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Contains: Fuel Poverty, Energy at Home

Related to: Built Environment, Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, Air Quality, Waste and Recycling, Natural Environment, Flooding, Heat WavesHouse Prices and Tenure, House Conditions, Children and Young People, Older People, Ill Health and Disability, Active Travel

Key Facts:

  • The climate is going to change significantly over the space of a few years, with summers up to 25% drier and winters up to 16% wetter with the level of extreme weather events also likely to increase.
  • In 2013 895,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was produced in Bath and North East Somerset within the scope of influence of the Council, but only 2% (19,700 t/CO² ) of which was produced directly by Council activities and services.
  • Carbon emissions locally have been falling consistently from 2005 to 2009 but showed a small increase from 2009 to 2010.
  • In B&NES the Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) Walcot, is thought to have an extremely high level of river flood disadvantage and Kingsmead, Keynsham East and Keynsham North relatively high levels.
  • Keynsham North and East, Midsomer Norton and Redfield, Bathavon North and South, Kingsmead, and Wellsway MSOAs are thought to have relatively high levels of heat sensitivity.
  • IB&NES there are 20 Lower Super Output Areas with high levels (22-32% of the population) of fuel poverty (a household that spends more than 10% of its income on fuel to heat its home).
  • Fuel prices have risen significantly over time and a significant proportion of houses in Bath and North East Somerset could be better insulated, over 29,000 households could have more effective wall insulation.

What does the data say?

Greenhouse gas emissions

Figure 1: 2013 Carbon dioxide emissions produced in Bath and North East Somerset within the scope of influence of the Council and carbon dioxide emissions produced directly by Council activities and services 1 2

The Council aims to play its part in limiting the risk of severe climate change by reducing the area’s greenhouse gas emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels. Globally, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and are now 58% above 1990 levels 3. In our district, CO2 emissions in 2010 (the most recent figures) showed a slight increase from 2009, from 5.3 to 5.4 tonnes per capita. Prior to this, emissions had been steadily falling from the 2005 level of 6.3 tonnes per capita 4. Whilst this trend of falling CO2 emissions had put us broadly on track to meet the district’s target of a 45% cut from 1990 levels by 2026 5, much of the trend was attributable to the recession.

Vulnerability to climate change impacts

The Council also aims to reduce the area’s vulnerability to climate change impacts. Our “Climate and Peak Oil Impact Assessment” study found that by 2020, summers in our area could be up to 2.8°C warmer and 25% dryer and winters could be up to 16% wetter. Extreme weather events could also increase6, such as the flooding in November and December 2013. This flooding had severe localised impacts and caused the inundation of many homes a fatality in the Chew Valley. There are gaps in our local data about the impacts of severe weather, such as the cost for public services. Other local authorities, such as Kent, have implemented severe weather monitoring systems to address this need 7.

Fossil fuel dependency and climate change have disproportionate effects on lower income residents. Firstly, fuel poverty and the health problems associated with cold homes are increasing as gas and heating oil prices rise 8 (see the Housing theme). Whilst the long-term climate change trend is for warmer winters, climate instability and other factors are likely still to cause winter cold snaps. Many of our district’s homes are not properly insulated; approximately 5000 lofts have insufficient insulation, 20,000 wall cavities remain unfilled and 21,000 of our homes would benefit from solid wall insulation 9  

Secondly, food prices are affected by climate change. In recent years, global food prices have been spiking and this trend is predicted to continue. Causative factors are climate change, the increase in biofuel production and price speculation 10 . High food prices could increase the incidence of “food poverty”, defined as “the inability to obtain healthy affordable food”11 which disproportionately affects lower income residents.

To conclude, a changing climate will directly affect health and wellbeing in the UK 12. However, the wide-ranging economic impacts of climate change on the global economy 13 are also likely to affect us. To address this, we aim to engage all residents, businesses and organisations within the district to reduce their contribution and vulnerability to these threats.  

Assessing vulnerability to climate change impacts 14

Climate change has the potential to increase inequalities as some people will be more affected than others, depending not just on their exposure to impacts, but also their social vulnerabilityThe Climate Just Web Tool has been developed to provide evidence to support local action.

 

 

Figure 1: Climate Just Web Tool

The Climate Just Web Tool highlights which people and places are likely to be most vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather, including flooding and extreme heat and the areas which might be most affected. It also examines fuel poverty and inequities in energy policy and how these can be tackled locally.

Social vulnerability 15

 

Social vulnerability comes about through the interaction of a number of personal, environmental and social factors that affect the way in which climate hazards impact on the well-being of individuals or groups:

Personal features such as age and health. Evidence suggests that young children and babies and older people face disproportionate health effects from climate-related impacts due to their physical vulnerability. People with existing physical or mental health problems have a lower ability to take action due to physical constraints, a lower awareness of their circumstances or due to behavioural changes.

Environmental characteristics such as the availability of green space, quality and elevation of buildings. Tenants are most likely to live in some of the poorest adapted homes in the country and they have less ability to adapt their homes. People living in houses which have basements are more likely to be affected by flooding and temperatures in high-rise buildings can be particularly high during heatwave events. Neighbourhoods with less green space, often have poorer drainage and less shade, thus may experience more extreme impacts from flooding and heat.

Social and institutional characteristics such as levels of inequality and income, strength of social networks, cohesion of neighbourhoods and practices of institutions. People who are socially isolated may not receive the help they need in the event of a flood or heatwave as they lack the necessary support networks. People on low incomes are less able to prepare for, respond to and recover from flooding, e.g. the lack of affordable insurance and a lower tendency to seek out information and assistance. The day-to-day practices of institutions, such as care regimes in nursing homes, which affect people’s ability to adapt.

Climate disadvantage 16

How exposure and vulnerability coincide determines the extent of climate disadvantage in an area and where the impacts may be most severe. To effectively tackle climate disadvantage, consideration social vulnerability needs to be reduced as well as reducing exposure of a population.

Bath and North East Somerset’s vulnerability to climate change impacts 17

River flooding

River flood disadvantage refers to the potential for exposure to river flooding coupled with the social vulnerability of a community, and thus the potential severity of its impacts on health and wellbeing. The majority of areas in England and B&NES are thought to have an average or relatively low  level of river flood disadvantage. However, in B&NES the Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) Walcot, is thought to have an extremely high level of river flood disadvantage and Kingsmead, Keynsham East and Keynsham North relatively high levels.

Surface water flooding

 The majority of areas in England and B&NES are thought to have an average or relatively low  level of surface water flood disadvantage. However, in B&NES Walcot MSOA is thought to have an acute level of surface water flood disadvantage, Kingsmead and Westmoreland very high levels, and Midsomer Norton North and Lambridge relatively high levels.

Heat waves

Heat sensitivity links to age and health characteristics which affect the likelihood that heat exposure will have negative health and welfare impacts, e.g. old age and long-term physical or mental health conditions.  The majority of areas in England and B&NES are thought to have average or relatively low  levels of heat sensitivity. However, Keynsham North and East, Midsomer Norton and Redfield, Bathavon North and South, Kingsmead, and Wellsway MSOAs are thought to have relatively high levels.

Fuel poverty

In B&NES there are 20 Lower Super Output Areas with high levels (22-32% of the population) of fuel poverty (a household that spends more than 10% of its income on fuel to heat its home).

What does the community say?

Bath and North East Somerset has around 25 community groups working on sustainability issues and many more indirectly work on these issues. The Voicebox 15 (2009) survey investigated residents’ environmental behaviours and found that 83% had already acted to reduce their energy use, and there was a willingness to act further 18. A survey conducted at the Bath Green Homes event in 2012 found that the potential value to the local economy of the energy efficiency measures that respondents wished to install within the next year was more than £600,00019. Voicebox 20 (2011) queried residents’ willingness to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency and analysed the results by home tenure and MOSAIC group 20. Focus groups on fuel poverty and construction businesses were conducted as part of the Green Deal Scoping Study and this data is informing our approach to the Green Deal 21.  In September 2010, a survey of 14 community groups working on climate change was conducted and followed up with a community event in 2012. These groups requested technical and funding advice, equipment lending and a networking website, which have since been provided by the Council.  

Are we currently meeting the needs?

Many council services have been working to meet these needs indirectly. The Sustainability Team’s community engagement programme has been working directly in response to the findings above and since March 2010 has:

  • Created two new community groups,
  • Worked in depth with 13 groups and helped many more, eight of which joined the Local Energy Champions competition and two of which focus on vulnerable people living in cold, poorly insulated homes.
  • Trained over 40 people.
  • Lent energy monitors to 270 people through the libraries.
  • Facilitated Bath Green Homes, a series of community events about making homes warmer, greener and cheaper to run, involving a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Enabled networking and coordination between community groups, through our online Environmental Sustainability Network which has around 400 members, and our 2012 networking event which was attended by 25 community groups.

Formal cooperation agreements with community groups have also been initiated, firstly with Bath & West Community Energy which aims to deliver a quarter of our Core Strategy renewable energy target as community projects and has installed solar panels on six of our schools, and secondly the Bath Green Homes project (see above) which is being run in partnership with Bath Preservation Trust and Transition Bath. The Community Resilience work of the Business Continuity and Emergency Management team will train volunteer Community Resilience Advisors to respond to emergencies.  Housing Services are supporting community programmes as part of their work to tackle fuel poverty (see House Conditions)

In addition to community demand for work on energy issues, there are many groups which focus on the provision of local, sustainable food. These groups and organisations have expressed a need for the Council to take a more comprehensive approach to food to mitigate the impacts of climate change and resource shortages on global food supplies. To respond to this, Public Health and Sustainability will soon commence a project to develop a strategic approach to sustainable food in our district.

What can we practically do/change?

There is strong political leadership on these issues.  The Sustainable Community Strategy commits us to facilitating a 45% cut in district-wide CO2 by 2026 and there are robust policies on climate change in the draft Core Strategy. The Council-led B&NES Environmental Sustainability Partnership (ESP) is tasked with accomplishing these aims.  In 2012, the ESP’s Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy was adopted22. This sets the priority of reducing the district’s greenhouse gases emissions and the three-part strategy for achieving this: partnership working; community enablement and leading by example. 

Environmental issues have traditionally been considered “market failures” which the market alone cannot address. Fortunately, this is changing. Tighter regulations and Government incentives have been stimulating the market and bringing down costs. However, if we are to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents in the face of the risks outlined above, we will need profound changes which the market alone will not deliver.  These changes will need to be driven by the council and its partners and by enabling community groups, residents and businesses to act.

Preparation, response and recovery 23

Some key actions outlined by the Climate Just Web Tool for climate change preparation, response and recovery:

  • The development of a clear and in-depth understanding of potential climate change impacts and the areas and people that are most vulnerable to them and the reasons for this. 
  • Exploration of how existing social policies and practices can provide a foundation to address the impacts in the areas with the highest levels of exposure risk and social vulnerability. 
  • The adoption of cross-organisational cooperation on climate change impacts and vulnerabilities. 
  • Building resilience in vulnerable communities through raising awareness, engaging and empowering  people, such as through the development of flood plans and groups.
  • Building community resilience through fostering community ties and partnership working. 
  • Development of plans with short, medium and longer term goals with organisations with a role in delivering responses.
  • Management of the needs of sensitive people, e.g. older people and those with long-term physical and mental health conditions.
  • Building community resilience by tackling the reasons for low adaptive capacity, e.g. low incomes and rented accommodation.
  • Improvement of vulnerable neighbourhoods e.g. those that lack green infrastructure and good quality housing.