Environment Agency outlines shift to resilience in future flood plans

The Environment Agency has begun introducing planning assumptions for a global rise of up to 4 ° C due to climate change, with a shift to resilience rather than an onus on protection of properties in the future.

Speaking as part of New Civil Engineer‘s Future of Floods conference, Environment Agency director of flood risk strategy and national adaptation Julie Foley said that future schemes will be planned with a 4 ° C rise in temperatures in mind.

“When we take forward a new flood and coastal project or strategy, we will be ensuring that we are developing and designing those projects to account for a wide range of climate scenarios, including from a four degree rise in global temperatures,” Foley said. “This enables us to take a much more precautionary approach.”

The Environment Agency will also update its climate change allowances for sea level rises, river flows and peak rainfalls.

Foley noted that in 2007 the Environment Agency reported 55,000 homes as flooded due to weather events, but during what were considered “unprecedented” storm events in February of this year, which saw three named storms arrive on the UK’s shores in the space of one week. , only 400 properties were flooded.

Foley sees this improvement as proof of the pudding that the resilience measures so far have worked. In terms of concrete flood protection measures in the future, the Environment Agency is rethinking part of its plans, with the aim to shift to resilience in future events.

Foley said: “We must continue to be doing what we have been doing, building and maintaining those flood defenses. But a really key message in the strategy is that protection can only ever be part of that solution. And we cannot build our way out of managing future climate risks. ”

The shift in policy to resilience echoes aims from local authorities across the country to ensure that homes which are situated on flood plains are adapted to make it easier to survive a flood event with minimal lasting damage.

Foley cited using nature-based solutions to slow and store floodwaters upstream to stop the build up of waters at bottlenecks further down the path of a river such as the Severn, which has been hit several times in the past decade.

The Environment Agency set out a four-year flood framework earlier this month to tackle the growing threat from river, sea and surface water flooding as well as coastal erosion.

The Environment Agency is working with 25 local authorities including Norfolk, Suffolk, Cornwall and Cumbria which each have a share of £ 150M of funding to deliver 25 projects to enable better resilience to flooding. “Ultimately, it’s to test and demonstrate innovative actions. It’s also about improving resilience in those places and reducing flood risks reducing the cost of future damages and disruption,” Foley added.

The Environment Agency are also looking to adapt the approach taken with the Thames Estuary 2100 plan for four other catchments, The Humber, Yorkshire and the Severn.

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