Welcome to the first of our daily summaries from Flood and Coast 2019, highlighting some of the key events of the day.
John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Risk, opened the conference by talking about the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Strategy consultation which is open until 4 July – please tell us what you think. The conference will follow the three themes outlined in the strategy and today’s focus was about creating climate resilient places. Within this, John reminded us that ultimately flooding is a human issue and all we do is to help the people who live and work with flood risk.
Professor Stephen Belcher, Met Office Chief Scientist set out the scale of the challenge we’re trying to manage by reminding us that every year there is a 1:10 chance that we will see more extreme weather than we have on record. James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency outlined the ambition within the draft strategy to help us be ready for that. James said the best way to manage the future is to invent it – and the best way to do that is to do it together. Liv Garfield, Chief Executive of Severn Trent Water talked about the importance of environmental leadership, saying that although everyone needs to act, big companies must set the way and then demonstrated Severn Trent’s ambitions to do that by reaching net zero before 2030. Finally, the first of our international speakers, Bart Vonk of Rijkswaterstatt in the Netherlands outlined the challenge faced by colleagues across the North Sea and how we’re learning from one another in evolving our response.
As in previous years the exhibition hall was packed with some great innovations, services and technology. The buzz was tangible and it underlined the importance of Flood & Coast in building and sustaining the partnerships which allow us to manage flood and coastal erosion risk. Alongside this there were a varied range of speaker sessions and workshops from which our delegates could choose. There were too many highlights to detail but it was great to hear positive feedback on community leadership, planning growth and regeneration, the realities of sea-level rise, the future of flood warnings and much, much more.
The first of 3 FCERM Strategy sessions on exploring the adaptive pathways to resilience was so well attended we needed extra seats part way through! Julie Foley, the Environment Agency’s Director of National Strategy and Adaptation outlined what adaptive pathways mean and the benefits they can bring if used more widely in the future. We then heard some thoughts and examples from Somerset, Natural England on coastal adaptation and the National Infrastructure Commission. The panel discussed the challenge of securing funding that will have to work across a range of sectors to deal with multifaceted challenges and deliver broad ranging benefits. They also noted the scale of monies needed just to keep pace with increasing risk from climate change let alone reducing risk. Another theme was the importance of involving communities and using language which engages and inspires those who need to be involved.
Flood & Coast has worked hard to make sure our offer to delegates is broader and more inclusive year on year. One of our aims has been to strengthen our connections with businesses and learn what they can do to build and support a flood resilient economy. With this in mind we were delighted to welcome colleagues from Sainsbury’s, BT, Nestle, the Federation of Small Businesses and BITC's Business Emergency Response Group, each sharing lessons from their own approaches. Common themes were understanding the system within which your business operates so decision-makers are truly aware of the impact their decisions will have; effective collaboration and recognising that this is different to consensus; and helping different size businesses to be equally empowered and resilient.
It was also great to learn about the progress made by the Property Flood Resilience Round Table – and hear views on what needs to happen next. Speakers stressed the importance of there being a level playing field amongst suppliers so customers can be confident in what they’re getting. They also discussed the need to look to the longer-term on insurance.
We were delighted to welcome colleagues starting out in their FCERM careers to this second year of ‘Next Generation’ events running alongside the main conference. The FCERM Strategy rightly looks forward to 2050 and 2100 and the challenges that will be managed by the future leaders of our sector. This event is just one of the ways we’re reaching out to ensure we hear the voices of those folks now and understand their view of the future. The Next Generation event is a great way to help forge connections across the sector and it was great to see delegates’ enthusiasm and commitment to learning about others’ challenges and perspectives and so grow their own knowledge.
Tomorrow we’ll be focusing on the second of the FCERM Strategy themes: Today’s infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate. We’ll be looking at the collective action we need to take to ensure the coastal and inland infrastructure on which people and places rely is resilient in tomorrow’s climate. We will ask how do we put resilient infrastructure at the centre of supporting sustainable growth?
Be here at 09.15 to hear from Emma Howard Boyd, Chair, Environment Agency; Alison Baptiste CBE, Director of Operations at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority; Benjamin Clayton, Head of Strategy at Homes England; John Englander, Oceanographer and Sea Level Rise Expert; and, Natalia Moudrak, Director, Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (Canada). We’ve another packed agenda of speaker sessions and workshops, there’ll more opportunity to enjoy the exhibition hall and the Women in FCERM initiative, initiated at Flood and Coast 2018, will be sharing its progress and and looking to the year ahead.
Thank you for your support today. I hope you enjoyed it and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow at the show and then again in the evening when we will celebrate the best from 2018 at our Project Excellence Awards.
Deputy Director FCERM, Environment Agency and Chair of Advisory Committee
@floodandcoast.com / #FloodandCoast19