Why Publication of the Review in Response to the Floods of Last Winter is Needed Now More than Ever
Flooding is becoming an increasingly familiar – and expensive – occurrence in the UK. 16,000 homes were flooded in Greater Manchester, York and Carlisle in December; Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and the Thames Valley were all severely affected in previous years. With such an impact, the Government launched the National Flood Resilience Review to assess how the country can be better protected from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events, and many industry figures were invited to submit evidence. The review was due to be published in July, however with the EU referendum result, and the subsequent government reshuffle, it has been postponed.
According to the government webpage for the review, it ‘will focus on four key areas: updating our climate modelling and stress-testing the nation’s resilience to flood risk; assessing the resilience of our important infrastructure like electricity substations; our temporary defences; and our future investment strategy.’ All of this is vital if the UK is to be better prepared to face the shocks to infrastructure, homes and lives that increased flooding brings. However, as Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment told the Guardian, “Given that the review was supposed to find ways to prevent Britain being caught out again this winter by the kind of rains we have just faced, this [postponement] is a worrying development. Time is running out to make the kind of changes that will be needed to limit the damage we saw last year.”
Last year’s flooding caused devastation on a vast scale – and has had a large impact both economically and emotionally on those affected. Thousands of families and businesses were displaced, and with the cost of renovating just one house estimated at £80,000 the total cost to insurers and individuals will be vast. With more than 1 in 6 properties in England at risk of flooding, the outcomes of the National Flood Resilience Review are very important to help prepare and protect communities from future flooding.
Such floods are likely to increase in frequency as our climate warms, as there is increasing evidence for the link between flooding and climate change. It is thought that as the atmosphere warms it can hold more moisture, and so downpours are more likely. At Ambiental we are highly aware of this, and have been working to increase our understanding of the interactions between climate change and flood rise. We held a briefing on this topic, ‘How Climate Change Impacts Flood Risk’ at the British Library.
The post-referendum reshuffle has also led to two other changes with repercussions for our environment. Firstly, there has been a change of leadership at DEFRA, with Andrea Leadsom appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace hints, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been abolished in the reshuffle, with its role amalgamated into the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is not yet known what exactly this will mean for climate change policy, but with the links between climate change and extreme weather events – both flooding and heatwaves – becoming ever clearer, it is important that our government continues to uphold its promises to reduce emissions, as part of its own pledge to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030, and as part of the global agreement to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees.
If the government and the wider flood management community is to be fully prepared to cope with future threats it needs to know what they are, and it is vital that the postponed report is released as soon as possible. The review publication needs to allow adequate time for its findings to be turned into action ahead of the winter where the threat of major flooding is most pronounced. We look forward to reading the report’s conclusions and continuing our work to support flood resilience in the UK and internationally. At Ambiental we have developed technologies to support UK and international flood resilience. Our FloodMap products are helping customers to understand present flood risk and our work on climate change will enable greater understanding of future flood threats. For more information on how Ambiental can help your organisation to better manage flood risk please contact us and we will be happy to advise you.