Prime Minister links recent flooding to climate change

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he suspects that the recent extreme weather, which has caused severe flooding across the UK in recent weeks, is a result of climate change.

During Prime Ministers’ Questions at the House of Commons today, Cameron responded to Lib Dem Tim Farron, who requested an update on how the Government was responding to the risks of climate change.

Agreeing that climate change was the likely cause of the flurry of weather events, Cameron stressed that the Government is taking the issue seriously and highlighted the Carbon Act and the UK Green Investment Bank as examples of its commitment.

The debate was raised following weeks of flooding and storms, which have caused significant damage to parts of the country, particularly coastal towns.

Monopolising the headlines so far in January, the Government has come under fire for its ‘slow’ response to flooded areas and the widely publicised energy blackouts that saw thousands across the country without electricity during the Christmas holiday.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was quick to jump on the reports and invited the Prime Minister to explain how he would ensure further damage, caused by extreme weather, would be mitigated despite recently announcing more budget cuts to Government departments.

Cameron responded by saying that the Government had in fact increased its flood defence budget and commended the emergency services for their good work but offered little more in terms of long-term plans.

Mirroring the Prime Ministers’ statements, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson recently said that “this Government is spending more than any previous government on flood defences”, which some environmental groups have claimed is incorrect.

He also rejected comments from the Environment Agency chief executive, Paul Leinster, that the upcoming 15% budget cuts to his organisation will inevitably “impact” its ability to deal with flooding, with 550 staff working on flooding earmarked to lose their jobs.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins said: “The Environment Secretary says the Government is spending more on flood defences, when in fact he’s presided over a real-terms cut and hundreds of Environment Agency jobs are under threat – his refusal to accept the science of climate change may be blinding him to the human costs of the consequences of this.

“With everyone from the Government’s climate envoy to the President of the NFU warning that climate change will increase flooding, the storm-damaged Environment Secretary has serious questions to answer,” he added.

Last week, a group of the UK’s leading engineers called on the Government to help businesses and communities become more flood resilient following the recent severe weather.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) vice president and flooding expert, professor David Balmforth, called for “appropriate levels of investment and guidance to be put in place” for local communities at risk of flooding.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie