2022: The Year of Climate Adaptation
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency speech to the Coastal Futures conference

“Thank you for inviting me to speak at this year’s Coastal Futures conference.

In 1953, 307 lives were lost on land and more than 177 people were lost at sea in the east coast surge. Caused by a mixture of high spring tides, low pressure and strong northerly gales, it led to significant developments in flood protection, forecasting, and warning and informing systems.
The effectiveness of these improvements means that today, many people do not realise they are artificially shielded from disaster. For instance, halfway through COP26, millions of people were protected from the highest tide of the year because we operated the Boston Barrier, the Hull Barrier and the Thames Barrier. It’s self-evidently a good thing that people can live without fear.

But, lack of awareness compounds future risks. Last year, 200 people died in Germany’s floods.
It was reported that people did not know what to do when they heard warnings. Following that tragedy, we reviewed the situation in England. Here, 61 percent of people living at flood risk do not understand that they are. In November, Storm Arwen hit the coast leading to waves over 10 metres tall. Had these waves coincided with a high or spring tide, impacts could have been worse than in 1953.”

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