Is Somerset ready for climate change?

Flooding in Somerset
Flooding in Somerset

On Wednesday evening around 200 people attended the McMillan Theatre in Bridgwater to listen and take part in debate led by Professor Lord John Krebs, whose illustrious academic history includes Chairmanship of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and who is currently a member of the advisory Climate Change Committee.

The event was hosted by the Taunton Branch of the Royal Society of Arts and chaired by Matthew Taylor, a frequent radio and television commentator on policy and political issues, journalist and former policy advisor to the Labour Party.

Professor Lord John Krebs began by setting out the problems of climate change which faced us  – rising sea levels, increased flooding and extremes of temperature. He was not overtly political but he explained how funding and support for ‘green’ initiatives previously put in place under Labour had been systematically withdrawn over the past few years.

He criticised the fact that houses continued to be built in high risk areas and that more than half of local authorities do not have up to date plans to mitigate flood risks.

As Chair of the Climate Change Adaption Sub-Committee (set up in 2009, under Labour), he is trying to achieve amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill which currently going through the House of Lords, in order to introduce sustainable urban drainage schemes (SUDS) for new developments, whereby  the developer would share the responsibility and cost for mitigation against flood risk.

Flood Re

Lord John Krebs
Lord John Krebs

He was critical of the newly launched insurance scheme (Flood Re) in that it didn’t include the provision that houses should be made more flood resilient when being refurbished.

He told the audience how cultivating traditional flood meadows with crops such as maize added to the problem as it compacted the land.

He talked about the importance of energy efficiency in the role of combatting climate change, along with incentives (through the EU Common Agricultural Policy) to compensate farmers for loss of crops to encourage them to retain the old flood meadows.  He added that he did not know how such initiatives would be funded if Britain withdrew from the EU.

He also stressed the responsibility falls upon us all to reduce the impact of climate change – from simple acts of recycling, walking and cycling instead of driving where possible, not concreting over our gardens and using energy devices.

A comprehensive question and answer session with the audience followed.  Many pertinent questions were put to Lord Krebs, including some from Maureen Smith, who is a Labour Councillor on Minehead Town Councillor, who is an active environmentalist, around the needs for SUDS and the impact of tourism in Somerset following the 2014 floods.

In conclusion, it was an excellent evening of well-informed debate which, although did not answer the question as to whether Somerset was ready to adapt to climate change, gave much food for thought.

Find your ward using the SCC ward finder

Privacy Policy

To read our Privacy Policy and GDPR compliance statement click here.