Causeway were delighted to exhibit at the NCE Flood Management Forum on the 22nd of November at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The forum brought together professionals across the flood management and climate resilience sector to gain critical insight, network and learn from key industry leaders.

Ken Allison, Director of Allocation and Asset Management at the Environment Agency, opened the conference by addressing the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published in October. Ken described the report as “a desperate plea to find a global warmth below 1.5°C, with frightening consequences if we’re not able to do so”.

Ken explored the report further, stating that if we are to exceed 1.5°C by even half a degree, we will see both sea and storm levels rise, leading to a massive impact on populations. Given the challenges we face globally, Ken stressed the need for the UK to future-proof its infrastructure, calling for us look ahead 100 years and begin creating long-term investment scenarios which allow us to plan for this uncertain future.

Furthermore, Ken moved on to discuss emerging work in the industry on the effects of flooding on mental health. Alongside the devastating damage to property, research is beginning to recognise the considerable impact of flooding on mental health. Ken emphasised the importance of reviewing what this impact means in economic terms so that information can be better built into business cases. This would then allow flood management professionals to better protect communities and homes, and ensure people recognise the broader benefits of flood protection.

Discussion shifted during the following session, as panellists discussed the question: What does delivery of the 25 year plan look like?

Panel Discussion

Michael Timmins, Director – Water North at AECOM,  kicked the panel session off, outlining that whilst challenges have been raised from the 25 Year Environment Plan, it crucially brings all elements of infrastructure into one language, and addresses “our environment” in its entirety, as a whole.

Andrew Sissons, Deputy Director of Economic and Social Science at the Environment Agency, agreed with Michael, adding that the plan presents a big opportunity for all of the environment, with the use of a collective term ensuring that people are seen as connected to that environment. Andrew stressed “it’s not just about the catchments, but the people as well.”

Michael Timmins continued, stating that we must begin to view infrastructure projects as a extension of “our environment” rather than taking a siloed approach. The same must also be done for the way in which we currently think of flood risk management resources in silos (Natural Flood Management, Sustainable Drainage Design, etc.)

Andrew responded, stressing that we “must work together to fit these resources together. There is not one solution to fix everything.”

Matt Crossman, Team Leader at the National Infrastructure Commission, was next to take the stage. Matt walked through the recommendations that the commission have submitted to the government in light of their National Infrastructure Assessment, focussing specifically on reducing the risks of drought and flooding across the UK.

The National Infrastructure Commission have proposed a national standard should be set for resilience to flooding with an annual likelihood of 0.5% by 2050, where feasible. Matt added that the National Infrastructure Assessment is key to “ensuring there is a level of ambition across all of the infrastructure sectors.”

Matt also drew on some of the earlier discussions around funding, stressing that “ambition isn’t enough to make it happen, to deliver this strategy we need adequate investment”, and urged water authorities and local authorities to work more closely together to ensure progress is made on the plan.

As Matt’s presentation drew to a close, he poignantly reminded the audience that more than 2 million homes are currently at more than a 1% chance of high risk flooding, and as such, emphasised that whilst it’s important to get the long term ambition right, some action needs to start taking place now as homes are at real risk today.

The theme of collaboration was woven into the day, with the latter Stakeholder Response Panel picking up on some of the earlier comments regarding the need for greater co-operation within the sector.

Stakeholder Response Panel

Paul Cobbing, Chief Executive of the National Flood Forum, raised planning and development as a major issue. Whilst acknowledging that some local authorities are doing a great job, he stressed that greater strategic co-ordination is needed. He probed, “How do we work together for a common long term goal? How do we be more ambitious? It’s really important that we collectively step up to the plate.”

The panel echoed the earlier discussions around the need to think of infrastructure projects as a collective, with the same approach needed when looking at funding. The NCE Editor, Mark Hansford, summarised that a “we’re all in this together” approach is needed, whilst the panel continued to urge the government to start thinking of infrastructure as a system and acting as a system. This would enable them to eliminate boundaries and align infrastructure providers to think and act as a whole.

As the day drew to a close, it’s clear that challenges remain for the industry. The threat of global warming continues to concern flood management professionals, as we could see a huge increase in flooding across the globe. Presentations at the conference highlighted the need for greater planning and collaboration across both flood management resources, and wider infrastructure across the UK. After the discussions of the day, it remains clear that the UK government must begin to view and fund infrastructure as a system, rather than isolated projects in order to better prepare for the uncertain future.

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