The UK Climate Resilience Programme ran from 2019 to 2023

Orkney Islands Council 1 – Embedded Researcher pitch

Interest in climate resilience

In May 2019, Orkney Islands Council (The Council) declared a Climate Emergency and has continued to work with the community and partners to promote further understanding of the climate emergency and to identify and implement appropriate actions we can take to contribute to achieving Net Zero. We have supported highly innovative green hydrogen projects, on land and sea, with the community, developed a carbon management programme for carbon reduction across the Council estate and has implemented its first grey infrastructure project of a Sea Wall in Kirkwall to limit damage caused by increasing tidal variance and extreme weather events.

We aim to retain momentum on decarbonisation projects and consider appropriate future routes to expand on climate adaptation strategies. Goods and services provided by the local authority to community are, and will continue, to be impacted by climate change. We seek to develop a broader, formal understanding of the key focus areas for climate resilience. Including:

  • Risks: flooding, traditional industries, tolerance levels for change
  • Opportunities: tourism, skills transitioning, targets, choices
  • Impact of spatial variance: coastal, regional, planning, scenario planning
  • Achieving Net Zero: embedment of climate change considerations in decision making, attracting investment opportunities, sustainable procurement
  • Leadership, Equality & Justice, Community Participation

Motivation for being involved in the scheme

The future of remote rural communities in the face of Climate Change is so different from its urban counterparts. Orkney has a vast coastline (>1,024km) with small, aging populations (22,100 people) dispersed across 16 islands. A researcher would bring a vital dynamic to the intricate work of flood adaptation by providing a link to these communities, helping to break down the barriers between scientific complexity of climate resilience and public engagement and understanding.

A researcher would provide the opportunity to use tools such as scenario planning to ensure the project has a powerful impact and meaning on the most vulnerable communities. It would also allow the researcher to have a unique understanding of the practical application of adaptation works based on modelling data and professional expertise. In addition, it would provide the Council with a vital link to bridge the gap often perceived between a local authority and the communities it serves.

Ideas for research topics or knowledge brokering activities

Orkney is on the frontline of climate change in Scotland, particularly in low lying and soft coastal areas. Orkney Islands Council wishes to improve organisational and public understanding of the likely effects of climate change on life throughout the islands. All of the Orkney shoreline will be affected in time but a number of communities and essential transport links have been identified during the development of Local Flood Risk Management Strategies and Plans as being already vulnerable to coastal change, related to climate change.

It is proposed that, taking new SEPA coastal flood mapping and Dynamic Coast data as primary data sources, the embedded researcher would develop a set of detailed scenarios representing the medium (2050), long (2080) and very long term (2300) effects of coastal change be developed for each of the sites identified (listed below).

The researcher would then lead public consultation on each of the developed sets of scenarios within the affected communities. The objectives would be to increase awareness of the predicted impacts of climate change and to seek views on possible adaptations to each scenario. Consultation would ideally be in person although virtual or hybrid formats may be necessary due to Covid restrictions.

The sites identified as vulnerable to coastal change are: A960 at Dingieshowe, Burray Village, Graemeshall, Kirkwall, Little Ayre (North Walls), Pierowall, Sanday, St Margaret’s Hope, St Mary’s, Stromness, The Ayre (Hoy and South Walls) and Stronsay (including Whitehall).

It would be possible to augment existing data sources with survey and record data and modelling of further scenarios may be possible to assist with engagement.

Commencing in November 2021, the researcher would be embedded in the Engineering section of the council (responsible for Flood Authority duties) but would liaise closely with officers with climate change related duties including Marine Planning.

Get in touch with Orkney Islands Council

Researchers who would like to discuss this Embedded Researcher pitch with Orkney Islands Council should contact Peter Woodward on

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