Climate emergency: ‘People will die’ unless communities are moved, EA chief warns
Speaking at a flood and coastal erosion conference in Telford, Bevan welcomed the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but said this would not eliminate climate change-related damage to the country and that communities and infrastructure would be at risk without renewed action.
“Even if we didn’t produce another gram of carbon from this moment on, sea levels will continue to rise for centuries,” he said, adding that the UK needed to prepare for a “different future”, concluding that the “best way to predict the future is to invent it”.
Bevan said that the draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England, which is out for consultation until 4 July, sets out the EA’s ambition to build climate resilient places and infrastructure and create a “nation of climate champions”.
On creating resilient places, Bevan said the EA would continue to build defences, but that “new tools for a new future” were also needed. These include good land use planning, natural flood management, better design of places and buildings, and “being honest that we cannot prevent some parts of the country from flooding or eventually disappearing into the sea”, he said.
Moving communities out of high risk areas “will need to happen, because if it doesn’t, one day the sea will come over the wall and a lot of people will die. I would rather it happened before there is another national tragedy like 1953, not afterwards,” he added.
Bevan said the draft strategy sets out that “all new development should contribute to resilience and environmental net gain; that places and properties affected by flooding and coastal change should be built back better, where necessary in better places; and that all investment in flood and coastal infrastructure should also contribute to sustainable growth”.
Building and maintaining traditional hard flooding and coastal change infrastructure the country will need will cost “at least £1bn a year”, Bevan projected, adding that will cost “a good deal more than that to invest in the resilient infrastructure, houses and cities we need, and in some of the softer measures like natural flood management”. However, Bevan said some money may come from “new sources, such as businesses or green finance, or individuals or communities”.
“That future doesn’t have to be dark,” Bevan said. “Humans caused this climate catastrophe. Humans can stop it. We can, together, write a different story and invent a different future.”
Article & Image Source: ENDS Report