Guidance

Adapting to climate change: risk assessment for your environmental permit

When you must complete an adapting to climate change risk assessment, and how to do it.

When you must do an adapting to climate change risk assessment

You must do a climate change risk assessment for any new bespoke waste and installation environmental permit application if you expect to operate for more than 5 years.

You must complete the risk assessment even if you do not expect your site to be operational in 2050. The predicted changes may be experienced before this time and extremes may happen at any time.

You do not need to carry out a climate change risk assessment if you expect to operate for 5 years or less.

When you complete the new bespoke permit application form and the bespoke intensive farming installation application form you need to calculate your climate change risk screening score (see section 6b on both forms).

If you get a screening score of 5 or more, you will need to complete your climate change risk assessment and submit it with your application form.

If you have a screening score of less than 5 you do not need to submit your risk assessment with your application form, but you must still complete the risk assessment. You need to keep it as part of your environmental management system.

You need to refer to your risk assessment in your management plan summary, which you must submit with your application.

We will use the information you provide in your climate change risk assessment when we process (determine) your application. We may apply conditions to some permits to manage climate change risks. Your application may be refused if climate change risks are still at an unmanageable level after you have applied mitigation measures.

Once we have identified the climate change risks and impacts in your risk assessment, we may ask you to do a more detailed risk assessment in the future.

Choose the correct risk assessment worksheet

To complete your risk assessment, you must fill in the appropriate worksheet based on where your site is located. There’s a different worksheet for each river basin district. The cross-border worksheets only apply if you operate in England.

Find your river basin district

To find your river basin district enter your postcode, place name or coordinates into the Catchment Data Explorer. Select ‘search’ and zoom in to maximum magnification. Put the cursor over the site to display the catchment name.

If your site is in more than one river basin district use the Catchment Data Downloader to find out which river basin district your site best falls into.

To identify your river basin district using the Catchment Data Downloader, find the square button with an image of layered documents. It’s above the + and – signs on the bottom left hand side of the page. Click on this button and the red boundaries of the different river basin districts will appear.

Use the + and – buttons to zoom in and out to find your location. Click on your location and a pop up box will appear that specifies your river basin district at the top of the box.

Find your risk assessment worksheet

Once you have found your river basin district, select the worksheet that your site best falls into.

How to use the worksheet

Each worksheet lists potential changes in weather and climate that may occur between now and 2050. You can add in other changes to the climate (climate variables) if you think they could impact your operations.

The worksheet will help you do a qualitative risk assessment of how your site and processes will be affected by climate change. It also has space for you to propose mitigation measures.

Some of the same weather and climate change information is used as part of the spatial planning process. If you’ve done a flood risk assessment as part of a planning application for your site, you can use the evidence of impacts and mitigation from that assessment.

Complete the risk assessment worksheet in 2 stages:

  1. Assess the impact(s) from each of the weather and climate change scenarios. Your risk score is the likelihood of something happening multiplied by the severity of its impact.
  2. If your risk score is 5 or more you must propose mitigation measures then re-assess the risk taking your mitigation measures into account.

Calculate your risk score using the risk scoring matrix.

If any of your scores are 5 or more after you’ve taken mitigation measures into account, we may specify action(s) in your permit that you must do to reduce potential risk.

You must complete all the rows in the worksheet. If you think that a climate change variable does not apply to your site, write ‘N/A’ in the box.

Consider:

  • critical thresholds (where a ‘tipping point’ is reached, for example a specific temperature where site processes cannot operate safely)
  • changes to averages (for example an entire summer of higher than expected rainfall that causes waterlogging)
  • where hazards may combine to cause more impacts

Some of the climate change variables may have similar effects. For example, higher daily summer temperatures and drier summers may reduce recharge to an aquifer, which may reduce the availability of water for abstraction from groundwater or rivers. Complete the rows for both variables.

Each climate change variable may also have more than one effect. For example, higher average winter rainfall may cause increased groundwater and surface water flooding. Score each impact individually.

Explanation of the columns in the worksheet

How to use the information in the worksheet to help you carry out your risk assessment.

Climate variables (first column in the worksheet)

You must consider the risk to your site from:

  • flooding caused by changes in rainfall, river levels and sea level
  • prolonged dry weather and drought caused by dry summers and low river flows

Increased rainfall and river flow (changing climate variables 3, 4 and 7 in the worksheet)

Higher rainfall, particularly rainfall intensity, is likely to increase the flow and levels in rivers and the risk of flooding. More extreme rainfall is likely to increase the risk of flooding from surface water.

Find out about the risk of flooding from rivers, sea and surface water.

Sea level rise (changing climate variable number 5 in the worksheet)

Sea level rise will affect the coast and low lying land close to inland rivers. It will also affect rivers and other water bodies further inland.

Use Magic Map to estimate your site’s vulnerability to sea level rise.

Drier summers and reduced river flow (changing climate variables 6 and 7 in the worksheet)

Drier summers and reduced river flows could lead to reduced water availability. The following information may help you estimate your site’s vulnerability to reduced water availability:

Column A: Impact

Will predicted weather and climate change stop you meeting the conditions in your permit? Think about anything that might happen, rather than the most likely things to happen. You can prioritise them in column B.

Use existing records of potential hazards. Think about any processes which may be climate-dependent or temperature-sensitive and any thresholds, for example:

  • is there a tipping point when certain issues become critical?
  • will higher temperatures put your processes under pressure?
  • will low flow in a water course cause problems with discharge limits?
  • could flooding interrupt operations or lead to an uncontrolled release of pollutants?

You must show that you understand the impacts your site and operations may experience. Think about this as an extension of your accident management plan where you already consider your risks.

You can use new lines to add other climate variables if you think they could impact your operations.

B: Likelihood

Estimate the likelihood of extreme weather impacting your site using the risk scoring matrix. Enter the corresponding numerical score into the worksheet.

C: Severity

Estimate the severity of the potential impact and permit breach using the risk scoring matrix. Enter the corresponding numerical score into the worksheet.

D: Risk

Multiply the scores for likelihood and severity together. Enter the resulting risk score in column D.

If your risk score is 5 or more, describe your mitigation measures. Re-do the risk assessment taking these measures into account by completing columns E to H.

E: Mitigation

For each weather or climate variable with a score of 5 or more, describe your proposed mitigation measures. These may include changes such as:

  • more drains or changed processes
  • gathering more information
  • doing a more detailed risk assessment

Where possible, select mitigation measures which do not increase your contribution to the causes of climate change.

F: Likelihood (after mitigation)

Estimate the likelihood of the risk occurring, taking into account the mitigation measure(s) you’ve proposed. Use the risk scoring matrix and enter the corresponding numerical score into the worksheet.

G: Severity (after mitigation)

Estimate the residual consequence(s) of the impact. Take into account the mitigation measure(s) proposed. Use the risk scoring matrix and enter the corresponding numerical score into the worksheet.

H: Residual risk

Multiply the scores for likelihood and severity. Enter the resulting risk score in column H.

Risk scoring matrix

Assess the impact(s) from each of the weather and climate change scenarios and calculate your risk score using the risk scoring matrix.

Your risk score is the likelihood of something happening multiplied by the severity of its impact.

Severe impact (score = 4) Medium impact (score = 3) Mild impact (score = 2) Minor impact (score = 1)
Highly likely (score = 4) 16 12 8 4
Likely (score = 3) 12 9 6 3
Low likelihood (score = 2) 8 6 4 2
Unlikely (score = 1) 4 3 2 1

Key

Risk categories:

  • 12 to 16: high
  • 8 to 9: moderate to high
  • 4 to 6: moderate to low
  • 1 to 3: low

Severity of impact:

  • severe impact: short-term, acute impact to operations resulting in permanent compliance breach(es)
  • medium impact: short-term, acute impact to operations resulting in multiple temporary compliance breaches
  • mild impact: short-term, acute impact to operations resulting in single temporary compliance breach
  • minor impact: short or long-term impact resulting in additional measures for compliance

Likelihood:

  • highly likely: event appears very likely in the short term and almost inevitable over the long term, or there is evidence of the event already happening
  • likely: it is probable that an event will occur, or circumstances are such that the event is not inevitable, but possible in the short term and likely over the long term
  • low likelihood: circumstances are such that an event could occur, but it is not certain even in the long term that an event would occur and it is less likely in the short term
  • unlikely: circumstances are such that it is improbable the event would occur even in the long term

UK climate projection data

The worksheets are based on data from the UK climate projections 2009 (UKCP09).

We will update the worksheets to take full account of the UK climate projections 2018 (UKCP18). UKCP18 is broadly consistent with UKCP09 so the worksheets are still valid for screening risk.

The worksheets provide changes for river basin districts consistent with a 4°C rise in global mean temperature by the end of the century.

The data is from UK datasets and existing guidance. The values are precautionary - they will normally represent an upper limit on possible climate change.

There will always be some uncertainty associated with future climate change projections. However you need to be aware of changing climate risks using the best available evidence. The worksheets are a starting point to help you discuss and consider potential impacts.

Contact us if you want to see detailed evidence of the data and figures we used.

Published 3 October 2019