Skip to main content
Creating a better place

Climate change is not a distant threat

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Climate change

low water level in a river

Today, people all around the world are taking part in the climate strike. The reasons why are simple: storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves are getting worse. Obviously, this poses risks to young people’s future, but it’s no longer something we talk about as a distant threat. It’s also about your retirement.

That means that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions faster (the UK Government’s net zero commitment is an essential step), and we also need to get ready for unavoidable impacts.

Last week, the Global Commission on Adaptation released the report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience. It said that without action, millions of people around the world will be pushed further into poverty, conflict and instability, but with investment climate adaptation can deliver a “triple dividend” by avoiding future losses, generating positive economic gains through innovation, and delivering additional social and environmental benefits.

Governments have a huge responsibility here, but in my role as UK Commissioner to the Global Commission on Adaptation I mostly talk about the importance of the private sector.

Private businesses fund billions of pounds worth of infrastructure projects around the world which investors will want to draw a return from during a period of increasing climate risks. That means that the finance sector has a leadership role in dealing with the climate crisis. Next week, I’ll be in New York at the UN Climate Summit talking to international business leaders about how to use finance to reduce emissions and deliver the “triple dividend”.

As we know from our work at the Environment Agency, the climate emergency is an all-encompassing issue, so collaboration and coordination across organisations, sectors and international borders is critical. In May, we launched a long-term Flood and Coastal Risk Management Strategy for England.

The Defra Minister Lord Gardiner, wrote in the government’s National Adaptation Programme, that: “while we continue to play a leading role in international efforts to keep global temperature rises well below 2°C… our resilience will only be robust if we prepare for worse climate change scenarios.”

We agree and our eventual aim is for the Secretary of State and Parliament to approve a strategy that will make the nation more resilient whether we face a temperature rise of 2°C or 4°C.

That will be something to shout about at COP26 which the UK has been nominated to hold in 2020. The COPs, or Conference of the Parties, are the biggest international events in climate change (the Paris Agreement is so called because it was signed at the Paris COP), and presents a huge opportunity to mobilise action, and also to showcase existing best-practice in green finance, nature conservation and climate resilience here in the UK.

That work received a boost last week when the Secretary of State announced £62 million of additional funding to better protect communities which are vulnerable to flooding.

In total, more than 9,000 homes will be better protected. It will help us to go even further in our mission to better protect communities up and down the country from the terrible effects of flooding. We will work closely with these communities to design and build projects which not only reduce flood risk but also benefit wildlife and the local economy.

Speaking to Parliament earlier this year Greta Thunberg said: “Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

We like to think that our work is beginning to lay the foundation, but no one can afford to be complacent. My message in New York next week will be that everyone needs to accelerate climate investment, and action, now.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Elly Whiteford posted on

    Environmental leave days - plant trees. We need to plant trees to help tackle climate change so why doesn't the EA give every team an away day planting trees in local projects? Is direct contribution to CC and good public profile-and fun for us.

    • Replies to Elly Whiteford>

      Comment by Olivia Broad posted on

      Hi Elle, We are organising an environmental outcome day for CED management team to plant trees with Forestry England. I have some contact details If you would like to organise a date for your team too?

  2. Comment by Ivan Golpe posted on

    Quote: "That means that the finance sector has a leadership role in dealing with the climate crisis."
    In my opinion, the finance sector had a very significant role CREATING the climate crisis. I don't think it's wise to involve them into the solution.

    Last time we allowed the creators of the problem (bankers) to solve the crisis they created (2008), they just kept on profiting themselves and generating more instability.

    Why would this time be any different?

  3. Comment by Ian posted on

    I strongly support all measures to increase biodiversity, as anyone working for this organisation should. But having once been a believer in man-made global warming, after thirty years of studious interest in the topic I have long since come to the view that there is no evidence that man-made CO2 has anything to do with natural cycles of the earth's climate. Of far more concern should be the effects of excessive land drainage, that was subsidised by the government up until the 1980s, which has led to significant flooding problems downstream. In the National Rivers Authority days there was a huge department called "Land Drainage". This department soon became "Flood Defence" as the negative impacts were realised. What is even more worrying is the ridicule, verging on abuse, you receive on many public fora for questioning the man-made global warming theory. We are routinely told that there is a scientific "consensus" supporting this. But "consensus" is a political word, not a scientific one. There have been numerous genius scientists such as Galileo, for example, who were definitely not part of any consensus, was persecuted for his theories, but whose teachings came to be accepted scientific fact.

  4. Comment by Joe Cocker posted on

    How exactly is this an emergency? I'm 50 years old. The same plants & animals are here in the UK now as they were in my childhood. Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer start at the same time. We had floods & drought back then. The worst weather disaster we had was the 1987 hurricane. Sure it's ever so slightly warmer on average but hardly an emergency. Daily temperatures vary all the time so hardly surprising that flora & fauna are unperturbed.

  5. Comment by Jeremy Hopwood posted on

    I watched the video of Day 2 of the NFU conference that you attended. If I'd been in the audience I would have been frustrated: you talked about what people are talking about and should be talking about and what the Environment Agency wants to work on but no answers, no solutions, no what is being implemented to solve problems. You were asked, for example, what measurement system the agency would put in place and you talked about how data should be shared between entities. As a farmer I would not have been reassured that government is on top of the issues.


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.