In Brief

UK towns ‘may need to be abandoned’ due to flood threat

Environment Agency warns ‘we cannot win war against water’

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn called for better flood defences and said cuts to emergency services have become a serious issue

Some UK towns may need to be abandoned as climate change increases the threat of floods, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned. 

The EA said urgent action will be required to prepare for an average global temperature rise of 4C, as the UK faces the prospect of flooding that would not be held back by higher land defences.

The Independent says the warning comes amid a “growing number of weather disasters,” while The Guardian adds that the warning “makes clear that some areas of the UK and some homes and businesses cannot be protected”. The Sun adds that in the future “whole communities might have to be evacuated”.

The EA believes that homes in high risk areas must be redesigned to cope with floods, with raised electrics and hard flooring. It warns that climate change and population growth will double the number of properties built on the flood plain over the next five decades. 

Chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd warned “we cannot win a war against water” by building higher and higher flood defences and that resilience-measures need to be rolled out.

The government agency is publishing its long-term strategy for managing floods and coastal erosion. It outlines how the UK would cope with up to 4C of warming – a far more dramatic temperature shift than the 1.5C or 2C limits agreed internationally. It expects more intense bursts of rain and continuing coastal erosion.

The EA demands that government policy ensures that all publicly funded infrastructure is resilient to flooding and coastal change by 2050. “We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences,” said Howard Boyd.

She said property owners must be encouraged to rebuild homes after flooding in safer locations, but added that in some neighbourhoods “the scale of the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best long term solution” and communities would need help to “move out of harm's way”.

In response to the news, Environment Minister Therese Coffey accepted that flooding and coastal erosion can have “terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment”.

She claimed the government is providing £2.6bn over six years, delivering more than 1,500 projects to better protect 300,000 homes, but she added that “the threat of climate change will mean an increasing risk and preparing the country is a priority for the government, and the nation as a whole”.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth said the “focus must be first and foremost on slashing emissions so that we can avoid the worst consequences of climate chaos in the first place”.

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