The UK government has now set in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, aiming to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.
Realising this ambition requires targeted innovation across the multidisciplinary sectorial spectrum. There is a growing recognition of the role of design-led solutions and the role of design researchers as facilitators of the necessary multi and interdisciplinary innovation.
In 2021 and 2022, AHRC explored this potential through the timely establishment of the Design Exchange Partnerships pilot. It included the first cohort comprising 15 distinct but complementary design-led projects addressing specific net zero+ challenges in the real world. The challenges presented in reaching net zero+ goals impact the day-to-day lives of people and communities across the UK.
Coastal and island communities are especially vulnerable to climate change because of rising sea levels, wave heights and accelerated coastal erosion.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has found that by 2050, more than a billion people worldwide will be put at direct and significant risk from coastal-specific climate hazards with more than $14 trillion of infrastructure assets severely exposed by 2100.
Severely accelerated sea level rises resulting from rapid continental ice mass-loss could bring these impacts forward by decades. Adaptation will need to occur much faster and at a much greater scale than ever done in the past. A mix of infrastructural, nature-based, institutional and socio-cultural interventions are needed to reduce the multifaceted risk facing these communities.
These vulnerabilities are exacerbated by the many other socio-economic challenges these communities face, such as:
- high proportions of older residents and transient populations
- low employment levels
- seasonality of work
- physical isolation and lack of infrastructure.
The above information is taken from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘Impacts of climate change on disadvantaged UK coastal communities’ report.
Coastal and island communities also form a key demographic when addressing wider structural inequalities. A 2019 report by the Social Market Foundation consistently showed disproportionately high numbers of coastal and island communities amongst those local authorities with the worst outcomes on average pay, unemployment, health and per capita economic output.
Meanwhile, Office for National Statistics data shows that the gaps between these communities and the rest of the country have grown over the last decade.