We are presently experiencing massive and serious flooding in the UK. Dealing with the consequences of the floods so far experienced this year will take a long time and must involve heartache for those affected. The approach to mitigating flooding was summarised by Zac Goldsmith (the Environment Minister) yesterday, and is threefold:
1. the traditional heavy engineering of flood defences,
2. the adoption of flood-sensitive land use techniques to slow down the rate at which water hits the river system,
3. a focus on long-term climate change reduction, in the expectation this will stop the frequent extreme weather we have having.
There is a challenge in reconciling the 3 methods, as building flood defences and slowing water can have an immediate local impact, but reducing climate change and extreme weather events is a much longer project, and requires international co-operation.
With the high profile of the floods and their repeated occurrence, there will be calls for further laws and incentives around this issue. These will have to deal with the uses to which land is put and the implementation of natural or man-made defences, which together will form the future flood defence infrastructure. The policy steps to implement net zero will also impact significantly on future flood defence infrastructure, and are likely to make some forms of defence (those most compatible with net zero policy) more attractive than others.
Climate change is making the UK warmer and wetter, with more frequent extreme weather events. We need to make nature’s power part of our solution, alongside traditional engineered defences. ..... Later this year, we will set out our policies to tackle flooding in the long term, and the Environment Agency will publish its updated flood and coasts strategy. This country will also lead global ambition as the host of COP 26, urging the world to achieve net zero in a way that helps nature recover, reduces global warming and addresses the causes of these extreme weather events.