The challenge

The county of Cornwall in the UK is known as a beautiful holiday destination, but local people are facing huge health inequalities that will be exacerbated by climate change. There are many older people and more disabled people here than anywhere else in the UK, and an overstretched health system that has to support communities in very rural areas. Public services such as NHS Trusts, police, fire and charities are committed to adapting their services to continue providing critical health support, despite an increase in storms and flooding, but a year long analysis revealed little had been done to adapt to climate change. This was because organisations were struggling to make decisions based on what climate challenges Cornwall could face in the future, the health needs of the local population, and appropriate and evidence-based climate adaptation solutions.

The innovative project

An online platform was developed – the Local Climate Adaptation Tool (LCAT) – to support local decision-makers to adapt to climate change. LCAT allows them to view different climate forecasts up to 2090, explore the impact it will have on health inequalities, and suggest relevant adaptation measures, based on scientific evidence.

The partnership

Cornwall County Council brought deep insights into how decision making takes place, and a better understanding of the knowledge and capacity gaps in developing policies that can account for adaptation as well as mitigation.

The University of Exeter brought academic knowledge and insight, and the ability to initiate conversations across disciplines and organisations to identify systemic interventions for complex challenges, in this instance the potential impact of climate adaptation on health.

They then formed a stakeholder group to better understand barriers to climate adaptation, which included:

  • NHS Trusts – Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust & Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership – representing the business community
  • Voluntary Sector Forum- representing the voluntary and community sectors
  • Volunteer Cornwall
  • Public Health England
  • South Gloucestershire Council
  • Cornwall Rural Community Charity
  • Devon County Council
  • Devon and Cornwall Police
  • Cornwall Fire and Rescue
  • Climate Kernow, a network of environmental community groups in Cornwall

They also commissioned a local non-profit organisation, Then Try, to develop the software to demonstrate how the tool could work. To date they have run two interactive feedback sessions, with the core project team and the wider stakeholder group and brought their own experience of user-centred design into the project. Further stakeholder engagement is planned.

The impact

LCAT is being piloted in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and could be used by other local councils in the UK, and potentially worldwide, to plan climate adaptation measures that take local health needs and provision into account. LCAT is being demonstrated at COP26.


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