So here we are at the end of Flood & Coast 2019 day 2. I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s daily update summarising the key highlights and managed to get to some of the sessions we flagged for today.
Sally Randall, Defra’s Director for Floods and Water, opened our plenary session today which was focusing on the second of the Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Strategy themes, today’s infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate (consultation open until 4 July). The Environment Agency’s Chair, Emma Howard Boyd, gave her reflections on the need for action and pace in making the progress on this theme. Emma highlighted the importance of considering resilience from the beginning of decision-making in order to achieve maximum impact for best cost. Sally also reminded us that today is International Women in Engineering Day and said how pleased she was to be chairing such a gender diverse panel.
Alison Baptiste, Director of Operations at the Infrastructure Project Authority started this morning’s debate by challenging delegates to consider whether, collectively, we are far-sighted enough? Alison made the point that 90% of infrastructure built 100 years ago is still in operation now. Are we making decisions today that will be able to adapt to the changes we’ll see over the next 100 years? Benjamin Clayton, Head of Strategy at Homes England reminded us that two unquestionable priorities for government going forward will be homes and the climate change. Whilst these may have been seen as being in conflict in the past, Benjamin shared his hope that strong collaboration can change this. We need to create sustainable homes, in places that last.
We then heard from two international speakers. John Englander, Oceanographer and Sea Level Rise Expert, gave us a succinct and very clear picture of the risk we face. John certainly showed us the value of following his advice about communicating with clear language that is not open to misinterpretation, something which has been echoed by many across the conference so far. Natalia Moudrak, Director at the Impact Centre on Climate Adaptation in Canada gave us some fascinating insights into the way recent flooding has increased the interest and involvement of the insurance industry in Canada. This has been both in terms of home insurance and life insurance as the tangible recovery and the lasting mental health impacts have been realised.
The exhibition hall is always at its busiest on day 2 and this year was no different. The climate adaptation pledge wall has been a popular feature and I’d encourage you to visit it and make your personal pledge if you’ve not done so already. There’s lots to do and see and learn about and it’s great to see the innovation from our exhibitors designed to attract you to their stands. If you’ve not explored yet then do try to make time in your diary tomorrow: I promise you won’t be disappointed!
We all know water doesn’t respect boundaries or indeed behave differently depending on which side of a boundary it ‘belongs’. So unsurprisingly there was a lot of commonality when we heard from representatives of the 5 nations that manage water in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A tricky session to summarise but some of the strongest common themes were influencing good spatial planning decisions, securing funding for the infrastructure we need and the importance of more wide-ranging and integrated partnerships. Reflections from all of our panel members about flooding in their own countries underlined the fact that dealing with climate change necessitates a step change in the way we understand risk, we plan to manage it and we work with communities to adapt.
It was great to have such a well-attended session specifically looking at the coast following on from the thought provoking in-conversation session between Emma Howard Boyd and BBC Coast’s Nick Crane. As ever, investment was a key theme. There were some great lessons around articulating the benefits that come after injections of funding in order to demonstrate the broader added value. This in turn helps to give local businesses the confidence to make their own commitments.
Last year’s conference saw the formation of the Women in Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk (FCERM) Management initiative and I was delighted to make this an important part of this year’s conference too, particularly on International Women in Engineering Day. The session was packed with honest reflections and lessons from the panel, an impressive run-down of what the volunteers have achieved over the past year and more information about the exciting mentoring pilot which will start this autumn.
Excitingly the first part of the session was given over to presenting the first Women in FCERM awards. These are given to individuals, one female and one male, who have actively promoted and influenced gender balance, diversity and inclusion in the work place. The judging panel were absolutely inspired by the nominations but I want to add my congratulations to the winners who are Anita Camilleri of Capita and Mike Bowen of Jacobs.
Tomorrow we will look towards the future and how skills and education need to be harnessed in addressing our third strategy theme of creating a nation of climate champions who not only understand but also act to respond to the challenges ahead. Join us at 09:15 to hear from Harriet Green, Defra’s Chief Digital Officer; Patrick Stephenson, Client Managing Director at Fujitsu; Dr Teresa Bridgeman, Chair of the West Somerset Flood Group; Rob Davis, Flood Lead for the National Fire Chiefs; and, Emma Greenwood, Youth MP for Bury.
I’m excited to see two more firsts for Flood & Coast tomorrow. Number one is the digital flood dragon session – pitch to prototype. Five finalists will pitch their ideas followed by questions from the ‘Digital Dragons’ and the audience. After this the audience will vote for their favourite. Second is an interactive ‘live incident exercise’ session which will give some insight into the challenges of decision making and prioritisation during an incident. Please do come along and get involved.
Thank you for your support today. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to seeing you tomorrow. It’s the Project Excellence Awards this evening, so good luck if you're a shortlisted project team member!
Deputy Director FCERM, Environment Agency and Chair of Advisory Committee