire organisation. As a result, all departments and partner organisations need to have internal leads on climate change and extreme weather and a remit to work with others for action planning and the realisation of joint goals.


Research suggests that climate change tends to be recognised by drainage engineers, flood risk management officers and spatial planners, but has much less of a priority within social services and housing functions. However, these are the very functions that deliver services to many vulnerable groups likely to be most impacted by climate change and they may be best placed to identify related risks. Some authorities, such as Hampshire County Council, have included resilience to future risks as a required consideration within council committee reports along with other issues such as equality. This helps to mainstream adaptation and make it an automatic consideration for officers and members regardless of the specific issue that is being addressed.


There are examples of adaptation being embedded in specific services which can be used to inform similar actions:

  • Oxfordshire County Council’s Property Services set up a Climate Change Action Group (CCAG) which assessed local risks and identified what their impacts could be for four property service interests – buildings, services, land and users. This resulted in the production of a Service Action Plan. This process was supported by the Head of Property Services along with support from the Management Team and other staff across the service, showing the importance of senior buy-in. The development of the plan has helped to raise awareness of the need for climate change adaptation action within the service and across the Council.
  • Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council recognised the need for adaptation to be built into key processes such as risk assessment and appraisal during the masterplanning process for Bilston Urban Village. Using the risk, uncertainty and decision-making framework tool developed by UKCIP, the Council, Sustainability West Midlands Climate Change Partnership and Advantage West Midlands (former regional development agency) identified vulnerabilities to the site and wider area at the outset, thereby enabling the inclusion of proposed cost-effective measures (such as SUDS) in the masterplan.


Using language such as 'preparedness' and 'resilience' is essential to help raise the profile of climate change adaptation as is communicating risks in a way that can be understood without scare-mongering. It is usually easier to gain initial support by focusing on recent instances of extreme weather and the need to become resilient to current events rather than starting with looking at long term climate change projections which are uncertain, particularly if climate change sceptics are involved. This is not to suggest that long term adaptation is not important, it is just that initial interest is likely to be gained in relation to more immediate concerns. Ensuring that communities are resilient, in all senses, is an easier message to convey particularly in relation to extreme weather as this is increasingly being experienced. However, resilience can mean many things to different groups and is still an issue of academic debate.  When trying to promote the need for adaptation action with elected members, local organisations and communities it is far more straightforward to talk about communities being prepared for likely extreme weather and climate change impacts and being able to respond to and recover from any potential events.


The communication of climate change risk can also be confusing. For example the terminology used to explain flood risk is often in the form of a probability, for example a 1 in 100 year event. This can actually downplay risk as communities may consider that if they suffer a 1 in 100 year flood event, this will not happen again for another 99 years. It is probably better to use the type of probability language that is used in relation to winning the lottery i.e. you have a 1 in a million chance, but you have that same chance every time you play even if you've won recently. So there is a 1 in a 100 chance of flooding all the time, regardless of whether or not flooding has been experienced.


Adaptation and mitigation can often be confused and as mitigation is ‘easier’ to understand and implement, communities and individuals may think they are doing their bit by installing solar panels for example.  Of course the mitigation agenda is essential to minimise continued future climate change, but climate change is already happening and we need to prepare for the consequences.  However, it is also important that the adaptation message does not suggest that there is nothing that can be done to reduce future climate change impacts on communities.



Identify the local risks and who they will impact


  • Once the relevant organisations have been engaged and support obtained, identify the climate change impacts that are likely to affect your area and understand who is most likely to be affected. Identifying which communities are most vulnerable in relation to their ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate change can be undertaken using the framework on this website. It identifies specific environmental, personal and social characteristics that contribute to 'socio-spatial vulnerability' and combines these with indicators of potential exposure i.e. likelihood of flooding and increased heat in order to identify the most climate disadvantaged communities.
  • Many local authorities have produced Local Climate Impact Profiles (LCLIPs), which provide information on recent extreme weather events.  This is one of a number of complementary tools which support the process of adaptation planning identified in this resource.
  • Use the map tool to analyse vulnerability in your local area. The map tool provides this assessment for all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, enabling a detailed understanding of vulnerability at neighbourhood level. New data resources cover the present day and future scenarios for flood disadvantage. It is important to be aware that although the data for flood vulnerability and disadvantage have been refined in 2017, the data are still populated with national datasets, some on fairly broad scales, meaning that the results could be different to what is expected locally. The data provide an exceptionally useful resource, but should be used as a guide and framework from which more locally-specific issues can be taken into account through discussion with relevant stakeholders and the use of local data. Alternatively, the framework can be used but populated with local data, where it exists, supplemented by national data where only this is available.
  • It is important at this stage to involve local stakeholders representing a range of interests in the identification of impacts and how these may affect different communities. Interpretation is best informed by the communities themselves or  those who know the communities well and are aware of any plans that may already be in place to address climate change risks now and in the future. This exercise has been carried out in Wigan (original data) and Rochdale (new flood data) – see their case studies for learning from their use of the mapping tool and associated data. See also how this kind of work is supporting policy development in Newcastle and other parts of the UK in the case studies library and the case studies in the appendix to the 2017 Sayers and Partners assessment of Flood vulnerability, risk and disadvantage.



Identify the actions needed


Actions need to be identified which clearly address the likely impacts of specific climate events on individual communities. Local context is of utmost importance.


There are many useful sources of advice to help identify appropriate actions, such as the UKCIP website and Appendix IV of Socially Just Adaptation to Climate Change1, which provides a typology of adaptation practice and the social justice implications of each. Learning from others is also important and many case study examples of climate change adaptation action are provided again on the UKCIP website and others such as the National Flood Forum.


Climate change adaptation falls into two main activities: building adaptive capacity and undertaking adaptation actions.  

  • Building adaptive capacity includes developing the institutional capacity to respond effectively to climate change. This means ensuring that you have the information you need and creating any required standards or conditions to enable adaptation action. Building adaptive capacity can include obtaining and sharing information e.g. research and awareness raising, developing appropriate plans and strategies, changing internal systems and training, and working collaboratively with other organisations to reach a shared understanding on climate change impacts and required adaptation actions.


Developing the adaptation plan can be classed as building your adaptive capacity; the plan itself will include adaptation actions.  Some organisations may wish to develop specific climate change or adaptation plans; others may wish to incorporate their corporate commitment to climate change adaptation in service plans, risk assessments or business continuity plans as a type of cross-cutting theme. The latter approach is likely to ensure that adaptation is better embedded in all services. Actions should be manageable and realistic, and prioritised over the short, medium and long term related to the severity of impacts and their likelihood of occurring.

  • Delivering adaptation actions involves taking practical actions to either reduce vulnerability to climate risks, or to exploit positive opportunities and may range from simple low-tech solutions to large scale infrastructure projects. Examples include:
    • Accepting the impacts, and bearing the losses that result from those risks (e.g. managed retreat from sea level rise)
    • Off-setting losses by sharing or spreading the risks or losses (e.g. through insurance)
    • Avoiding or reducing exposure to climate risks (e.g. building new flood defences, or changing locations or activity)
    • Exploiting new opportunities (e.g. engaging in a new activity, or changing practices to take advantage of changing climatic conditions) (UKCIP).


Actions can be classed as high-regret, no-regret, low-regret and win-win. These relate to the degree to which adaptation actions support or conflict with other policy imperatives for example in relation to economic growth, environmental sustainability and social justice. 

  • High-regret actions have negative impacts for other agendas. For example, the building of major flood defences or re-direction of a river channel, which requires the reconfiguration of a neighbourhood, could cause social dislocation and make it more difficult for some residents to access crucial community infrastructure, such as their GP, or local community centre. This may introduce or increase existing health inequalities. 
  • No-regret actions possess no significant trade-offs with other objectives. The provision of increased shading in public places, such as the main shopping streets in urban areas, for example, is unlikely to have a negative impact on other environmental, economic or social objectives. More information about green infrastructure measures can be found here. Another example would be to include fixtures for shutters in building design for new residential buildings so that these can be added later without affecting the building fabric if overheating becomes an issue.
  • Low-regret actions are relatively low cost and have minimal impact on other agendas. Including the installation of flood doors or other Property Level Protection measures by a housing association as part of a planned refurbishment programme is a low cost solution which might be an example. More information about building adaptation measures can be found here.  Similarly incorporating training on climate change into training programmes for care staff, such as use of cooling techniques for heatwaves, could be considered a low-regret activity.
  • Win-win actions are positive both in terms of achieving adaptation and other agendas. Establishing a well-designed sustainable urban drainage scheme and urban landscaping project in a deprived area, for example, could assist in addressing multiple agendas. As well as supporting adaptation to climate change (such as through flood attenuation and increased tree coverage contributing to heat management), this could also assist with community cohesion through the provision of amenity and play areas, and help to improve the image of an area, so assisting with inward investment and overall economic growth. Another example would be the establishment of a local flood group which helps to integrate newly arrived residents into the local community through their involvement in events set up by the flood group, which in turn creates improved community cohesion.


Climate change preparedness requires a focus on the future as well as the present. While extreme events now are associated with weather, longer term changes in trends are related to the climate. Whilst the majority of local organisations have good emergency plans and procedures in place and are aware of the need to protect against flood risk and heatwaves that are evident now, it is important that policies, plans, service delivery and physical infrastructure are developed and implemented with an understanding of projected climate change impacts (and their differential impacts on specific communities) that may not be realised for some time. It is also important to consider the impact on future generations – failure to adapt now could have negative implications for the economy, the environment and society in the future. The map tool provides data on present day and future disadvantage for river/coastal and surface water flooding for England, Sotland and Wales.


There is a huge range of actions that can be undertaken dependent on the specific climate impacts, local characteristics and availability of resources. Common examples include measures such as:

  • The use of green or blue infrastructure to offset risks, e.g. the use of trees for shading new housing and helping to reduce temperatures, or use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) to attenuate flood water
  • Installing back-up generators to provide power when lines are blown down by storms
  • The use of Property Level Protection (PLP) measures to help increase the resilience of individual properties to flooding
  • Ensuring appropriate ventilation in buildings, e.g. that all windows can be opened in social housing and care homes, to avoid over-heating and providing sufficient drinking water to residents at all times
  • Providing flood warning material in a range of media, including print (recognising that not everyone has access to the internet or mobile phones) and in different languages to ensure that all members of the local community receive and understand these warnings and their potential implications
  • Appointing flood wardens and training local people on access to and use of sandbags and other measures required in case of flood emergencies
  • Ensuring shaded areas in school playgrounds and holding PE lessons in shaded areas on very hot days
  • More innovative building design. Increasingly many innovative solutions are being used, for example Gwydyr View Lodge Park in Gwydyr Forest, Snowdonia is a small holiday park containing thirteen luxury wooden lodges. A number of the lodges were constructed with floatation systems underneath designed to help protect them from flooding. The systems allow the holiday homes to rise with floodwaters should flooding occur, therefore preventing the lodges and contents from being damaged.

More information can be found on the detailed pages on


Sometimes adaptation measures are put in place which do not take account of specific vulnerabilities or may exacerbate problems – the following table highlights approaches that can be taken to ensure that common adaptation measures maximise social justice2.


Adaptation Measure

Approaches to Improve Social Justice

Building Adaptive Capacity

Risk Assessments

Ensure risks for communities are taken into account considering broad concepts of social vulnerability, including people’s overall wellbeing and adaptive capacity as well as obvious personal characteristics, such as health status and risks for specific localities/buildings

Spatial Planning

Ensure inclusive consultation processes e.g. involving advocacy organisations to capture the views of hard-to-reach communities

Emergency Planning

Regular reviews of who is vulnerable in the community.

Improved communications systems and protocols when dealing with emergencies in order to keep vulnerable communities better informed and better able to respond.

Important to have a varied and non-age specific medium through which to communicate, and the route adopted should encourage engagement. Communication routes should be linked to trusted intermediaries to support communication with vulnerable groups.

Information provision


Innovative and multimedia/multi-language approaches important to capture wide audience, but print may be best for reaching some groups e.g. older people

Use of trusted intermediaries to directly speak to people is helpful.

Climate change adaptation tools


All tools should focus resources and actions on those communities that are most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

Delivery of Adaptation Actions

Property Level Protection


Service providers to liaise with the Environment Agency regarding protection for individual properties/households to ensure that sufficient explanation is provided for the need for specific equipment and how to use it on a rolling basis (noting houses will change hands).

Appoint community champions to help vulnerable people with demountable forms of protection and provide general advice on both flooding and overheating.

Urban greening


Organisations considering such initiatives should contact civil society advocacy/service delivery organisations to encourage involvement of vulnerable communities in their planning, design, implementation and maintenance.

Building adaptations


Development of specific tailored actions is important rather than tailoring adaptations that are considered to be ‘accessible to all’ but may have detrimental effects for some vulnerable groups

Community-run initiatives


Ensure community planning is undertaken through an inclusive approach and with knowledge of all local communities likely to be vulnerable to climate change

Service delivery


Corporate commitment, mainstreaming and specific measures, such as all council reports having to identify their impacts for climate adaptation.

Table 1. Adaptative measures and the approaches that can be taken to improve social justice.



Identify delivery bodies and funding sources and deliver action


Once actions have been identified and agreed, it is important to clarify who will take forward implementation. Delivery bodies will vary depending on the specific issue, locality and community being addressed.  Funding sources should also be investigated which could range from public sources to private sector and individual contributions. Funding sources tend to change over time in relation to specific initiatives established by public bodies. Currently key sources of UK funding are through national governments and government agencies (flood risk management solutions including property level protection), lead local flood authorities (surface water flood risk management) and charities such as the Big Lottery Fund. Below are three examples focusing on the funding of schemes aimed at addressing extreme weather and climate change:


During the regeneration of Barking Riverside and Barking Town Centre, the Council worked closely with a range of local, regional and international partners to ensure wider access to support and funding avenues. Parties involved included: the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (Regeneration & Economic Development), Bellway Homes, Environment Agency, Living Roofs, University of East London, Homes and Communities Agency. Designers were provided with technically sound, unambiguous guidelines of the Council’s requirements for SUDS and green roofs to be incorporated to help mitigate against flood and overheating risks. They also had access to Planning Policies, Consultations and Planning Advice Notes, including Green Roofs and Sustainable Design and Construction. The outcomes of the coordinated approach for this development were inclusion of green roofs, SUDS and adaptations to prevent impacts on residents from overheating, including an arboretum and light coloured granite paving.  

Funding from Defra was awarded in 2009 to create a Lincolnshire ‘Coastal Change Adaptation Pathfinder’ scheme. This scheme consisted of eight inter-linked projects to complement existing strategic initiatives, such as the Multi-Agency Flood Plan, the Lincolnshire Coastal Study and the Flood Risk Management Framework. The projects aimed to increase coastal communities’ awareness, understanding and preparedness for coastal change and improve partnership working. The following partners were involved in the scheme: Boston Borough Council, East Lindsey District Council, South Holland District Council, Environment Agency, Emergency Planning Unit and Internal Drainage Boards. These partners worked together to produce a consistent message for local communities about the risk of coastal flooding, with an agreed set of images easily recognisable by locals. A whole range of approaches were used to get the messages out including billboard displays, information packs and leaflets, magnets and refuse vehicles. The scheme has resulted in more than 1,200 properties signing up to receive flood warnings from Floodline Warnings Direct and a survey of local people highlighted that those who felt ‘quite’ or ‘very prepared’ for flooding increased from under 40% to almost 50%.   



Monitor effects and alter actions


Monitoring the impacts of actions is essential and should be supported by a feedback mechanism so that alterations can be made as required. Essentially it is important that the process of adaptation is itself adaptive. Therefore flexible solutions should be prioritised over those that are fixed, to ensure these can be adapted at a later point.


It can be helpful to identify trigger points so that if these are approached, adaptive action is taken. At a large scale, for example, this could mean identifying locations and scenarios which could require the introduction of large scale flood defences or actually moving communities to ensure they are not affected by coastal flooding. On a smaller scale heatwave information for a residential home may be updated if temperatures reach a particular level or property level protection measures could be upgraded if surface water flooding risk increases over time.


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  1. Brisley, R., Welstead, J., Hindle, R. and Paavola, J. (2012) Socially Just Adaptation to Climate Change Report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  2. Brisley, R., Welstead, J., Hindle, R. and Paavola, J. (2012) Socially Just Adaptation to Climate Change Report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.