Surrey's climate change adaptation and resilience strategy


1. Foreward

This new Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Strategy, known as "Surrey Adapt", arrives at a time when we are seeing the impact of changing weather patterns on our county. In Surrey, we faced our hottest summer on record in 2022, coupled with our most fierce wildfire season. In 2023 we have now faced the hottest June ever on record, followed by the wettest July.

It is important that everyone in Surrey is aware that we will face many climate-related impacts in the coming years even if our Net Zero ambitions, as set out in our highly ambitious Greener Futures programmes, are met. We must prepare for, and adapt to, increasing climate hazards, risks and impacts and Surrey Adapt provides a positive framework for Surrey to adapt to those impacts.

Surrey Adapt will guide us in moving away from focusing on climate extremes as one-off "events" that we must manage in reactive ways towards them being our "new normal" environment in which we must develop our infrastructure, services, ecosystems, communities and economies to co-exist. If we deliver this strategy well, in addition to meeting our Net Zero targets, we can create a future that is far more positive than ever anticipated, with nature recovery and systems that work for us all to maintain a stable climate.

By changing how we design infrastructure and homes, we can ensure that our hard-earned resources are not washed away in floods or degraded in heatwaves, but rather they are resilient and our residents safe from harm's way. By changing how our schools and amenities are designed, we can reduce the risk to disrupted learning and missed school days, and create safe spaces for children to learn in a changed environment. When our care homes and hospitals and other buildings are designed for both cold and heat extremes, our elderly and vulnerable residents do not need to be evacuated or overwhelm hospitals with related ailments in extreme events. It is by managing landscapes and ecosystems to provide services of flood attenuation, drought resilience, cooling, and biodiversity for pollinators and food security that we will create multiple co-benefits for residents. This strategy makes financial sense as well as environmental, health and wellbeing sense. Ultimately it will play its role in ensuring that "no-one is left behind."

We have a roadmap with this strategy to create a collaborative future for the residents of Surrey that is safer, well adapted and ready to seize upon the opportunities that emerge. The details of how we get there will be further developed in the coming period as we analyse our risks and unpack our various ways of responding. A wide range of different responses are required across Surrey organisations, working on individual actions and in partnership and we must all work together to create a resilient and prepared Surrey.

Marisa Heath
Cabinet Member for Environment

2. Introduction

On 9 July 2019, Surrey County Council, declared a 'climate emergency' and committed to work with partners to agree Surrey's collective response. Surrey's Climate Change Strategy and Climate Change Delivery Plan detail the actions required to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy "Surrey Adapt" sets out Surrey's response to the hazards, risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities posed by the impacts of climate change.

The past few decades have brought increasing climate risks and extreme weather events to Surrey. Surrey has recently faced its most severe heatwaves (reaching 40ºC+ for the first time ever), along with record-breaking fire seasons, as well as contending with regular flood events. As the global climate warms, our weather extremes become more severe, and the underlying temperature changes, which can seem imperceptible to us as humans, are creating shifts in how well infrastructure, agriculture and our ecosystems can cope. Even our disease burden and health risks are shifting. The World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report of 2023, highlights two of the highest risks over the next 10 years as failure to mitigate climate change; and failure of climate change adaptation (See Annex 1 for more detail).

Climate Change Adaptation is about responding to the climate impacts and risks that we are already facing and will amplify in coming years. These include flooding, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and their knock-on impacts into all parts of society, and across our landscapes, ecosystems, and the built environment. These impacts go well beyond the capacity of reactive emergency management alone, and require that we adapt our behaviours and build long term resilience in all that we do. Our adaptation responses can also have multiple co-benefits for our natural and historic environment, amenity and beauty of Surrey, our health and wellbeing.

How does this relate to the Greener Futures Climate Change Strategy? This strategy builds on the details about our adaptation response, which was included in the original Climate Change Strategy. It has been developed further here and strategic direction included as Surrey County Council and our partners enhance our understanding of the current impacts, and as future climate risks become more imminent.

Over time the two parts of our response to climate change – Mitigation (Net Zero) and Adaptation – will need to be equally addressed in every single decision we make as a County Council, and will need to be addressed by our partners and our key economic sectors as well. Although, this is already being done wherever we have the supporting analysis and policy guidance on how to respond, bearing in mind that some of our responses are yet to be determined as the risk assessments still need to be undertaken at a granular level for different services and infrastructure.

"Climate change mitigation means avoiding and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to prevent the planet from warming to more extreme temperatures. Climate change adaptation means altering our behaviour, systems, and—in some cases—ways of life to protect our families, our economies, and the environment in which we live from the impacts of climate change. The more we reduce emissions right now, the easier it will be to adapt to the changes we can no longer avoid" – The World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

We are already seeing the impacts of climate change on severe weather patterns affecting the county and so the work to adapt and improve our resilience must begin immediately.

3. The Strategy

This Strategy proposes a goal of adapting to a world 2°C warmer and preparing for scenarios up to +4°C, for long lived infrastructure and long-term decision making. This goal is clearly backed by climate science and reflects central government advice. This goal still means we will continue to pursue our Net Zero commitments, ambitions, goals and deadlines as stated in the broader Surrey Climate Change Strategy and Implementation Plans.

This goal still means we will continue to pursue our Net Zero commitments, ambitions, goals and deadlines as stated in the broader Surrey Climate Change Strategy and Implementation Plans.

The vision and high-level goal of the strategy is supported by 3 Objectives, and 9 Priority Programmes. The 9 Priority Programmes detail the work Surrey County and our partners need to invest in and the programmes will be further developed into action plans. The strategy also includes a set of underlying principles guiding how Surrey will approach adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

This strategy is based on national and international best practice, a growing evidence base, and the key impacts already being experienced in Surrey. It has been produced in collaboration with key partner organisations – a partnership approach we hope will define our action plans into the future.

The strategy presents a 'direction' for the County, and action plans for implementation will evolve over time as our understanding and analysis of the risk and appropriate responses develops through the first implementation period of the strategy (2023-2028).

This new Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Strategy – known as "Surrey Adapt" helps us to understand where we are in our response and what is still required in order to achieve a more climate resilient and positive future in the face of a changing climate.


Surrey Adapted to a Changed Climate. Resilient and Prepared Across Communities, Ecosystems Infrastructure and the Economy.
By 2050 Surrey is known as a resilient county, one that invested up front, took strong leadership decisions, and turned the risks to our communities and the economy into a positive plan for a better future.

We are well prepared for climate related disasters, and we have invested in our infrastructure, ecosystems, and communities to ensure the highest level of resilience is built into our systems. We are resilient to incremental changes such as rising temperatures, and an ongoing drying of summer seasons.

We innovated and embraced new technology. We enabled everyone to act, and supported the most vulnerable to become more resilient. We built robust partnerships; working together with organisations and communities.
We rose to the challenge and seized the opportunities to create a better, greener and more resilient county for everyone.


By 2050 we will have resilient people, places and partnerships adapted to 2⁰C of change and preparing for 4⁰C of change.
The Vision and Goal are underpinned by 3 objectives: resilient people, resilient places, and resilient partnerships. These 3 objectives link to the 9 Priority Programmes for delivery.

[3 Tiles]

4. Principles

The way in which Surrey will achieve the vision and goal is underpinned by a set of proposed principles for implementation. As the strategy is one which will be further developed over time and will be managed adaptively as we learn, implement, and monitor progress, these principles will help to guide our programme:

  • Leave no-one behind: Focusing climate resilience resources on the most vulnerable communities and people, so that climate impacts are not further entrenching inequalities, and undermining development gains.
  • Enabling, Empowering and Working Together: Enabling communities, businesses, and government partners to understand climate change hazards, impacts and risks. To work collaboratively to reduce those risks and manage the immense change that lies ahead of us in our collective future.
  • Complex Systems Thinking: Managing complex systems and risks that impact across systems requires both a central coordinating strategy as well as integration into other strategies.
  • Adaptive Planning: Planning for both short- and long- term changes related to climate change, will require Adaptation Pathways which allow us to sensitivity check how the climate is changing and if we need to change our response pathways over time.
    Science-Based. Ensuring we are utilising the latest climate science in risk registers. Supporting this with modelling and scenario planning as required.
  • Embrace Innovation: Enabling innovation so that new adaptation actions can be tried and tested.

Despite the discouraging evidence-base and the scale of the tasks to deliver the strategy, we will adopt a positive approach to addressing climate impacts.

We will do this by seizing the opportunities climate change presents us. To reimagine our landscape, communities and infrastructure in ways that create a liveable and resilient region in-spite-of rapidly destabilising climate conditions. And we do this in synergy with our Net Zero ambitions.

5. The Delivery Programme

The Vision, Goal, and 3 Objectives of this strategy, Surrey Adapt, will be met through a delivery programme underpinned by 9 Priority Programmes plus a cross-cutting programme focussed on governance, communication and finance. The Priority Programmes have been brought together from those that appear in the Surrey Climate Change Strategy as well as those that have been prioritised by Central Government in the development of the new National Adaptation Plan. The Second National Adaptation Plan can be found on GOV.UK: Climate change: second national adaptation programme (2018 to 2023) (GOV.UK) and the new Third NAP is under development and due for completion in 2023.

The 9 Priority Programmes are in some instances specific sectors, and in others broader approaches:


It should also be noted that whilst there is a strong connection to our emergency management and response services, adaptation goes far beyond our ability to manage these risks with disaster response alone, it requires significant reengineering, changes in design and planning, and a move towards resilience building that can only be done over a long period of time.

Without an adaptation and resilience strategy in place, our disaster management and response services are not likely to cope with the future risks. It is pivotal that our strategy has a strong learning approach and interconnection with our disaster management responses, including various partnerships, particularly the Surrey Local Resilience Forum.

The following tables outline our initial ambition, targets, and strategic priorities related to each of the nine priority programmes. They are purposefully not time-bound in all instances and may not be specific due to the fact Surrey County Council and many of our partners are still refining risk profiles and analysing how to adequately and effectively respond to many of the climate impacts. The strategy in later iterations will become more refined, and the details will be elaborated on in further action plans.
In all of the tables, where a specific a climate hazard is not identified, it should be assumed the Strategy is covering the full suite of hazards and risks as applicable, therefore flooding, drought, fire risk, heatwaves and extreme temperatures.

Strategic Priorities

In the following sections, we have tried to identify who the Strategic Priority owner is (in bold and square brackets), whether this is because it is action specific to reducing their impacts, or because they are the organisation, community or individual best placed to lead on a collective response. For some strategic priorities, multiple owners are identified where each may carry action to deliver collective outcomes. The owners are shown in bold in square brackets. All bodies refers to:

  • Surrey County Council
  • District and borough councils across Surrey
  • All local councils
  • Surrey Local Resilience Forum.

5.1 Climate resilient organisations

Climate change risks will impact our communities, our landscape and ecosystems, and our infrastructure and services. Although many of the risks are cross cutting, the level of impact will depend on each particular organisation or department and their exposure to those risks over time. Actions to address the impacts should be determined by the organisation experiencing them as they will best understand the appropriate response at any given timescale.

Surrey County Council and all the District and Borough Councils in Surrey need to work collaboratively on this challenge. This will be done by integrating an understanding of climate change risks throughout our organisations, defining clear plans to respond, and developing our business cases, economic understanding and innovative ways of responding, changing and financing the work that is required.

Ambition statement

  • Integrating climate resilience considerations into all of Surrey County Council's decisions and services.
  • Enabling all local authorities to embed climate adaptation and resilience planning and implementation across their decisions and services.


Adaptation and Resilience plans in place for all SCC Directorates by 2027. Adaptation and Resilience plans in place for all local authorities by 2027. Key partnership and learning platform developed to increase coordination (This will see the initiation of the Surrey Adapt Forum).

Strategic priorities, internal (SCC)

  • Undertake Risk and Vulnerability assessments for all SCC directorates. [Surrey County Council]
  • Ensure policy and planning alignment across relevant areas of SCC, and support coordination and alignment with Districts and Boroughs. [Surrey County Council]
  • Produce sectoral, directorate level adaptation plans in response to R and V assessments, that include Adaptation Pathways for adaptive management. [Surrey County Council]
  • Encourage adaptation and resilience through procurement, and other levers for influence. [Surrey County Council]

Strategic priorities, external (partners)

  • Undertake Risk and Vulnerability assessments for all local authorities. [District and borough councils across Surrey]
  • Enable coordinated Policy alignment and support coordination with Districts and Borough Councils. [District and borough councils across Surrey]

5.2 Partnerships for resilience

Ambition statement

Engaging in strategic partnership development to ensure climate resilience is tackled together as a collective (particularly Local Authorities, Business, key land managers).


The Surrey Adapt forum is a vibrant and engaged community creating and enhancing critical partnerships to deliver the strategy. The Surrey Adapt agenda is embedded into existing governance frameworks (such as Greener Futures, the Surrey Local Resilience Forum).

Strategic priorities

  • Assess current partnerships and the current adaptation and resilience approaches. [All bodies]
  • Develop the Surrey Adapt Forum as a vibrant community for knowledge exchange. [All bodies]
  • Engage in other governance mechanisms under development (such as Greener Futures, Flood Risk and Resilience Partnership, SLRF) as needed for integration of climate resilience across sectors. [Surrey County Council]
  • SCC co-creates and provides strategic support to various partnerships, NGOs and arms-lengths bodies working on a landscape and ecosystems scale with landowners on ecosystems supporting resilience. [Surrey County Council]
  • Partnerships with neighbouring authorities, such as through ADEPT, the South East networks and others consider Adaptation in regular meetings. [All bodies].

5.3 Climate resilient biodiversity and natural resources

Climate Change is increasing the risk profile of biodiversity and ecosystems across Surrey, which are already under significant threat from multiple sources. Included in these threats is that from invasive species, some of which are becoming more challenging as a changing climate benefits them.

Healthy ecosystems can reduce flood risks, protect our soils from degradation, provide pollinators for our crops and food, reduce heat impacts and more. Increasingly, nature prescriptions and the value of nature in human wellbeing and mental health is being realised, and significant co-benefits for health can be derived through successful nature recovery in Surrey. Investment in enhancing, restoring, and rewilding (where feasible) should be the main cornerstone of the Surrey Adapt strategy and will link in strongly with the development of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Biodiversity Net Gain, and Land-Use Management Framework. Districts and boroughs have significant policy and planning functions which impact on the outcomes of this priority programme, and their ability to support these outcomes will be key in success.

Surrey also has significant partnerships (such as Surrey Nature Partnership, Surrey Countryside Partnership, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Surrey Hills AONB, Forestry Commissions, Natural England) and policies to build upon and leverage a strong response in this sector, which will underpin and support positive responses across many of the other themes.

Ambition statement

Protecting and enhancing our biodiversity, natural resources and open spaces for climate resilience.


  • Support climate resilient implementation of new policies such as the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Biodiversity Net Gain, and Land-Use Management Framework with evidence and guidance on achieving these whilst also enhancing climate resilience.
  • Support research and analysis to enhance the climate resilience of our natural environment and agricultural landscapes.
  • Protect and enhance natural environments and support nature recovery both for necessity for biodiversity and ecosystems services that buffer against climate impacts.

Strategic priorities

  • Integration of climate resilience principles and guidance in existing and new council policies (this may include internal guidance for SCC own policies, in addition to support and guidance as needed for district and borough councils). [All local councils]
  • Guidance, and business cases on the use of Green-Blue infrastructure to enhance all types of built infrastructure (this may include councils' own infrastructure, and broader planning and policy support). [All local councils]
  • Enhanced understanding and management of invasive species under changing climate conditions. [All local councils]

5.4 Climate resilient land use, agriculture and food system

Ensuring our collective resilience in Surrey is strongly connected to the landscape, not only in how ecosystems are managed, but how the rest of the land particularly for agricultural use is managed. It's critical that thriving agriculture and food supply is enabled in our County, as the more local and diverse our food can be, the shorter the supply chain, and the less risk exposure through international climate change impacts. This can additionally result in better protection from weather-related shocks, and also reduces the carbon footprint of our food.

Linked to Agriculture and Food Supply, Surrey would seek to promote climate-smart agriculture. Climate Smart Agriculture results in enhancing resilience through better soil management (which also keeps carbon in the soil). This enhances infiltration of water into our aquifers, as well as maintaining soil moisture for the crops themselves.

Additional policies such as the SCC New Tree Strategy recognises the importance of different land use approaches, championing the 'right tree in the right place' approach, noting the need to identify the most appropriate habitat and landscape changes for Surrey. The Land Management Framework will play a key role in determining success in managing our landscape and land uses for climate resilience. Policy and planning and development management linkages will be key in this sector, linking into the priority programme on policy and planning.

Ambition statement

Climate resilient landscapes that function well and reduce our collective exposure in a changing climate whilst still contributing towards food security.


  • Landscape scale climate resilience programmes (could include stewardship agreements and similar mechanisms) in place by 2028 that work with landowners to enhance resilience to flooding, drought. These would include partnerships in the sector with organisations such as NFU.
  • Support implementation of new policies such as the Surrey Food Partnership, Land Management Framework, New Tree Strategy and others, with evidence and guidance on achieving these whilst also enhancing climate resilience.

Strategic priorities

  • Continued support of research and assessments for creating climate resilient landscapes, that support resilient ecosystems, blue-green infrastructure, as well as sustainable agricultural practices. This would include an initial assessment of climate risks across Surrey agriculture and land-use types.[Surrey County Council]
  • Enhanced partnerships of landscape managers and users that enable broader vision and collaboration on resilience and risk reduction (across all the climate risks particularly flooding, drought, heat, and fire risk). [Surrey County Council] [All bodies]
  • Undertaking a spatial Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, to identify spaces and areas (ecosystems, communities) at risk, and those that are most vulnerable. (Would include user friendly products for planners, and other decision-makers; this will inform at-risk communities, infrastructure (including blue-green infrastructure) and priority programmes for implementation. This will feed into the Land Management Framework and decision making and prioritisation around adaptation and resilience investments.) [Surrey County Council]

5.5 Climate resilient and healthy communities

Healthy communities are the ultimate test of our ability to adapt to climate change. Our communities, the places they live in, and the individuals within them must be able to manage the impacts of climate change affecting them.

Importantly, climate change will impact the most vulnerable in our communities – children, the elderly, economically deprived, and those with underlying health conditions – thus, our health and care home facilities, and schools will need to have special attention related to this. We will need to enhance our understanding across health impacts (including mental health), impacts on facilities, and on how communities infrastructure and services will be impacted. Communities themselves will need to be empowered to take practical local action in collaboration with councils.

SCC are already working to enhance our placemaking policies and urban design to become more resilient, but there is much ahead of us to practically implement in a different way on the ground so that we are adapting to the range of climate impacts.

Ambition statement

To create climate resilient communities and community services (schooling, health care) that reduce our overall climate risk and improve the wellbeing of our community.


  • Empowered communities who are able to undertake practical steps to enhance their own climate resilience at the household and community scale.
  • 90% of schools are part of the Surrey Climate Resilient Schools roll out by 2035. (The percentages here would ideally reach to 100% however there may be unforeseen challenges and reasons that not all facilities can be reached. Over time it is possible our analysis and understanding of risks may even indicate that we need to retreat or re-locate certain buildings and facilities.)
  • 90% of Surrey healthcare facilities are part of the Surrey Climate Resilient Health Care roll out by 2035.

Strategic priorities

  • Prioritise investment in place-based development that creates well-connected, resilient and healthy communities in spite of climate risks. [All local councils]
  • Enhanced community engagement on climate change risks and impacts, and steps to increase climate resilience (linked to cross cutting priority programmes). [All local councils]
  • Develop Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience guidance, with business cases, for making schools resilient to climate impacts: heatwaves, flooding, droughts, possibly titled "Surrey Climate Resilient Schools programme" [All local councils]
  • Develop Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience guidance, with business cases, for making health care facilities resilient to climate impact - Possibly titled "Surrey Climate Resilient Health Care Programme". [All local councils]
  • Develop guidance and best practice for other key council and community facilities such as leisure and community centres. [All local councils]

5.6 Climate resilient buildings and planning

  • Across the UK, our society and infrastructure, buildings and homes have been largely designed for different climatic conditions. As a result, significant changes are likely to be required across large parts of the built environment, even including the historic environment. This means that everyone has a role to play – government, utilities, businesses, communities and individuals in homes whether rented or owned.
  • Housing stock faces increased risk from flooding and overheating. Therefore, further action must be taken to encourage property flood resilience, and the introduction of passive cooling measures or green infrastructure to mitigate the most extreme impacts of climate change.
  • There are multiple retrofit and minor adjustment options that councils, partners and property owners could be implementing across Surrey to contribute towards both more resilient buildings, and homes. These resilient measures are likely to have multiple co-benefits for health, and wellbeing as well.
  • We need to enhance support to communities by providing guidance, identifying where finances and support can be found, and doing our part as the councils to ensure our buildings and infrastructure are adopting resilience measures. This work extends into our planning work across the County and will build on and link up with work being done under the broader Greener Futures programmes such as the Greener Futures New Build Policy.

Ambition statement

To drive an ambitious transition of retrofits of current buildings, homes, retrofits and new builds towards climate resilience. To ensure planning approaches are following the best practice on enhancing climate resilience across our communities.


60% of Surrey County Council's own building and infrastructure stock is climate resilient by 2035. (Would look at the full suite of climate risks, and include a much stronger programme around water efficiency in order to drive down water demand in the County.)

Guidance in place for climate resilient homes by 2025. Ongoing planning policy integration of climate change resilience approaches.

Strategic priorities

  • Develop climate change adaptation and resilience policy guidance for corporate estate, new capital builds, refurbishments, and large retrofit schemes. [Surrey County Council]
  • Include climate resilient measures for all sectors, particularly for flood risk reduction, passive cooling, green-blue approaches, and water use reduction. [All bodies]
  • Develop business cases, and implementation plans required for climate resilience retrofits. (This can link to the business cases around green-blue infrastructure and how this can support resilience measures around buildings.) [Surrey County Council]
  • Provide guidance and advice for climate resilient homes (includes guidance around a range of resilience challenges such as property flood resilience, heat impacts, resilient gardens, water secure homes; will address guidance and trade-off discussions around energy, energy efficiency and passive cooling which are in particular important as we face more severe heat waves), and for district and boroughs to encourage climate resilient homes; this would also build on campaigns and communications around disaster preparedness in the lead up to climatic events. (Promote cross-synergies with biodiversity and food-security related targets, where green-blue infrastructure and/or food gardens can be utilised to support climate resilience targets.) [All local councils]
  • Review and update local planning policy frameworks, as well as lobbying for a stronger National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), to facilitate the delivery of more climate resilient residential development that produces a minimum appropriate net-gain in biodiversity, requires sustainable drainage and other green-blue infrastructure improvements. [All local councils]
  • Review and update planning policy and strategic planning to produce infrastructure that is well integrated, enabling the delivery of wider ambitions around climate resilience, risk reduction and growth. [All local councils]

5.7 Climate resilient transport, energy and infrastructure

Transport networks, energy and other infrastructure are often the biggest impact areas for climate risks because of the potential to create disruption to society. (The Adaptation Subcommittee of the UK Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC) identified that existing and future transport networks are at risk of embankment failure, high winds and high temperatures.) They are also typically our most long lived, embedded and expensive infrastructure. The planning horizons for this infrastructure are also significant. Much of this infrastructure is already antiquated across the UK, and with the already large changes in climate that have played out over its lifetime – escalating challenges have been observed.

Significant investment in analysis needs to take place so that infrastructure owners can make well-timed decisions in this space. There is a need to work even more collaboratively across infrastructure services to ensure our collective resilience.

Councils already have invested in some of this infrastructure for their Net Zero aims, for example in reducing transport emissions, energy emissions reductions, and promoting active transport for health benefits, but these must ensure they are enabling people to use these even in extreme climatic conditions such as heatwaves - travel routes need shading, water stops. We will seek co-benefit approaches so that climate risks can be tackled simultaneously. A prime example would be at facilities such as schools and health facilities, where we need to plan for resilience and Net Zero simultaneously.

Currently the energy generation and transmission network is well adapted to the flooding impacts of climate change with 90% of UK substations expected to be resilient to a 1 in 1000 year floods. However, increasingly extreme heat and storm-related tree damage causing power interruptions are likely to pose a threat to the networks. (Source: UKCCC, 2019. Progress in preparing for climate change: Report to Parliament.) Surrey needs to determine how best infrastructure providers can be supported in reducing risks.

Ambition statement

Enable transport and other infrastructure managers and investors, to embed climate adaptation and resilience planning and implementation across their operations, estate and infrastructure.

To include climate resilience decision-making into investments around energy transitions, implementation and existing infrastructure.


  • Understand the risk profile to our transport and other infrastructure (such as water, and sewerage), and utilise this evidence in our implementation, design and maintenance plans.
  • Climate resilience guidance in place for infrastructure development programmes by 2027.

Strategic priorities

  • Ensure new infrastructure, such as roads, rail, EV charging stations, waste facilities, are designed to reduce climate risks, and are not placed in 'at risk' spaces. [All bodies]
  • Work in partnership with other infrastructure owners in Surrey to manage climate risks collectively and collaboratively (for example, rail, airports). [All bodies]
  • Support best practice and innovation in approaches to maintenance of infrastructure for climate resilience and adaptation to specific climate risks as appropriate therefore "Build Back Better / Resilient." [All bodies]
  • Guidance on complex trade-offs between adaptation options and energy options in retrofits (such as white roofs versus green roofs versus photovoltaics on roofs). [Surrey County Council]
  • Supporting our Net Zero, and broader Greener Futures outcomes across all council departments and sectors to ensure these outcomes are resilient to climate impacts as well as achieving their primary aims. [Surrey County Council]

5.8 Climate resilient water resources

Water resources have had periods of pressure in the past and the South-East is prone to dry spells and shifts in availability of water through these periods. However, as our climate warms and dries these periods may become more intense and with increased supply constraints. Local authorities can engage on the topic through supporting water demand management and new policy requirements for new-builds and by collaborating with water suppliers, and landscape scale approaches that can increase our water resilience. Where appropriate it will be advantageous to manage water holistically from the point of both water scarcity and flood risk simultaneously.

Ambition statement

To enable improved outcomes for water security for Surrey residents and businesses in the long term.


  • A water resilience partnerships platform to support new approaches in working across organisations for a water secure future.
  • Managing landscapes for both flooding and water insecurity.

Strategic priorities

  • Integrate enhanced climate change understanding and research into the Flood Risk Management Strategy and associated partnerships, linking this work to managing our landscape for drought as well. [Surrey County Council]
  • Developing effective partnerships with water suppliers around water security. [All local councils]
  • Developing appropriate water related policies to support water efficiency across Surrey. [All local councils]

5.9 Climate resilient economy (and businesses)

The economic cost of delaying climate change adaptation is far larger than taking early action, and this has been evidenced since the earliest assessments such as the Stern Review in 2006.

Rapid and upscaled investment into adaptation is needed, including in our local economy and within businesses across Surrey. Councils, partners and businesses need to understand where the risk lies, where there are opportunities, how to protect supply chains, build climate resilient business continuity and create partnerships that will enable us all to do this in advance of impacts causing significant economic disruption.

Ambition statement

Encourage innovation, and nurture partnerships that cultivate innovation across business, government, research and communities.


  • Understand the climate risks to our economy so that councils can encourage economic investment that is resilient to climate impacts.
  • Empowered business sector that understands climate risks and impacts and are taking action on responding and enhancing climate resilient business continuity planning.
  • Economic opportunities from the changing climate, net zero and resilience activities are well understood and prioritised.

Strategic priorities

  • Understanding the climate risks to our economic drivers so that Councils can encourage economic investment that is resilient to climate impacts. [Surrey County Council]
  • Engaging the business sector, chambers of commerce and other partners including insurance to create partnerships and working relationships around climate risks and challenges linked to these. This may emerge from the Surrey Adapt Forum, with a specific focus group on businesses and the private sector. [Surrey County Council]
  • Include climate change adaptation modules and information in existing courses for businesses on climate change and Net Zero. [Surrey County Council]

5.10 Enabling change

Cross-cutting and enabling - Governance, Finance and Communications

There is significant connection and cross-over with the Greener Futures Programme of work related to governance, finance and communications with which the adaptation work programmes and priorities will interlink. There will, however, be additional areas of work that differ and include other partners that would need to be brought into the adaptation related change. There are also likely to be novel and unique finance mechanisms related to risk reduction such as that related to the insurance industry as one example.

Ambition statement

Create an enabling environment to ensure our goals, and strategic priorities for Surrey Adapt Strategy are met, invested in and prioritised for implementation.


  • Develop a governance system that is appropriate for managing the complexity of climate change adaptation across all sectors, and directorates, and that enables partnership approaches.
  • Comprehensive and innovative communications and community outreach that provide empowerment and proactive approaches to climate change adaptation.
  • Development of a Financing Approach for Climate Change Adaptation in Surrey.
  • Invest in economic assessments that provide supporting evidence for climate change adaptation interventions and investment.

Strategic priorities

  • Working governance system for climate change adaptation developed, a range of integration points (such as. via the Surrey Local Resilience Forum, Greener Futures, Flood Risk Management and other entry points). [Surrey County Council]
  • Support mechanisms and reporting mechanisms enhanced for the climate risks that are registered on the Surrey Corporate Risk Register. [Surrey County Council]
  • Ensure there is integration of climate change adaptation approaches across tiers of government. (Therefore, engaging in the Local Adaptation Advisory Panel (LAAP), recognising recommendations of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), coordinating the Surrey Adapt Forum, and collaboration across the County Council, Districts and Boroughs through various existing technical and political forums (such as Flood Risk Board, Greener Futures Board, Climate Change Officers Group).) [All local councils]
  • Develop a Communications and outreach Strategy on Climate Change Risks, Impacts and Adaptation/Resilience that links in with other community outreach, and in partnership with other councils. [All local councils]
  • Undertake an Economic and Social Assessment of climate risks to Surrey. [Surrey County Council]
  • Develop a finance model for the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, with cost estimates and timelines for implementation. Undertake Cost-Benefit Analysis and Economic Assessments as needed. [Surrey County Council]
  • Investigate and assess a variety of innovative financing mechanisms to support implementation of climate resilience measures. (For example, payment for Ecosystem Services to support catchments into Greater London Authority region/or upstream to Surrey's water resources areas. Municipal risk pools and other innovative insurance mechanisms.) [Surrey County Council]

6. Roles, Responsibilities and Partnership

Climate Change will continue to impact on all organisations and tiers of government. Due to the nature of cross-cutting impacts, and our ability to respond to them across complex systems, it is necessary for all of us to work together on these challenges and develop adaptation strategies and action plans that we can achieve collectively. In much the same way organisations work together in responding to hazards like floods, fires, Councils and our partners need to collaborate on longer term adaptation and resilience planning as well.

Surrey County Council has a unique role to play as an enabler, partner, and support to coordinating local authorities in county borders, but to also collaborate with our neighbours and support vertical coordination between local authorities and national agencies such as through the Local Adaptation Advisory Panel (LAAP), ADEPT and other national forums. In addition, all councils can provide a positive framework of action and guidance to the private sector, businesses, residents and the NGO sector within the county to which these organisations can align.

Central Government is a key partner in our adaption ambitions in Surrey, and we will work together collaboratively wherever possible. Surrey County Council also suggest that much more needs to be done by Central Government to enable and support local authorities of all types, to accelerate a coordinated adaptation response. This will require both accelerated enabling guidance and policy frameworks, but critically local authorities need specialised funding frameworks to enable faster delivery of adaptation responses across all sectors.

7. Monitoring, Evaluation and Evidence

This strategy is cross-cutting and multifaceted, it also has a complex scientific basis, and potentially complex needs for measuring success in our outcomes. Surrey County Council will thus develop a robust monitoring and evaluation system over the next 5 years. This may include integration of reporting into existing reporting structures such as Greener Futures. Over the next five years Surrey County Council will work with other local authority partners to develop data management systems for collating data and information, economic information, and evidence, and will focus on communicating this, and developing ways of tracking our achievements more analytically.

8. Communities and Businesses

Individuals, communities, and businesses can all take steps to increase their resilience. Surrey councils will be engaging and developing guidance, support, and adaptation interventions over time, but there is a lot that each of us can do too to empower ourselves. Most importantly we need to recognise the need for action, embrace the vision for a resilient Surrey and create collaborative approaches to tackling the climate crisis challenges together.

9. Appendix 1 – Background Context


The evidence for the importance of an in-depth focus on climate change adaptation is succinctly provided by the World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report of 2023, where the two highest risks over the next 10 years are: 1) failure to mitigate climate change; and 2) failure of climate change adaptation. This is supported by Surrey County Council's own Corporate Level Risk Register which includes both of these as high risks.

So, whilst we must address urgent priorities and risks on our doorstep today, our role as government in short, medium and long-term planning requires us to focus on both Net Zero and Adaptation responses, in order to ensure a safe future society for our residents, with a vibrant economy that withstands climate shocks.


Importantly we need to focus our attention on the most vulnerable communities and individuals who are at the forefront of experiencing climate impacts in Surrey, and to whom these impacts can undermine the development gains we are trying to achieve. We need to ensure that our responses across our councils and sectors are focussed on issues around the likes of health equality, living standards, safe housing, good schooling for all, and are including a robust climate impacts assessment. This is critical so that the resources and infrastructure we put in place today, do not become obsolete, wasted, or negatively impacted in the coming years by floods, droughts, heatwaves, and slow-onset temperature impacts.

It's important to recognise that as climate change hazards occur in our landscape and communities, we will need to keep learning, monitoring, and evaluating our responses and resilience levels, and adaptively managing our approach. We now live in a "VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous" world when it comes to climate change and knock-on impacts, providing serious challenges and opportunities to the way in which our County operates and how we support the wellbeing and social and economic fabric of our communities. As the WEF Risk Report clearly shows, we have multiple risks interacting with each other often causing multi-crises which are beyond our current ability to manage. We have to change how we plan our society, and how we build in resilience to manage these complexities. It will require much more advanced risk management overall. This starts with improved understanding of the risks, which is where this strategy provides a key point for changing our risk culture.

We know enough about climate change to predict that if we do not prepare and adapt to the climate impacts already forecast in the system, it may well undermine the Surrey County Council's Strategic Goals of Wellbeing, Economic Prosperity and Resident Experience. However, with this 'Surrey Adapt' strategy and evolving implementation plans we can actively tackle the challenge head-on and reduce this risk.

We also know enough that all the directorates of Surrey County Council, District and Borough Local Authorities and key sectors in the county should be empowered to make decisions today about how best to create resilient services. Currently there are varying levels of understanding and ability to actively integrate climate change adaptation decision-making in business plans. Teams that actively deal with hazards such as flooding are already having to intervene to reduce risk, but they too will need more advanced analysis and resource deployment. Other directorates and teams are only just starting their analysis of what this means for their business and operations and are thus need support around understanding climate risks. The strategy will aim to level the playing field so that there is widespread understanding of how our decision-making needs to change as our climate changes.

The strategy will thus be a living one, with plans evolving as we learn, implement, and test our responses to a rapidly changing and destabilising climate. To support the strategy, we will propose robust governance structures, and mechanisms to bring in leading expert advice and collaboration across organisations to provide the best, most cost-effective and locally appropriate solutions for our region.

The adaptation challenge

Surrey County Council commissioned a Climate Change Risk and Opportunities Assessment in 2021, which outlines the challenges that we are posed with in terms of climate risks. The report's findings can be summarised against two key scenarios that underpin our strategy – that of 2°C of warming, and that of 4°C of warming.

It's important to note that internationally the aim is to maintain global warming under 2°C. (Although there was pressure to maintain this at 1.5°C of warming as the safe and tolerable amount of warming for global society, that goal has essentially been missed, and the goal of 2°C is stated in current central government policy.) The Climate Change Committee of the UK has advised that all organisations must plan to adapt to 2°C of warming. However, they have also advised to keep the 4°C scenario in mind and start planning for adaptation towards this particularly when considering long lived infrastructure. There is a chance that our global emissions reductions targets overshoot 2°C of warming even with the best efforts to achieve net zero.

This ability to plan for two alternative futures requires that we employ adaptive planning and start to utilise what are called "Adaptation Pathways" which will enable us to change our decision-making over time as we monitor what happens with global emissions trajectories and how impacts are felt locally. Starting now and laying a foundation for how we do this, is critical. ('Pathways' in relation to adaptation is an approach designed to schedule adaptation decision-making: it identifies the decisions that need to be taken now and those that may be taken in future. The approach supports strategic, flexible and structured decision-making. The pathways approach allows decision makers to plan for, prioritise and stagger investment in adaptation options. Trigger points and thresholds help them identify when to revisit decisions or actions.)


Under the roughly 2°C of warming we are likely to expect in Surrey (RCP 4.5):

  • Hotter summers with average summer temperatures +3.5°C warmer than baseline.
  • Milder winters with average winter temperatures +2.2°C warmer than the baseline.
  • Summer heat waves are likely to become more severe.
  • By 2080, the maximum summertime temperature reached during a 20-year event is projected to increase to 36.7°C.
  • Summer months are also likely to be drier, with average summer precipitation projected to decrease by -27.7% from baseline.
  • Winter peak temperatures are likely to increase.
  • By 2080 the maximum winter temperature reached during a 20-year return period event is likely to increase to 17.9°C.
  • Snow and ice are also projected to decrease during the 21st century, although will still likely happen, as weather systems become volatile based on polar and jet stream influences.
  • Winters are likely to be wetter with average winter precipitation increasing +15% from baseline.
  • Projections for wind are unclear, however, severe storms could be anticipated, due to changes in the polar regions and the jet stream which impact on the UK weather systems.


Under the 4°C of warming we are likely to expect in Surrey (RCP 8.5):

  • Hotter summers with average summer temperatures +5.7°C warmer than baseline.
  • Milder winters with average winter temperatures +3.6°C warmer than the baseline.
  • Summer heat waves are likely to become even more severe than under 2°C of warming.
  • By 2080, the maximum summertime temperature reached during a 20-year event is projected to increase to 38.5°C.
  • Summer months are also likely to be drier, with average summer precipitation projected to decrease by -40% from baseline.
  • Winter peak temperatures are likely to increase even more than under 2°C of warming
  • By 2080 the maximum winter temperature reached during a 20-year return period event is likely to increase to 19.1°C.
  • Snow and ice are also projected to decrease during the 21st century, although will still likely happen, as weather systems become volatile based on polar and jet stream influences.
  • Winters are likely to be wetter with average winter precipitation increasing +23.1% from baseline.
  • Projections for wind are unclear, however, severe storms could be anticipated, due to changes in the polar regions and the jet stream which impact on the UK weather systems.

What do these projections really mean for us in Surrey?

Climate projections often don't sound dire, until we unpack the detailed consequences. For many it may sound like a 2°C or 4°C of warming might be something to celebrate or look forward to when we live in a colder climatic region. What is often not detailed is that our climate system has been relatively stable over the last 200 years and most of our infrastructure, systems, and development as a society has occurred in this period. This means that our human built environment is often designed for a climate that we no longer live within. Even the 1.1°C of change that we have already experienced (since 1900) is causing stress on all our systems.

Some climate scientists have referred to climate change as 'climate weirding' as a way of also explaining that we are not talking about a linear change in climate, but every tenth of a degree of change has huge implications for our weather systems. It also does not mean that everywhere is getting hot all at the same time, because we still have seasons and we still have weather influences such as the ocean, the jet stream, the polar regions, which can still cause huge cold spells in winter in regions that normally have had these in the past. These too can equally be severe in some years.

Essentially any of the 20th Century weather disasters that we probably were relatively well adapted to in the past, are now amplified, many of them more severe than ever before, and more frequent as well. The one in one-hundred-year flood becomes the one in ten-year-flood (therefore a flood that might have only occurred typically once in a century may be happening once every 10 years). The extreme of a Mediterranean like heatwave of over 40°C becomes a possibility, and even a norm.

One of the big challenges with water and rainfall is that the amount of water vapour being carried in the atmosphere gets larger as the Earth warms. So that when we have a weather system, the gentle rainfall of the past becomes a downpour that overwhelms our drainage systems, infrastructure and ability to respond.

Although much of this might sound overwhelming, on the positive side of things, we know enough to understand that we need to figure out how to live with these more severe extremes. Once we accept that change has happened, and is continuing to happen, and we must change the way in which we design, plan and build our communities, and look after all the natural assets that are providing buffers and protection to even more severe impacts.

So, what do we need to adapt to in Surrey? Essentially, we are planning for what is becoming a drier environment overall, which will likely have longer hotter summers, with heatwave spells. We will still have rain, but in some years not enough, and in others too much all at once. So, we must simultaneously plan for droughts and floods. This also has implications for the soil. This is important because all the infrastructure we built over the past few hundred years, is now on top of soil that does not behave the way it used to, because it is drying out more often and being saturated more rapidly at other times – this means adapting our infrastructure and how it is built.

With a drying climate, we must plan for the higher likelihood of longer, more intense, more severe wildfire seasons – starting to become more Mediterranean-like (2022 was a prime example, one of the worst Surrey has had on record). This has huge implications for Surrey a largely green county with lots of natural spaces intermingled with communities; communities that need to become more fire-wise.

We must now manage our landscapes and ecosystems to help us and them become more resilient. Healthy ecosystems provide multiple other services we will need for our agriculture to maintain viability and contribute towards food security, and to keep us healthy and happy too.

General climate risks by sector

As our climate changes in Surrey, we are already seeing some rapid changes. These manifest across most sectors and services. The following are some broad level examples of what we are likely to see, and already are experiencing in many instances.

Health and wellbeing - key risks

Health services could come under increasing pressure from heat and flood related health conditions particularly amongst Surrey's older population. Care homes need to become more resilient. Heat impacts during heat waves will be felt by the most vulnerable, as well as those with underlying health conditions such as hypertension, respiratory conditions and heart conditions (all of which there are a high burden of). Pregnant women are also at risk in heatwaves. Changes in seasonality of viruses and pathogens is challenging the health sector as the "seasons for viruses" shift and thus we have changing waves of illnesses in communities. Mental health challenges linked to climate change are on the increase, with over 70% of young people in the UK impacted already to some degree[1]. The pandemic and underlying burden related to SARS COVID-19 is further complicating the health sector response.

Transport - key risks

Surrey's proximity to London and connection by road and rail may also be adversely affected by future higher summertime temperatures[2], and flooding where the damage to infrastructure results in travel disruption. Disruption may also be increasingly common in winter months due to flooding. Both heat and flood impacts on Surrey's travel infrastructure are likely to have consequences for Surrey's economy where commuter connections to London and supply chains within the county are disrupted. This is also significant given the already high usage of roads in the County, which causes underlying higher wear and tear requiring significant investment in maintenance.

Schools and education - key risks

Many schools and education facilities are at risk due to flood and, heatwave impacts. Water outages are also a significant risk that could become a challenge in future with little resilience in place to manage such a risk.

Buildings and houses - key risks

Thermal comfort conditions in Surrey's existing building stock is likely to be compromised during peak summer temperatures.

Agriculture and forestry - key risks

Agriculture and forestry face pressures from all the climate risks, with possibly a few positive gains for some types of agriculture. Water stress may impact certain types of agriculture and forestry. There may be an increase in the risk of pests and diseases and a loss of flora and fauna species due to mal-adaptation. Heat waves and droughts in summer months can impact on the survival of tree planting efforts. Wildfire risk is also increasing through the summer months with a high risk to both forestry, agriculture and ecosystems alike. Some limited pockets of benefits may occur to specific commodity groups such as for viticulture but will come at a cost to others. The health and wellbeing of outdoor staff will need to be considered with the increased risk in extremes.

Business - key risks

Increased risks depending on the nature of the business. Business continuity planning that currently do not extensively include climate risks need updating. Overheating of buildings may impact staff and products. Potential disruption to services in heatwaves from water supply challenges, as well as impacts on transport infrastructure could interrupt supply chains.

Emergency Management services - key risks

May be overwhelmed with multi-crises situations. Many climate risks are already being catered for well, but as the risks become more severe, the capacity to respond purely with emergency management is being pushed to its limits. Key resilience measures need to be embedded across the county.

Natural Environment - key risks

The Surrey natural environment is under multiple threats. Climate change adds another layer of threat on top of the existing risks. Impacts on habitats and species as they are pushed out of their natural climatic conditions they are adapted to. Heatwaves, with droughts and potential fire risk are a significant risk to the Surrey natural environment pushing many species out of their tolerance zones. Increasing fire frequency and severity can also push ecosystems to their limits, even where some ecosystems are somewhat fire adapted such as heathlands. Invasive species and pest species can also overtake ecosystems as the conditions become more favourable of them, local examples include Gorse, and ticks. Flooding and unusual wet conditions can also cause damage to ecosystems through changing soil profiles, landslips. Even with all of these risks, our natural environment poses the greatest opportunity for adaptation investments in terms of increasing our overall resilience and that of neighbouring authorities.

Note: It's important to note that the risks currently identified are still at a broad scale, and much more in-depth risk assessment and analysis needs to be undertaken, this will form a key foundation of the Surrey Adapt Strategy and its action plans.

We need to view climate change risk not as a stand-alone risk category, but instead as a cross-cutting risk, capable of manifesting itself across each of the risk categories that already exist. These impacts may be from either physical or transition related climate impacts and may vary depending on the time horizons.

Historic events

Even with the complexity of managing changes into the future, we have already witnessed significant changes in our climate, with multiple events in the past decade or two that we can learn from. (*Please see the CCROA report for more information on various climate impacts)

Climate related risks

  • Flooding - recent impacts: During winter 2013-14 extensive flooding caused widespread disruption on Surrey's road network. Flooding caused congestion and delays on the M23. Diversion routes were also impacted by excess traffic and flooding in some areas. The winter 2013-14 flooding also caused the closure of Gatwick airport train station. There was flooding on the railway line into Caterham resulting in delays and cancellations. Flooding of power and IT equipment in the basement of Gatwick Airport North Terminal affected communication and baggage handling.
    Previous flooding has caused damage to buildings and displacement of residents and businesses due to flood water ingress. During the winter floods of 2013-14 the River Thames burst its banks. The worst affected areas were in Egham and Staines with more than 340 properties impacted internally by floodwater. In February 2014 1,100 people were helped from their flooded homes in six days. Many buildings were uninhabitable for several months after flooding during clean up and repair.
  • Heatwaves, droughts and fires - recent impacts: 2011 was the driest spring for 101 years, with only 49.4mm of rain recorded in the South East and central southern England. The heat wave and low rainfall of summer 2018 resulted in significant crop failure. Hot and dry conditions also make prime conditions for wildfires to take hold and spread. In May 2000 wildfire destroyed forests at Thursley Common. Wildfires have become increasingly common in Surrey in recent years, following national trends of a significant rise in large wildfires since 2010.
    2022 saw our hottest summer on record, with a heat wave resulting in records being broken across the country, up to 39C and 40C in many places in Surrey. The heatwaves also brought increased water stress, and drought like conditions with water restrictions in place. Simultaneously it was the year with the highest number of fire incidents on record. These conditions impacted on communities, and local authorities' services. It impacted some of our Greener Futures works such as a high mortality rate of seedlings in our tree planting projects.
  • Large Scale Storms - recent impacts: Storm Ciara in February 2020 resulted in a blanket 50mph speed restriction across Surrey's rail network, and 54 properties without power due to damage to power lines. Approximately 40 flights were cancelled, and many were delayed. During Storm Bella in December 2020 a major rail line into London was blocked by a tree on the lines in Haslemere.

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