Valuing Green Infrastructure for a Well adapted UK

It is widely accepted that we cannot simply build our way out of the climate & biodiversity emergency (e.g. using traditional grey infrastructure solution). This assumption is based, firstly, on the scale of the capital investment required for construction of infrastructure adaptations to protect areas at risk from climate hazard. Secondly, it is not possible because of the future uncertainty in climate, as grey ‘fixed design’ options lock us into a single path dependency that may not be the most efficient (socially, environmentally & economically) under different climate futures. Green infrastructure (sustainable solutions/nature-based solutions) provides more flexible and biodiverse solutions to climate adaptation, however, the roll out of green infrastructure is challenged by the current methods to value and finance these options. The lack of understanding of how natural systems can support greener futures, and the ability to evaluate these systems, is inhibiting the uptake of more nature-based solutions.  

The NERC funded studentship aims to design a valuation framework and set of metrics to assess the economic and co-benefits of green infrastructure systems for urban adaptation planning. The project is expected to follow the following stages:  

  • Stage 1: Synthesise existing research on valuation of green infrastructure systems using the concept of multi-dimensional value, gather empirical evidence and identify clear evidence gaps.    
  • Stage 2: Develop a framework for economic and/or multi-dimensional value of green infrastructure – examine challenges across scales. This will require exploration of existing transdisciplinary methods such as multi-dimensional value; critical systems approach; cost-benefit analysis; multi-criteria analysis; real options & adaptation pathways; 
  • Stage 3: Deep dive Cases: using participatory methods test cases on flood risk and urban heat island futures and the potential for green infrastructure systems to support climate adaptation. Collaborate with modelling experts in the UK to support evidence generation.   
  • Stage 4: Co-development of applied framework and case study learning into a user tool for application in urban planning context (business cases/schemes).   
  • Stage 5: Policy orientated guidance, tool, and associated metrics to support decision making on green infrastructure adaptation at local, regional, and national levels.   

An interdisciplinary supervisory team (engineering/environment/economics) will support a PhD candidate to become an expert in climate adaptation valuation for green infrastructure to support the development of greener futures for the UK. This ‘action-orientated’ research project responds to current Climate Change Committee’s goal of developing a well-adapted UK and will provide evidence to tackle the valuation challenges that cross government departments and policies e.g. DEFRA, HM Treasury, Department for Transport (DfT), Energy Security and Net Zero, Health and social care. It is critically timely with the current Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA4) under commission and due in 2025/26.  The studentship will maximise impact through existing networks: Priestley Centre, West Yorkshire Flood Innovation Programme, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Humber Climate Commission, DEFRA, HM Treasury; DfT; South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority; CIRIA; Oxford & Newcastle University. In additional the candidate will develop new networks through relevance with past/current NERC investments: Building a green future; Integrating finance and biodiversity for a nature positive future; Economics of biodiversity; Environmental risks to infrastructure; Building a secure and resilient world; Climate and environmental risk analytics for resilient finance; Climate, environment and health; Creating opportunities, improving outcomes. The studentship has strong connections with other UKRI projects from ESRC, Innovate UK and EPSRC meaning wider findings and outputs will have wider relevance to the national and international communities.