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Future flooding risk warning to coastal and inland communities

PUBLISHED: 14:33 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 09 May 2019

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd at Ipswich. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd at Ipswich. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

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Flood protection schemes like that completed in Ipswich earlier this year could become ever more vital in the future - as experts warn that the world's average temperature is set to rise significantly.

That's the message from the chair of the Environment Agency - but Emma Howard Boyd warned it was impossible to "win a war against water" by simply building higher flood defences.

She said the agency is preparing for a 4C rise in global temperatures - and major work was needed to prepare for more inland flooding and sea level rise.

And she warned that increasing temperatures could lead to faster changes: "The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods, but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats.

"We can't win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond."

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Her warnings were echoed by Lord Deben, former Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who is now chair of the committee on climate change.

He said: "Everyone can see climate change accelerating. The UK urgently needs to stay ahead of worsening impacts by adapting.

"The Environment Agency is doing just that by setting out their flood strategy but we won't be able to keep up with the pace of change if we don't reduce emissions strategy but we won't be able to keep up with the pace of change if we don't reduce emissions to zero. The committee on climate change's net zero report shows how to do that."

Ms Howard Boyd said that as well as trying to prevent damage, the agency would also be urging owners to try to make their properties more resilient - by ensuring electric circuits were higher and that ground floor rooms had hard surfaces on ground floors.

In some extreme cases it might be necessary to abandon and relocate whole communities if it was not possible to protect them from flooding and/or sea level rise.

The Environment Agency is running a consultation exercise on climate change which runs until July 3.

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