COP21, climate change and flooding

At COP21, the UN conference held in Paris in December, a historic deal was struck that united 195 nations in a single agreement – each vowed to play a part in seriously tackling climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Among the deal’s key elements is the target to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2°C and, over time, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by humans to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can naturally absorb. Richer countries will also aid poorer countries by providing “climate finance”, helping them to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

The deal has been hailed as momentous, bringing together countries like the US and China, that, outwardly, have radically differing interests – the global concerns about the effects of climate change are very different to the local concerns of individual nations. The UK, for example, is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, severe weather and frequent rainfall – just a few of the risks that should incentivise measures to help curb global climate change.

Shortly afterwards, and for the second time in three years, many parts of Britain greeted the New Year with their homes, businesses and communities ruined by floodwater. This is no longer a once-in-a-generation occurrence and the devastating effects of Storm Desmond can partly be attributed to the results of climate change.

And with one in six homes at risk of flooding from coastal, river and surface water, and the increased volatility of weather patterns, the UK cannot wait for climate change deals to take effect. The UK’s urgency for action at the COP21 conference in December undermines individual departmental policy at home. The need for a much stronger focus on the resilience of properties in high-risk areas is evident and industry experts are calling for measures such as raised electrical sockets and water-resistant building materials. Perhaps building regulations in at-risk areas could help prevent the devastation seen in Cumbria and Lancashire this winter.