UK warned to brace for rising tide of new flood risks

The chief executive of the UK Environment Agency has warned the country to brace for a more frequent and severe flooding risks as the country’s climate continues to change.

Sir James Bevan issued the warning as he laid out the UK’s Natural Flood Management Programme adding it had to form a core part of the nation’s defence against flooding and climate change.

Following a report published by the Environment Agency, he outlined his vision for natural flood management to be seen shoulder to shoulder with its programme of crucial bricks and mortar hard defences.

The report evaluates the impact of the national Natural Flood Management Programme which received £15 million of government funding, including benefits to communities and to biodiversity alongside protecting homes and businesses from floods.

Bevan said: “The warning signs of the climate crisis are stark – and sadly devastating flooding is likely to become a more familiar sight over the next century.

“As we prepare for more extreme weather events, we must use every weapon in our armoury and Natural Flood Management will play an essential role in this.

“By harnessing the power of nature alongside our traditional flood defences, we can not only help keep communities safer, but also create wildlife havens and tackle the climate emergency.”

He added: “This week, governments from around the world are coming together for COP 15 to agree on how to halt and reverse nature loss.

“We are facing a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis that places considerable stress on nature and wildlife. Natural flood management is a key way to address these challenges, by improving resilience to flooding, enhancing biodiversity, storing carbon and helping regulate the local climate.

“Natural flood management helps to slow the flow of water across the landscape – including the re-meandering of rivers, the restoration of wetlands and targeted woodland planting.”

Environment minister Rebecca Pow echoed his views.

“We know that flooding can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, homes and livelihoods,” she added. “That is why we are investing a record £5.2 billion in flood and coastal defences to ensure more communities are better prepared – and nature-based solutions are a key component of this.

“The additional benefits of Natural Flood Management for people and wildlife are vast – helping us reach our ambitious Net Zero targets, providing vital new habitats and creating areas of natural beauty for people to enjoy for generations to come.”

Mark Lloyd, CEO of Rivers Trusts, said: “Our country faces several major environmental threats and we cannot solve them one at a time.  Managing landscapes to store more water provides multiple benefits to society, and can therefore attract multiple sources of funding.  This pilot programme needs to become business as usual urgently and we need to break down the barriers to delivery at scale.”