Give flood fighters medals – EA chief exec

The Environmental Agency workers and those from the emergency service who battled to keep on the lights for flood-hit Gloucestershire in last summer's floods, despite considerable risks to their personal safety, deserve medals for what they did.

This was the opinion of Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, when she spoke at SustainabilityLive! on Wednesday.

Baroness Young spoke on the importance of preparing for unavoidable changes in weather patterns, pointing out that even the most optimistic climate models say things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, even if real progress is made on reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases.

She emphasised the need to prepare against flooding, both inland and coastal, as well as water scarcity and focused on the need to better-protect critical infrastructure from the potential ravages of the weather.

Over 1,000 power stations and sub -sub stations and a similar number of water and sewage treatment works are at significant risk of flooding, she said.

And it is not just the utilities and the rest of the business world which needs to prepare for climate change, added Baroness Young, saying the public also needed to be encouraged to protect private property.

With prolonged heavy rain, a saturated catchment and an overwhelmed drainage system could mean flooding on hill tops as well as low-lying plains, she said – everyone is potentially a flood victim.

As well as a concerted and ongoing public awareness campaign along the lines of those encouraging the use of seat belts or warning us of the dangers of drink driving, financial incentives from insurers are needed to persuade home owners to adapt their properties to inevitable climate change.

“Adaptation is the Cinderella of the climate change agenda,” she said.

“Part of the challenge has got to be to get [it] as high profile as carbon reduction.”

Sam Bond

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