75,000 homes in East of England could experience ‘devastating impact’ of global warming

PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 August 2020

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA.

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA.


More than 75,000 homes across the East of England could be put at risk of flooding over the next 30 years, more than double the current number.

The warning came during a meeting of Essex Climate Action Commission, an independent group of academics, politicians and business leaders advising Essex County Council on how to fight climate change.

Kathryn Brown, head of adaptation at the Committee on Climate Change, said the global risk from climate change is higher than infectious diseases or fiscal crisis.

She said the UK climate has already changed, the sea level is rising, and further change by 2050 is inevitable.

She added Essex, along with other parts of East Anglia, will see hotter summers, water shortages and the degradation of agricultural land unless ‘large-scale, ambitious interventions’ are introduced.

Currently, over 30,000 residential properties are at significant flood risk in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, mostly from coastal and surface water flooding. The prediction by the 2050s is that over 70,000 will be at risk.

“Although we are looking at 2050s, planning for this has to start now. This is particularly the case for things that take a long time, like infrastructure, planning, housing, environment protection and restoration,” she said.

She added that the UK’s annual economic cost of climate change damage is estimated at £18bn. The prediction is based on research funded by the European Union, and includes costs caused by river and coastal flooding, drought, crop productivity, electricity production cost and heat and cold mortality.

“It’s actually very difficult to find the UK number for economic damage cost by the end of the century. This is EU funded research, which is the closest thing we have at the moment. We don’t have the regional numbers yet. You’re looking at an annual damage costing £18billion per year. The projection is for the world as it is today.”

Essex and surrounding areas are likely to experience some of the most significant water shortages across the UK, if no climate action is taken, with demand outstripping supply. The report predicted that high emissions coupled with inaction could make most of the UK’s agricultural land unusable because of drought and soil erosion by 2050.

Lord Randall, chair of the Essex Climate Action Commission, said: “It is very clear from what we have heard and discussed during this meeting that now is the time to act on climate change.

“The time has passed for us to be tinkering about on the edges of climate change. This whole pandemic shows that we can act quickly and decisively.

“Now, this Commission will consider the further recommendations we need to make to ensure that we build on these positive developments, so that the people and businesses of Essex have a greener, healthier and greater future to look forward to.”

Councillor Simon Walsh, cabinet member for the environment said: “I am extremely grateful for all the hard work of the Essex Climate Action Commission and its commissioners in helping Essex understand how best it can tackle climate change and meet the significant challenges ahead.”

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