Nearly 70% of people think the UK is not prepared to deal with the potential impacts of climate change, a survey by the Environment Agency revealed today.

The news came as government, local authorities, utilities and public services providers met at an Environment Agency seminar to discuss how to prepare for a changing climate.

Speaking at Climate Change Adaptation – Time For Action, Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “The climate is changing and we are likely to see more severe weather and other impacts in the future. We must prepare for climate change now by taking steps to avoid the damage that could occur.

“Our survey found that the majority of people think the UK is not yet prepared to deal with climate change impacts. Today’s seminar is about taking action to adapt to the changes that climate change will bring, and the Environment Agency is at the heart of driving forward this action.

“The 2007 summer floods came on the tail of the worst drought to hit England and Wales for 100 years, resulting in hosepipe bans for over 15 million people, depleted reservoirs in the south east and increased risk to wildlife. As climate change bites these events will become more frequent. We need to take action now by making sure our cities, infrastructure and systems are better designed for higher temperatures, less water, extreme weather events, and rising sea levels.

“If we look at flood risk alone, the annual cost of damage from flooding could rise from the present level of £1 billion to about £25 billion by 2080. The number of people at high risk from flooding could rise from 1.5 million to 3.5 million.

“Development needs to be flood-proofed to prepare for severe events, using the key lessons learnt from past floods to protect the supplies crucial to communities. For example, sustainable drainage techniques such as permeable pavements, underground storage lagoons and specially designed roofs can help prevent drainage and flood defence systems from becoming overloaded with storm water.

“The Climate Change Bill today has its third reading in the House of Lords, where significant changes have already been made to the Bill. It will contain vital legislation to drive Government and public bodies to produce action plans on adapting to climate change. This seminar allowed us to examine how we can make these adaptation plans deliver real change on the ground.”

The Environment Agency is taking action to help the country prepare for key climate risks on: Inland flood risk, driven by more extreme rainfall – the next set of national flood risk maps will incorporate the latest climate change science. Water scarcity – we will assess the next set of water company business plans for how they are taking climate change into account. We will also produce predictions for river flows to 2050. Coastal flood risk – our long term investment will take into account sea level rise and storm surge predictions. We are already looking at the future of the Thames Estuary to 2100 and beyond. Impacts on freshwater species, as wetlands, rivers and water quality are all affected by climate change.


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