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UK unprepared for climate change as severe floods hit northern England

UK unprepared for climate change as severe floods hit northern England.

Work is continuing around the clock to limit the effects of serious flooding that engulfed large parts of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire last week.

The news comes as further rain is forecast on Thursday and Friday this week, which the Environment Agency (EA) is warning could bring further severe water and river flooding to those areas already affected by floods and cause flooding in other parts of the country.

The floods have again brought climate change firmly into the spotlight, and brought home serious reminders of a hard-hitting report earlier this summer by the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) which claimed that UK action on climate change was lagging way behind what’s needed, and accused the government of not yet addressing all of the climate risks that it itself had identified as critical.

Over 300 EA staff are currently working 24/7 around the country, 200 troops have been deployed to put up temporary flood barriers and move sandbags to areas across South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and the EA say they are working closely with partners including local authorities, Defra and the military to support the cross-government effort.

Environmental experts have blamed the latest floods on a combination of climate change, poor land management, and building on flood plains – and have warned that big floods are likely to become more frequent because of climate breakdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was met with a frosty reception when he visited some of the areas affected by the latest flooding today, but said: “The recent flooding has had a devastating effect on people and businesses, and it’s essential that our communities have the support they need to recover. I want to express my deep gratitude to the emergency services, Armed Forces, Environment Agency and local authorities across the country who have responded to the flooding with distinction.”

However, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ have pledged multi-billion pound funding for improved flood defences ahead of next month’s general election.

Labour have pledged £5.6bn to level up flood defences over 10 years, funded through a £250bn Green Transformation Fund, increasing capital spending to the amount that it says the Environment Agency estimates is needed to defend against the increased risk of flooding caused by global heating, and also to begin upgrading flood defences nationwide in line with the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission.

The Liberal Democrats' have also pledged to invest in flood defences, creating a £5bn flood prevention and adaptation fund, and also increasing DEFRA's budget by £1bn per year, which they say will ensure that bodies like the Environment Agency receive more funding. 

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We need to do everything we can to help those families who have already suffered, and protect communities from further potential flooding. More must be done to prevent these crises from happening in the future. Every year we don’t act means higher flood waters, more homes ruined and more lives at risk due to climate change.”