House of COMMONS









Tuesday 19 jANUARY 2010



Evidence heard in Public Questions 160 - 241




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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee

on Tuesday 19 January 2010

Members present

Mr Tim Yeo, in the Chair

Mr Martin Caton

Colin Challen

Mr David Chaytor

Dr Desmond Turner

Joan Walley


Memorandum submitted by the Environment Agency


Examination of Witnesses


Witnesses: Lord Smith of Finsbury, a Member of the House of Lords, Chairman, and Dr Paul Leinster CBE, Chief Executive, Environment Agency, gave evidence.

Q160 Chairman: Good morning and a warm welcome to the Committee. Our apologies for keeping you waiting. May I say that not only are you extremely welcome here this morning - and I know that we all appreciate the fruitful, informal dialogue we have had with you and indeed many of your staff in the last few months; but we also appreciated the use of your nice boat to go and visit the Thames Barrier just before Christmas, with some of your staff, which was an extremely interesting visit. I am afraid everyone got rather cold because I insisted on sitting outside at the back of the boat all the way down there. Welcome. Can I ask you a general question to start with about how well placed do you think Britain is to manage the very significant impacts which climate change is going to have on the country?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Thank you very much, Chairman, for your kind remarks and for the opportunity to meet the Committee. In answer to the question: I think reasonably well placed but we need to remain vigilant. The policy framework which is in place - the Climate Change Act, the adaptation reporting requirements, the work that the Environment Agency is charged with doing on flood, on water resources and on biodiversity, all put us in a reasonable place to understand what is coming down the track at us from climate change and how we are going to have to respond. Having said that, it does require a continued engagement from Government and Parliament and it requires sustained funding, especially in the area of flood risk management and flood defence, in order to make sure that we continue to meet the challenges.

Q161 Chairman: What, for example, did we learn from the lessons of the floods in Cumbria last year?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think we learned some positive lessons and also some lessons that we need to develop further. The positive lessons are that the new flood forecasting centre, which has brought the Met Office and the Environment Agency together in one place - the meteorologists and the hydrologists working in the same place and at the same desks - was very successful in identifying the event two, three days in advance; putting the warnings in place in good time and so on. The work that we had done to protect Carlisle was very successful and the temporary work which we did to fill the gap, which was not yet ready in Carlisle, did ensure that there were no properties affected by the flooding in Carlisle - in great contradistinction, of course, to what had happened in 2005. The lesson, though, I think that we do need to learn - and everyone needs to learn - is that the Cumbria event was a very extreme event; the highest concentration of rainfall in one location in England over a 24-hour period since records began. What we know from the science of climate change is that weather patterns are going to become more extreme, and we are going to see more events of this kind - very concentrated rain. What that means is that some of the traditional ways we have talked about preparing for flood defence - one in 100-year events, one in 1000-year events - will cease to be as meaningful as they perhaps were some years ago. The risk is going to get greater and we need to up our game in response to that.

Q162 Chairman: That is very interesting. It is clear that the profile of adaptation has risen and no doubt the recurrence of extreme weather events will ensure that profile remains high, certainly not just within central Government but I guess amongst the public generally. How do we make sure that with a higher profile that actually feeds through to making more process on tackling adaptation issues, and particular mention in the context of what is clearly going to be a period of very, very severe restraint on all areas of public spending?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: We have to try and square a circle with ever greater constraint on public funding and maintaining a good forward programme of flood defence work and flood risk management work. All the time we are looking at ways of achieving savings, making our flood defence work more efficient we are learning all the time about new ways of doing flood defence; so upstream flood storage is much cheaper than building huge great concrete walls and sometimes more effective. We need to look in each particular location at what is going to work best and how we can achieve the best value for the public purse. Just one other thing I would say is that is we need also to look beyond just relying on the public purse and the more that we can bring other partners into the funding of flood defence work the better.

Q163 Chairman: Like developers and so on?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Like developers, local authorities, Regional Development Agencies, as long as they exist, and indeed others.

Q164 Joan Walley: Can I just add to that? You are talking about a change in the way that we see things and there is a lot of talk just now about the new green economy, but for the purpose of investment in the infrastructure, which adaptation would need, are you saying that there needs to be a change in the way, for example, the Treasury, BIS Department and other departments view public investment so that there needs to be a set change away from GDP towards the more sustainable definition of GDP?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: On the big question at the heart of what you ask there my personal response would be yes, absolutely; we need to have a much better understanding of the true nature of individual citizens and communities' well being, and GDP does not always reflect that. However, we are stuck with making the case at the moment under a system where the Treasury look at GDP.

Q165 Joan Walley: But if where the Treasury looked at GDP changed and it really revised the so-called Green Book, to be a truly Green Book, would that not make it possible for you to find other means and sources of funding that would fund the essential work that you are saying is necessary, where we have to be innovative?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: It would transform an awful lot, including the way in which we were able to make the case. But the key thing I would say is that even under the present system of GDP the case for flood defence is very strong. The cost benefit of any flood defence work that we do, the benefit is at least five times the cost. The average cost to a home of being flooded is £20,000 to £30,000. The average cost to a home of being burgled is about £1000. So the damage that flooding does in terms of its impact on people's livelihoods is huge and the more that you can protect against that then the economic savings is enormous.

Q166 Joan Walley: Just to complete on this, my point as well was that if we are talking about prevention and if we are talking about the precautionary principle, how are you saying that that should be given a weight within the investment decisions that have been made by other Government bodies in terms of public expenditure? Is this not giving less focus on the precautionary principles, which is not really where it should be at the moment if we are really going to tackle this agenda?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think the more that we can make the case about the prevention of potential damage, which is the precautionary principle writ large, the better, yes.

Q167 Chairman: What role do you think the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Climate Change Committee is going to play in all this?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think it has the potential to play a very positive role and it has made a good start. It is early days yet, of course, but we as an agency very strongly supported the proposals that emerged from Parliament for including the Adaptation Sub-Committee in the mix alongside the main Committee on Climate Change. Putting upfront the need for adaptation which the Committee will enable to happen is a very positive thing. You and your colleagues will know only too well that even if we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide tomorrow, as a world climate change effects would carry on happening for 20 or 30 years; and even with a two degree rise in average global temperature, which we hope we will be able to hold things to, even with that, there is going to be a need for adaptation to take place. The more that fact can be put up in front of the public, the better.

Q168 Mr Caton: In your work is there a trade-off between investing in adaptive capacity by developing skills and knowledge on the one hand and taking action to adapt to specific climate impacts by addressing identified risks on the other? How do we get the balance right?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: We obviously need to do both. I am going to ask Paul to answer this.

Dr Leinster: On the skills agenda we are working with local authorities and with others on a foundation degree for flood risk management. We recognised that there was a need for people with additional skills, specifically in civil engineering, which address flood and coastal risk management. We have established a course with the University of West of England and we are putting people through that course and we also have people going through it who are sponsored by local authorities. So that is one strand of the work, making sure that that capacity is there. Then there is the work that we do, which looks at particular flood risk and water resource stresses and strains and what needs to be done to address those. Then there is the work that we also do, which is again working with things like the utilities and getting the utilities to take adaptive measures to protect critical infrastructure, and on that work we are working closely with the Cabinet Office.

Q169 Dr Turner: Lord Smith, your agency has come up with some fairly large round numbers for annual expenditure needed to invest in flood defence work. How difficult was it to arrive at these figures, which are obviously measured against future risk? But then risk is something which is changing and, as you have already pointed out, with the unprecedented volume and the concentrated period of the Cumbrian rainfall hazard it appears to be entering into a new and totally unpredictable dimension. So how certain are your predictions?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: The predictions we made in the long-term investment strategy work that we have done, we have looked at the UKCP09 figures, which are the best that we have to go on as far as likely impacts in the UK are concerned, and we have worked very carefully through those, assuming the impacts that are likely to arise from that in order to determine what levels of investment we would need over a 25, 30 year period in order to maintain the current level of protection for properties across England and Wales. We have then gone and talked to the Treasury and the Treasury have crawled all over our figures and have agreed that our working is absolutely in order and have agreed with the conclusions that we have reached. What they have not done, of course, is commit the actual figures and that is unlikely to happen this side of an election or, I suspect, the other. But the working of the best predictions we can make - and of course these are predictions, we cannot guarantee them - they are predictions about what we believe is going to be needed in terms of investment going forward to provide the right levels of protection. If I might add one other thing. One of the most interesting pieces of work we have done as an aside from the long-term investment strategy is the Thames Estuary 2100 work where what we have done is taken a number of different possible scenarios and we have said, "This is how policy would need to adapt depending on what actually happens on the ground." What I think we need increasingly to be able to do is to come up with strategic responses for investment going forward that can adapt to actual impacts on the ground as we find exactly what is happening as a result of climate change rather than just relying on predictions.

Q170 Dr Turner: As you have already pointed out, you do not have Treasury commitment to providing your figures and, knowing the Treasury, you may never. If you do not get the doubling of spending up to 2035 that you want to see, what do you think are the implications for the country and for the country's economy, especially given the financial impact of flooding to which you have already referred? Multiply that to a national scale and what do you think are the implications for further Cumbrian style events possibly covering even a bigger scale, bigger areas? Just how bad could the financial damage be if you cannot get the investment that you need?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: If the investment does not go in then fewer properties will be protected. It is a very clear equation that when each Government comes along we will have to make and spell out to them, "Here is the level of protection you get for a particular quantity of investment. If that investment is not put in place then you are going to have to be honest with people and say that the level of protection will be lower."

Dr Leinster: What we found in the long-term investment strategy is that currently about 500,000 properties are at a one in 75-year risk, so they are at significant risk of flooding. If you want to keep that number steady, so maintain the level of risk over the next 25 years, then you would have to, as you say, double the amount of money that is going in to construction of new defences. If you do not and you hold it at the same level as it is now, then the number of houses at significant risk doubles. As a country if it is thought that 500,000 properties currently at significant risk is too great then the amount of money required is even greater. So one of the things we are proposing with our long-term investment strategy is to keep it under review so that as we see what is actually happening with climate change then we are able to adjust those figures.

Q171 Dr Turner: If investment is delayed does it mean then that necessary flood defence works become more expensive?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Inevitably the cost of construction rises in normal circumstances. We have been through a rather odd patch over the course of the last year and a half, but on the whole things will be more expensive the more they are delayed. Of course climate change marches inexorably on, so the need is going to become more urgent as we go further into the future.

Q172 Dr Turner: How helpful are the latest climate change projections? How do they help you and how do they help other organisations that need to be involved in the planning?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: The UKCP figures that emerged six or seven months ago are helpful in providing an agreed benchmark to which everyone is able to work. As we have said, they are the best predictions that can be made but they remain predictions, which is why, having adaptability built into policy making as you go forward, and into the strategies that you put in place so that you can adapt to what actually happens on the ground is, I think, a very sensible way to proceed.

Q173 Dr Turner: What helpful changes can you see in the way that climate change is projected?

Dr Leinster: If you look at the previous UKCP it was at a very broad scale. The current UKCP09 has provided detail which enables us to look at a regional basis, and I think that the further development will be able to predict at a sensible but more local level because we work on catchments, so we need to understand what is happening at a catchment level. But it is always important to note that rainfall falling in slightly different places spatially will have significantly different impacts on communities.

Q174 Joan Walley: In respect of the spending on flood defences and how you are going to ensure that there is sufficient funding there to pay for all that is needed for that one in 75-year risk, can I ask what kind of pressure the insurance companies are bringing to bear, because presumably they have such a huge interest in this and so do they have any say? What sort of engagement do you have with them because I would have thought that that was an important element of all of this?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: We have a very close dialogue with the insurance industry. Following the floods of recent years they put in place a Statement of Principles, which they agreed with the Government and, effectively, what that is is a bargain that says provided the Government, through the Environment Agency, invests properly in flood defence work across the country they, the insurance industry, will continue to insure existing customers. Even where a property has been flooded or is at flood risk they will continue to provide insurance cover to them. That agreement lasts until 2013 but it does provide an added bit of pressure on the Government and the public purse because if there is a sudden diminution or withdrawal of money for flood defence work then the insurance industry will understandably say, "Sorry, the bargain is being broken."

Q175 Colin Challen: You have mentioned already the need to identify extra sources of income in the light of the austerity programme that we are all facing over the next ten years, and local beneficiaries of flood protection work clearly might be a suitable case in point. Do you have any proposals in mind about how to extract more money from the local beneficiaries of flood protection work?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I would put that into two potential categories. One is the people who will directly benefit in terms of protection for their properties. This is particularly important where you have perhaps a very small number of properties which require some form of protection but where any cost benefit analysis would simply not provide sufficient benefit for the cost of providing defence, and in those circumstances on a number of occasions in the last couple of years now we have worked very closely with the property owners concerned and tried to put together a package of funding which enables them to put some money in. They may seek some funding from the local authority as well. We can put a bit of money in but not the cost of a whole all-singing, all-dancing permanent defence. Because we help the self-help process of the property owners concerned we are able to come up with a good scheme with which they are happy and which they have been part of putting in place. Increasingly, in the small and scattered communities around the country that is an approach that we will want to develop. The other way in which this can happen is where putting flood defences in place enables development to happen behind the defences. Recently in the centre of Ipswich, for example, we put some new harbour defences in place and that has enabled the development of a university campus, some commercial properties, some residential properties to happen on Ipswich Harbour which would not previously have been possible. What happened was a combination of Environment Agency funding, funding from Ipswich City Council and funding from the developments that was put in place in order to provide the protection. Increasingly I think we will see that sort of approach happening as well.

Q176 Colin Challen: Are you having discussions with the insurance industry? I am sure you are. Are they proving to be effective partners in tackling this problem?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: In one or two specific localities they are. We have also had some quite fruitful discussions with some of the insurance companies about the degree of resilience which is enabled to be put in place for properties that have been flooded and are being restored back into a habitable condition, rather than just putting them back as they were; building in very simple resilience measures like protection for the door threshold, covers for air bricks, electrics up at a higher level, waterproof plaster and so on, relatively simple things which can make a world of difference if there is another flooding event.

Q177 Colin Challen: Where local authorities have in the past approved housing developments, say, on floodplain areas or areas of known risk and then that area suffers a flood, should the authority pay any kind of retrospective penalty, do you think, for having committed what was a risky development in the first place?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I do not think we would be thanked by local authorities for insisting that they paid a penalty. However, we would want to make it increasingly clear to local authorities that there will be some locations where it would be very foolish to permit development to take place. There may be others where the pressure for development is so great that a local authority will nonetheless decide they are going to go ahead, but my second best option in such circumstances would be to say, "Okay, if you are going to permit the development to go ahead then for heaven's sake insist that the developer builds in resilience to the properties that are constructed." Where we would absolutely maintain our opposition in undying fashion would be if a development created additional flood risk for other places, which sometimes, of course, the creation of a development can do.

Q178 Colin Challen: In finding new sources of funding do you think that the Environment Agency needs any additional powers?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I do not think so is the answer to that.

Q179 Colin Challen: So it is a very cooperative world out there then, I guess.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: It is cooperative and there are times when I wish, for example, that the insurance companies would be readier to adjust premiums in order to reflect levels of resilience in properties and in order to encourage better resilience to be put in place. I think the insurance world has a bit further to go on that. I would much rather work by cooperation and persuasion with them than by seeking new powers.

Q180 Colin Challen: Finally, given the fact that we are all responsible for climate change, to what extent should local people in particular areas have to face much higher costs themselves? Should it not always be spread out across the whole country, as it were, the finance requirement?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Of course the great bulk of expenditure on flood defence, on water resources and so forth is indeed spread out across the entire country because it is funded through general taxation. There are also places where there is a very particular impact and a very particular benefit to be derived and in those circumstances I think some contribution, especially where development is taking place that is new and that would not otherwise be possible, is fair.

Q181 Chairman: If I could press a little on the question of where development is planned in areas where there is a degree of risk. Since the cost of reacting afterwards to flooding problems is at the moment at least partly borne by the taxpayer or by you, therefore in terms the general taxpayer, would it not be helpful to be able to say that if development did take place in an area where you were particularly concerned and you have got a role as a statutory consultee the costs of any remedial work would then have to fall upon the authority which gave the consent for development in this rather risky location?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: If a development has taken place against our express advice the first thing that will potentially happen is that it will be impossible to insure the properties against flood risk and that, of course, immediately imposes potential extra costs on the owners of the properties. Again, I think focusing on the authority that gave the permission rather than, for example, on the developer who insisted on going ahead and doing the building might not be the right place on which to focus.

Q182 Chairman: On both of them perhaps in that case?

Dr Leinster: One of the issues that we also come across is pre-existing planning permissions, so these are historic. That is a particular issue.

Q183 Joan Walley: Picking up on this whole issue of existing land use and what was just said by the Chairman, one of the issues would be that it would assume that the Environment Agency had been properly consulted in respect of planning applications or even change of use and my experience is that quite frequently the Environment Agency is not fully formally consulted and it is very much an ad hoc process. Certainly that has been the case in some cases in Stoke-on-Trent. Would you feel that there should be greater emphasis on the role of the Environment Agency as a formal consultee in respect of all planning applications? Do you see what I mean? It often gets overlooked or comes in as an afterthought.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: We are a statutory consultee. What I am not sure about is if it is not in a floodplain, if there is no perceived flood risk I am not sure that there would be a particular point in insisting that we were consulted because we would simply say" We do not believe there is a flood risk here", but if there is a potential flood risk we have to be consulted.

Q184 Joan Walley: I was really just trying to focus on the relationship between planning and the Environment Agency and I feel sometimes that is a process which needs to be firmed up. It is a bit too ad hoc on occasions.

Dr Leinster: I think it has developed well over recent years and I think if we were to look historically I would agree with the position; but I think that we have worked very closely. We now have standing advice that we give out to all local authorities and our relationships with all local authorities now, their planning departments, are very good. The latest figures we have are that in 96 per cent of cases local authorities have taken our advice into account and have followed the advice that we have given. We also have a call-in provision where we can get the planning permission called in for scrutiny by the Secretary of State and we have done that on occasions.

Q185 Joan Walley: And you are monitoring the effects of that especially in respect of the four per cent where the 96 per cent has not applied it. Can I just move on to the new planning guidance? I know that the Environment Agency has been very focused on the new arrangements which have come in as a result of the legislation that has just gone through Parliament in respect of regional spatial planning and that new legislation requires attention to be given to climate change. I am very much aware that that guidance has not yet been issued as to how the Regional Development Agencies will take on board a regional strategy and I just wonder what you hope will come out of the new planning guidance insofar as it relates to adaptations.

Dr Leinster: We have worked very closely on the regional spatial strategies. We are a consultee within the process and in a number of regions we actually chair some of the sustainability or climate change panels that have been set up.

Q186 Joan Walley: In which regions do you chair that?

Dr Leinster: We are chairing the southwest, but we sit on all of them. Our voice is heard at that level and I think that we are being quite successful in making sure that climate change is now being taken into account. How far that will then get embedded within the spatial strategies we will yet see.

Q187 Joan Walley: So what aspects do you think should be embedded in the new regional strategies and planning guidance? You mentioned the southwest and I know, because of Jonathon Porritt's involvement, that that perhaps is state of the art in respect of sustainable development. Do you have best practice that has arisen out of your involvement in chairing that which would apply to the other regional areas under new legislation?

Dr Leinster: One of the things that we do is actively share our experience across the Environment Agency, so we pull together all of the people who work on climate change at a regional level and make sure that the lessons learned from one place are applied to another.

Q188 Joan Walley: But, specifically, is the Government recognising that in its preparations for the new planning guidance that is about to come into effect? If that planning guidance is not absolutely encapsulating what needs to be included in terms of adaptation we will all have missed the boat, will we not? What needs to be in that planning guidance?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: You are right to identify the need for adaptation to climate change to be embedded in the guidance and that means, amongst other things, flood risk, changes to coast - erosion, flood risk and so on from coast - levels of water resources, what is likely to happen to flows in rivers regionally, water efficiency standards, codes for sustainable homes and sustainable building, green infrastructure. There is a range of elements which are essential aspects of adaptation to climate change that need to be absolutely embedded in the regional strategies, and that is the case that we are making very strongly both at regional levels on the committees on which we sit, but also to Government more generally.

Q189 Joan Walley: You submitted an additional piece of evidence on the Total Place, which is a new government initiative that is looking to pool resources and to join up places. How does that relate to the need for adaptation and also the precautionary work of the Environment Agency as well? How do you see you having an input into that, given that in its pilot early stages that programme appears not to have included the issues that we are discussing here?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: The Environment Agency has not been labelled as part of the Total Place programme, but we had been involved in the pilot.

Q190 Joan Walley: Should it have been? Is it an oversight that it has not been? Would you have liked it to have been?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: There are some aspects of our work which absolutely, yes, must be part of the Total Place approach. It is, however, slightly more complicated than in relation to some other public services. The most obvious example is a river will flow from one Total Place to another Total Place and what happens to that river in one may have an impact on the other. We have to look both in terms of what happens in a specific location but also what happens over a much wider catchment area and try and relate the two together. In terms of engagement we have been engaged in the various pilot projects that have been happening.

Q191 Joan Walley: Are you confident that any future announcements about Total Place will have regard to the need to ensure your key involvement in it?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I am optimistic.

Joan Walley: We will watch this space then!

Q192 Mr Chaytor: Can I move on from flood risk to coastal erosion and ask if the same principles of cost benefit analysis apply or is coastal erosion completely different?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: The same principles apply and what that means is that whilst our wish is to try and defend as much of the coast as we can there will be some parts of the coast where probably we will not be able to use hard defences to defend in perpetuity.

Q193 Mr Chaytor: In that cost benefit analysis what are the respective weightings given to economic factors or environmental conservation, biodiversity issues or simple issues of social justice, people losing their homes for example?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: People's homes tend to be absolutely at the top of the list with economic benefit fairly close behind; and biodiversity fairly close behind that, partly because of the legislative framework in which we have to operate with the Habitats Directive and other Directives.

Q194 Mr Chaytor: Is there a rigid methodology that is statistically robust and publicly available? It is a little behind economic factors, but how far behind them?

Dr Leinster: The weighting is according to Treasury guidelines and there is a methodology that they lay out which gives you those various weightings, and we could give information.

Q195 Mr Chaytor: Could you give us some concrete examples? If you are comparing, for example, the need to protect two houses on the cliffs above Scarborough as against an enormous area of wetland in the Fens with great biodiversity importance, where would you invest your resources?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Without the absolute specifics in front of us it would be very difficult to answer the question. I suspect that the value of the wetland would be rather well represented by the framework of Directives in which we have to operate. Let me give you perhaps a more exact example. The town of Southwold in Suffolk has a large number of properties of a very substantial economic benefit. We have recently, together with the local authority, done quite a lot of defence work in order to assist the protection of the town of Southwold and I suspect for many years to come the same imperatives to defend the town of Southwold will be very strong because the cost benefit analysis is very clear. Just to the south of the town of Southwold is the Blyth Estuary, which also faces very substantial threat from the sea. There are, I think I am right in saying, 24 properties in the immediate risk area around the Blyth Estuary. It would cost something like £32 million to provide robust 100-year defences for the Blyth Estuary; and the cost benefit analysis, fairly obviously when we are talking about rather precious public resources, simply does not work there. So what we have done instead is we have sat down with the residents of the Blyth Estuary and we have worked out with them a way of moving forward with a bit of funding from the Environment Agency, but nowhere near £32 million, together with some of their own resources, together with some self-help, together with some work from the Highways Agency, so we can find a way forward with them. Increasingly we are going to have to take that sort of approach where the very obvious cost benefit calculation that might apply with Southwold does not apply.

Q196 Mr Chaytor: Those are two very interesting examples, but is that generally understood by all communities on the vulnerable east coast? You have mentioned the Treasury guidelines and the cost benefit analysis, but is there a map of the east coast identifying the areas most vulnerable to coastal erosion?

Dr Leinster: Not yet.

Q197 Mr Chaytor: And indicating which communities will have to be sacrificed and which communities will be supported?

Dr Leinster: Just now we are carrying out a programme of shoreline management plans. A number of those are out for consultation. The vast majority of those are, in fact, being led by the local councils, not by ourselves. There are 22 which cover England and Wales; we lead on four and local councils lead on 18. Those plans have extensive engagement with local communities, but these are very difficult issues and cause a lot of discussion.

Q198 Mr Chaytor: Do you feel that there will come a point, once this process has been completed, where it will be necessary to be absolutely upfront and put a map in the public domain?

Dr Leinster: As part of that process what we are looking at is on a plan by plan basis and as the plans come out for consultation there is a map associated with the plan. It is an interactive map and people are able to look at it and interrogate it and get further information about what is going to happen in their particular circumstance. Again, as we were talking in terms of forecasting and predicting, it is not possible to say that there is going to be this amount of erosion in this place and it is going to affect these streets, it does not happen that way, but it gives general indications of the sort of amount of erosion that we think will happen.

Q199 Mr Chaytor: Finally, on the question of individual properties the Defra figures suggest that maybe 2,000 properties will disappear through erosion over the next 20 years and that is about two a week over a 20-year period.

Dr Leinster: There are 2,000 at risk, of which we believe 200 might be impacted, but it is not possible to say which of the 200 out of the 2,000.

Q200 Mr Chaytor: So impacted means destroyed.

Dr Leinster: Destroyed, yes.

Q201 Mr Chaytor: Of the 200, what is the public liability to the families living in those 200 properties? Is this entirely an issue for them and their own insurance policies or do you think that there is a public responsibility here?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I am afraid that at the moment as public policy stands it is their risk and their responsibility. Defra have recently started consulting on a coastal change programme which envisages that there might be some financial assistance - at the moment in their view of very limited nature. It has long been my view, certainly personally, that especially where a property has been in the ownership of an individual or a family for a very substantial period of time and when it was originally bought without any obvious threat from coastal erosion, but where coastal erosion has now come to a point where it might well remove the entire property and the livelihood of the family concerned, there ought to be some means for providing compensation. Whether the development of an idea that Defra has floated of a sale and leaseback arrangement in the interim might be one of the ways forward is something that I will keep on pressing ministers to consider, especially as we are talking about a relatively small number of properties. Obviously where a property has been purchased very recently in the full knowledge of the threat from erosion then the same should not apply.

Q202 Chairman: Southwold, which is in the constituency next door to mine, is very appreciative of your decision and support and I think has perhaps already identified some additional investment going in as a result of that. Perhaps even more appreciative of that than it was of the decision of the Prime Minister to take his holiday there recently. Can you tell me whether your decision to support Southwold was taken before or after the Prime Minister's holiday?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think both before and after because this has been a developing process and, indeed, it is not a subject that I have discussed at all with the Prime Minister. I have, however, discussed it in great detail with the residents of Blyth, the residents of Southwold and your colleague who represents them in Parliament.

Q203 Joan Walley: Can I press you a little further on this because I am very much aware of the huge posters, "Gord help us", which were there in Southwold and which presumably were there to support the people of Blythburgh as well, and it is clearly important that Blythburgh gets the investment as well as Southwold because there is a link between the town and the surrounding marshland area. I am also very conscious that that is a very, very articulate, very confident, very resourceful community. I compare that with other parts of the country where there is not the same amount of resourcing capacity, and I wonder what the Environment Agency is doing to make sure that people elsewhere in the country, where there is not that capacity, can actually learn from the way in which Southwold and Blythburgh put forward their arguments to the Environment Agency in this most successful way.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Just to be absolutely precise, the village of Blythburgh itself, because it is up on a slight hill, indeed with one of the most gorgeous churches in the entire country---

Q204 Joan Walley: I know it well.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: --- is actually not at risk. It is down below Blythburgh where the properties that are at risk are. But you are right, the general point that you make is absolutely right.

Q205 Joan Walley: I am sure that the Parish Council of Blythburgh would be very appreciative of that clarification, but do go on.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: The residents of the Blyth Estuary are indeed articulate; they know how to make their case and they have made it very effectively. There will be other communities which are not so articulate where we need to help them to be articulate and share with them the knowledge that we have and the issues and help them through the decision-making process. Increasingly I am keen that the Environment Agency should take that approach at a local level, working with communities.

Q206 Joan Walley: Do you have dedicated resources for that? Have you identified where those communities might be where you need to be putting in extra resources specifically for that capacity building programme?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Yes, it is an absolutely fundamental part of our new corporate strategy going forward. I have made it very clear that it is a real priority for the agency to put resources into working with communities in facing some of these environmental challenges.

Q207 Joan Walley: I think the Committee would like to see where those resources are being put in.

Dr Leinster: We have appointed in the last year coastal engagement officers and there are a number of staff whose specific task is to engage with communities around things like the shoreline management plans to make sure that people are aware. If you look further down that east coast to a place called Jaywick, where again we put defences in, that is an entirely different community, that is quite a deprived community. So we are working both in deprived communities and those which are better off, but engaging fully with local communities and developing plans for their communities.

Q208 Colin Challen: You have argued that adaptation should form a key part of sustainable development frameworks. What are the benefits of putting adaptation in that context?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: What it does is to help to embed adaptation issues in the planning of companies, organisations and government departments. One of the things that are quite helpful in this is that there is now going to be a requirement for adaptation reporting from something like 100 major companies and organisations, and as a new aspect of sustainable development I think that is going to be very valuable.

Q209 Colin Challen: One of the unintended consequences of doing this might be that we start identifying costs that previously we had not identified and that then inflates the funding demand. What are we going to do then if we have this embedded in SD frameworks but then find that we do not have the resources to do as much as we would like to about it? Is that a problem that we are just going to have to live with?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I would rather - and I suspect the chief executives of major companies too - know exactly what the likely challenges they were going to face were rather than pretending they did not exist, even if that makes the decision-making tougher going forward.

Q210 Colin Challen: People may think that policy makers are being negligent then if they are prepared to identify the risk but then do not have the capacity or the will to match it.

Dr Leinster: But if the risk crystallises so that there is an impact then I think policy makers who knew that there was a risk but had not informed anybody there was a risk would be in an even worse position.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: It might also help to concentrate a few minds on the need for mitigation as well as adaptation.

Q211 Colin Challen: Can we take it that the Environment Agency itself has now embedded adaptation in its own SD frameworks?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: Yes, absolutely.

Dr Leinster: We have to write an adaptation report, as you would be aware, and a number of other authorities have to write adaptation reports. We are going first and will be using it as a learning experience with Defra to actually work out what should be contained within a report such as that. Then what we hope is that we will be able to provide additional guidance to help others as they come behind us.

Q212 Colin Challen: Do you feel that the Government and its other agencies are doing the same thing; that they are actually rising to the challenge?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think they are perhaps waiting for us to go first. I am absolutely sure that they will follow on well - behind. I think they are anxious to see us do the template.

Q213 Chairman: We are getting a bit short of time so could I just wind up with a general question? It is clear that the adaptation issues are relevant to as wide a range of government departments as the mitigation issues, it is very much a cross-cutting area which goes much, much wider than just Defra. Do you think that the Cross-Whitehall Programme Board is strong enough and does it have enough levers to drive the changes and to get the buy-in at senior enough level to ensure that all departments that have to are actually addressing adaptations sufficiently seriously and urgently?

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I have to be honest and say that I think it is a livelier issue for some departments than others. Preparation is more advanced in some places in parts of Whitehall than others. I think there is a general recognition across Government at Cabinet Office and Number Ten level that this is serious and needs to be seen as a priority; but there probably needs still to be a little bit of encouragement in places.

Dr Leinster: I think the test of that will be in the adaptation reports that they have to prepare.

Chairman: It may be too much to tempt you to indicate which departments you think are less enthusiastic in their consideration of the issue, but any help that your staff are able to give to mine in enabling us to write a report which might identify some of the slower movers would be much appreciated, even if it was off the record.

Joan Walley: I do not see why we could not have them named.

Q214 Chairman: If there was a naming of course we would be delighted.

Lord Smith of Finsbury: I think we would prefer to have a subsequent discussion.

Chairman: That is fine. Thank you very much for coming; it was a very interesting and useful session from our point of view.

Memorandum submitted by The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Professor Neil Adger and Dr Tim Rayner, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, gave evidence.

Q215 Chairman: Thank you for coming to talk to us today. I am sorry we are running rather behind time; you will have heard some of the previous evidence and we appreciate your contribution now. Could I start with a general question: is there a limit to the amount of climate change to which the UK will be able to adapt? Obviously the mitigation programmes are designed to contain temperature rises to two degrees centigrade, but we have heard from the Tyndall Centre before about the high risks that we may not be able to achieve that goal and if we have a three or four degrees average rise in temperatures are we going to be able to adapt to that?

Professor Adger: I think the climate science community likes to talk in these global averages and it is easy for us to talk about two degrees versus three degrees versus four degrees but I guess that the impacts of climate change are not likely to be experienced in that sort of way; we will not wake up one day and it will be two degrees warmer. I think what is likely to happen, whether the global mean average is two degrees or three degrees or four degrees, is that the incidents of extreme events of floods and heat waves in essence or the meteorology that gives us floods and heat waves is just going to change and it is going to become much more common and the sorts of issues associated with increased sea level rise and increased rates of erosion in the coast will, as it were, creep up on us and these will become more and more important policy issues. But there are absolute engineering limits to what we can do at three or four degrees of warming. There is certainly a risk of crossing some threshold whereby, for example, there would be significant deglaciation of Greenland, which would globally lead us to more than two metres of sea level rise; and the Environment Agency's own modelling for the Thames 2100 project in effect says that we can cope, with present engineering, with another 50 centimetres of sea level rise with some additional add-on, but once we get beyond that we will not be able to maintain the one in 1000 flood risk defence that there is, for example, in Thames 2100 without some very, very significant engineering like a significant big barrage out of Southend. But if we are talking two, or three or four or, with deglaciation of Antarctica, five or six or seven metres of sea level rise, clearly there are limits in the engineering of what we can actually do in these circumstances, and the UK, the Netherlands and various other countries are facing that reality. So there are absolute limits in terms just of the physical environment and the risks that climate change directly imposes. I think there are also significant risks or proportions of the population where adaptation is going to be particularly difficult and it is going to seem like the end of the world if you have to up sticks and move your house from the coastal area that you are sitting in. That is all adaptation and we can cope with it nationally, but for individuals involved it is a pretty significant upheaval.

Q216 Chairman: You have referred to the once in 1000 year events, setting aside the actual temperature increase but the greater frequency of extreme weather events is clearly one of the characteristics of climate change. Is it possible to start warning people - and we are seeing rainfall which is the most intense and concentrated for 100 years on record - of events which have previously been once in 1000 years, can we say that they might be once in 20 years under certain circumstances?

Professor Adger: You can certainly use that language of probability but I think if one in 1000- ear events become one in 20-year events then we are in real trouble. The Thames Gateway at present is engineered to a one in a 1000-year risk and if those came once every 20 years there would be significant damage associated with those. But is your question whether or not that is useful information for the public?

Q217 Chairman: It was partly that, yes, and not just for the public but for developers and insurers and all sorts of other people.

Professor Adger: I think that the Environment Agency has done a good job. I think that this sort of language and this sort of information and the scenarios of future climate change - at least those associated up to two degrees of warming - are actually quite well understood and the UK type impacts programme and the Environment Agency, as far as we can tell, have actually done a good job in informing the key public and private sector stakeholders in the UK, the water utilities and the insurance and reinsurance industries, who I think understand these risks quite well.

Q218 Chairman: I think your answer might have been leading towards this, but are there some significant non-financial costs associated with adaptation?

Professor Adger: I think the main cost of adaptation or main regulator of that cost or leverage on that cost is going to come through the planning system; that there are places, there are economic activities where development is going to be no longer viable, or less desirable, let us say, in flood plains and in coasts in particular. So not being able to do things has an economic cost, clearly, and we are just going to have to adjust to a new climate, to a new set of risks associated with a much more increased frequency of some of these types of extreme events. So I think that the costs will not here costs to the public purse of individual events; they will be opportunity costs, opportunities that we will have lost because flood plains will just be too risky to build on and coasts will have to be set back. But I think that there are a lot of other non-financial costs associated with climate change - things that people really care about, everything from what birds are in their back garden and the whole finality of spring and all sorts of cultural icons about which people are concerned, not just in this country but globally. I think that those are going to become more important and more apparent and in some senses those are the sorts of things that do motivate people, whether they are bird watchers or gardeners, or whatever, and who think that actually climate change is real and we need to do something about it.

Q219 Chairman: Is the opportunity cost the area that is most difficult to deal with?

Professor Adger: Yes. I think certainly for public responsibility and for statutory agencies dealing with this. You have heard from the Environment Agency how far does responsibility extend? What are the mechanisms that allow people to stay in coastal properties? How far does the public liability extend I think is a key question. We have talked a fair bit about coastal setback and issues there. I suspect that that is the sort of test case but there are going to be many other areas of potential public liability associated with other impacts of climate change, particularly in flood plains, but even to do with public health and other areas where getting it right what the Environment Agency does on the coast, getting it right, getting the mechanisms right for compensation, for liability, for consultation is the frontline at the minute, and the lessons from that will also have to be learnt in flood plain management, public health and in other areas.

Q220 Colin Challen: Just pursuing these themes for a moment, for obvious reasons this morning we have talked a lot about flooding - that is the Environment Agency's job - but in other respects adapting to climate change does mean having to address issues of energy and food security, for example, and Defra have recently been doing quite a bit of work on food security. Do you think that there are significant changes that need to be made to the way that we do things? For example, if we source food on a short-term basis - Just in Time is the market expression - should we start looking at different ways of strategically sourcing things like food and strengthening supply chains and so on.

Professor Adger: It is a very good question. I think that the significant unknown element of adapting to climate change is what is going to impact on the UK in terms of the impacts of climate change elsewhere in the world; not just whether or not Greenland melts and others melting that causes change to the climate here, but what happens, I should say, whenever food systems begin to become significantly disrupted and there is significant risk to food price hikes or interruptions in supply of major commodities and that sort of thing. Making food systems in particular more resilient probably does mean making them more local, certainly for the UK context or for the Western European Union context in that we are fairly temperate; there is quite a significant diversity of climates and therefore food availability locally - and I would say locally - within Western Europe. But the 2008 food price hikes globally, although they were partly caused by an increase in biofuels and the rest of it, were significantly caused by major droughts in Australia, for example. What we have not really had up to now in the global food system is correlated, significant droughts in Australia with significant declines in Canada and North America in wheat supply. But if those happen at the same time - and the probability of those types of events occurring simultaneously in different parts of the world is likely to increase with changing climate - then those are significant disruptions to global food supply and that certainly gives impetus to Defra and others to actually look at localising supply of food and making food systems more resilient. But I would not go beyond the local Western Europe.

Q221 Colin Challen: Would it also imply that our response should call for more planning and intervention in the markets - governments taking more control? Because at the present time we tend to just wait for the market to react to a problem and then find a solution. Should we not have a greater grip on these issues, particularly perhaps in the strength of our supply chains? You have mentioned local sourcing but a lot of our food - I think about a third - is imported and that is a significant amount if you are looking at controlling price hikes, for example.

Professor Adger: If we are talking just about food systems of course the Common Agricultural Policy in its present manifestation is a significant intervention in those markets. In Western Europe these markets are in effect more regulated, more controlled than virtually anywhere else in the world. They are not controlled in terms of what individual farmers can grow or what they supply to market; but in terms of the overall food supply the Common Agricultural Policy does bring a fair degree of stability to farm incomes and to food supplies in Western Europe. We are more than self-sufficient in commodities like sugar. A generation ago most of our sugar came from West Africa or the Caribbean as a result of sugar cane; but now we grow sugar beet and we are more than adequately supplied with sugar - in fact we export sugar. So there mechanisms by which you can guarantee the actual supply of food. But I absolutely take your point that we are reliant on, or I guess consumers expect year round supplies of vegetables that they actually source from different climates or different parts of the world that come from the southern hemisphere - apples or fresh vegetables from the Tropics and that sort of thing. So these do need to be or can be made more resilient by localising them, even if localising means simply in Western Europe.

Q222 Colin Challen: Do you think the Government is showing sufficient leadership on adaptation and - this refers back to my earlier question about intervention - is it simply leadership by example so that the public sector can get the message or does it mean something rather more substantial than that?

Professor Adger: At the Tyndall Centre we worked with UK Climate Impacts Programme and Defra a few years ago and tried to identify all the adaptation activities which were going on in the UK and we came up with a number. We developed a database; UKCIP use it and you can look at it. At that time a few years ago we had 350 documented examples of adaptation and planning going on in the UK. This is just numbers, some are doing it on a very large scale, like the Environment Agency's Thames Estuary 2100 Plan through to documented examples of individual house builders or settlements being amended because of climate risk and the like. Defra put the question to us, "Is 350 a huge number or is that a really tiny number?" and I think that is still an open question, "Are these 350 shining cases of good practice and within a decade when the risks are known those will turn into 350,000 examples or, in fact, are we doing things just about right in terms of experimentation and the like?". What we found from those 350 examples was that at least 90 per cent of them were assisted by the public sector or directly in the public sector because of statutory responsibilities, et cetera. In that sense Government is taking the lead in the UK and rightly so because of the nature of the risk in the long-term planning. There is also some evidence of the relative response of the UK compared with other countries.

Dr Rayner: There is evidence that the UK - I think this is echoed in other evidence from other witnesses - is a leading EU Member State when it comes to promoting adaptation. If you look, for example, at the study by the PEER network, the Partnership for European Environmental Research, it is rather complimentary about the UK's approach. They suggest that leadership and political will is, indeed, an important factor in the success of these strategies which are being developed throughout the European Union. To some extent the legislation and the putting in place of the new machinery of government which you are looking into is an expression of leadership and political will by the UK. Just to echo what some of your other witnesses are saying, the framework is encouraging on paper but obviously it is early days and we will need to see how it will develop in practice, particularly when there are potential conflicts which emerge in priorities between departments perhaps, which I imagine you were asking about earlier.

Q223 Colin Challen: Are there any aspects of adaptation which if we do not address them now, we then miss out completely and find ourselves doing too little too late?

Professor Adger: The planning system clearly has some specific issues to deal with and a lot of the change, particularly associated with flood risk or with increased costal erosion, in effect those impacts are irreversible and, therefore, we need to plan, set aside and set back. I guess one of the other dimensions of this problem which you have already alluded to is the international dimension, what is going to happen to climate change around the world and how that is going to affect the UK. For example, UK private investment abroad is quite significant. The UK finance sector and the insurance industry have significant liabilities and assets all around the world in places that may experience much greater impacts of climate change than necessarily we do. Therefore, I think there are some significant unknowns within this whole climate change impact picture on what the transmission mechanisms are for impacts abroad to affect us. We have talked about price hikes in food, but if there are significant impacts on real estate all up the East Coast of the United States or significant impacts of flooding in Central and Western Europe, significant impacts on the Netherlands, all those are going to affect UK plc in one way or another with our trade effects, with significant investments abroad. Of course, the movement of people around the world associated with climate change is another unknown area. Clearly people are going to be moving and they have always moved around the world and there is a trend towards urbanisation in those countries that are not already completely urbanised, but I think there are many different dimensions to the impacts of climate change which both the private sector and the public sector perhaps have not quite thought through at present. That all sounds both very alarmist and very broad-brush, but I am sure your Committee, from the terms of the inquiry, recognises this, that adaptation is so awe encompassing and amorphous that it gets to the heart of what sustainable development is, what progress is and where the UK should be going.

Q224 Joan Walley: Can I follow that up because we have seen a lot recently in respect of the financial crash and the urgent search for some kind of regulation internationally that will address those issues. What is the mechanism for dealing with those alerts that you just referred to about things which could go drastically wrong in terms of the overseas investment? Is there a mechanism which you think is there currently through the UN, through post-Copenhagen? What is the procedure for somehow quantifying and even understanding what needs to be addressed?

Professor Adger: On those specific points, the UN process relies on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide the best science and that will be reporting again in its fifth assessment in 2013.

Q225 Joan Walley: That is to do with the science, I am talking about the adaptation implications of what comes out in the science.

Professor Adger: Increasingly the IPCC is trying to focus on the need for adaptation, so they are producing a special report at the moment called Special Report on Disasters and Extremes to specifically look at how climate change is going to manifest in a changing instance and intensity of extremes around the world and what adaptation processes and policies are being put together and actioned. They are also addressing explicitly the need for international action and international response, both to extreme events and disasters, such as cyclones and hurricanes, the sorts of activities which took place in Burma, in countries that cannot cope and are overwhelmed by large-scale events, but also to co-ordinate, looking at what is known about the co-ordination of information internationally, not just the climate risks themselves but how adaptation occurs. In Copenhagen there is the idea of international solidarity, that the global community should be providing $100 billion per year by 2030 - I think it is in the Communiqué - for adaptation in the developing world, recognising the interdependence of food supplies and security and all sorts of things.

Q226 Dr Turner: You have been quite complimentary about the British Government in its policy response to climate change and the need for adaptation with the Climate Change Act and establishing the cross-departmental committee on adapting to climate change. Are these responses sufficient to manage the available risks or do you think there are significant gaps possibly which the UK needs to address in its policy framework?

Professor Adger: Again, the climate change and adaptation to those impacts is so widespread and amorphous and those risks manifest themselves in different areas of government in public policy rather differently. Let us take the Department of Health, for example. There are risks associated with increased mobility of populations which means if you have malaria-bearing mosquitoes, for example, that come into Heathrow and survive for slightly longer then there is a risk of the instance of malaria around major transport centres. Those are small risks and they only pervade to one government department. The Department of Health also has to deal with issues like heat wave planning. Heat waves are going to become more common. The 2003 heat wave clearly had significant impacts on excess mortality, particularly in London. The Department of Health, along with other Departments of Health across Western Europe, have reacted quite significantly to the 2003 heat wave and implemented a very extensive heat wave planning system. It has not really been tested in any significant sense in the UK since 2003 since we have had two or three wet summers, but the similar systems which have been tested in similar heat waves in Italy and France in the years subsequent to 2003 have been found to be quite effective. I think each department is facing different types of risks. There is a limit to the integration and to the way departments can learn from each other because they have specific responsibilities. Would you agree, Tim?

Dr Rayner: Yes, I think so, with the proviso that it is a fast-moving area and, as other witnesses have said, it will be interesting to see what exactly the content of the various departmental action plans turns out to be. Perhaps later on this year when the departmental plans have been published is the time to consider what gaps there might be and to see how the mechanisms for Defra's programme board to review these plans work.

Professor Adger: One area I assume Defra is leading on or that across departments need to be aware of is the risk of some of the higher scenarios of climate change and some of the worst case risks over a longer-term period and the period possibly after the next two or three decades. If we are heading for three or four degrees of global mean warming, the impacts associated with those move the ball into a rather different arena and the sorts of impacts and adaptations that departments are going to have to deal with are going to change rather radically. Even with two degrees of warming, the return period for the 2003 heat wave, which was a one in 500-year event in Western Europe, could come down to one in ten or by 2100 down to a one in two, so those could be the sorts of summers we face. Dealing with heat in particular or events which come and then go and do not have a long-term impact, like floods, for example, the evidence is we can adapt to that, acclimatise to that and take steps to adapt to that quite quickly. With the increasing incidence of that type of risk even at higher levels of global mean warming, there are some things we can adapt to quite well, but there are others which are going to be much more difficult to deal with, such as two or three or four metres of sea level rise.

Q227 Dr Turner: Can you point to any specific examples of policy frameworks which other countries are using that we can learn from?

Professor Adger: In terms of the provision of public information, other countries do look to the UK, to the UK Climate Impacts Programme and to the UKCIP scenarios and the like as best practice. All major industrialised countries have somewhat underestimated the risks associated with climate change, and the large continental countries like Australia and the United States have assumed, "Oh well, the risks are going to be different and we are going to be able to adapt within the jurisdiction of the country because it is going to be patchy across different parts of the country" and the like. I think Australia, for example, have had a significant wake-up call over the past two or three years with extreme events, with ongoing droughts, significant impacts on their agriculture, and they are only now beginning to look at significant adaptation policy frameworks and, following the UK, have set up a Department of Climate Change and the like to try and integrate these risks. I know you are hearing positive stories, but I think the UK in some senses has been ahead of the game in thinking through these risks and thinking more broadly in this area.

Dr Turner: I must apologise, but we are not used to getting such positive responses from witnesses.

Q228 Mr Caton: Some earlier witnesses in this inquiry have argued that the Government has not done enough to define what it means by adaptation. In your view, how well has the Government defined and communicated what it means by adaptation?

Professor Adger: I think if you asked the person in the street, they would not know what adaptation to climate change really is or there is a conflation of adaptation to climate change with let us decarbonise the economy and all those sorts of things. I am not sure that adaptation is ever going to be high on the public agenda. I think making developments and decisions locally within district and county councils and making development sustainable is the way forward here. There are lots of things we could do to adapt to climate change which themselves would not necessarily be sustainable and I think the policy signals and planning guidance needs to address those. If we are going to have significantly more heat then the easiest thing to do is for individual households to install air conditioning, but clearly there is an energy intensive adaptation to that particular risk. Within every sector, from house building and public buildings, et cetera, we need to begin to think through how we can live with a different type of climate now and adapt to it through the principles of sustainability.

Q229 Mr Caton: That is a useful answer. In fact, it was somebody in the local authority sector who identified this lack of definition. The Greater London Authority, for instance, suggested that Government could explain adaptation to local authorities by setting down a list of statutory activities and funding. Do you think that would be useful?

Professor Adger: I am not sure what that list of activities might be that the GLA was referring to. Although it sounds as if we are advocating not being integrated, dealing with these very specific risks because of the geographical spread of the nature and the different types of risks it is only going to apply to particular councils. Coastal councils are going to have to deal very explicitly with these coastal risks; it is only really the major urban centres that are going to deal extensively with heat wave risk. I am not sure how you could define what adaptation is and a set of activities that you could pass legislation for. In fact, the European Union has struggled with exactly this. They had an Adaptation White Paper process and they had great difficulty in pinning down what adaptation was and what should be in and what should be out of this process simply because adapting to a change in climate, is it to maintain the status quo or is it to make development more sustainable or to minimise risk. The objectives of adaptation, what it is we are actually trying to do and how we are trying to move forward, are not clear. I think that was why the European Union had difficulty in defining what adaptation is. You can only get so far in having adaptation policy or an adaptation set of directives.

Q230 Mr Caton: The fact that a major local authority - and, in fact, the local government information unit made a similar point - feels there is this lack of definition is surely quite strong evidence that they are worried that they are being hampered from taking every action they possibly could to deal with climate change.

Professor Adger: Perhaps that level of government is more concerned about their liability. That is one of the issues - and you have already discussed this clearly with the Environment Agency witnesses - where liability stops and where it pertains to. I think this is one of the key issues clearly which is knowing the risks what is the responsibility of the individual or local government or central Government in acting on the basis of that risk and is there a no fault liability associated with setting back coastal properties and the like. I suspect that is why local authorities are particularly keen on having a very clear set of responsibilities and definitions to identify what their liabilities might be.

Q231 Joan Walley: In the evidence you have given to us you refer to phasing, you get some analysis and then it is a question of what the delivery plan is as a result of the analysis. I am really interested as to whether or not you think the Government has got the right balance between analysing adaptation and building adaptive capacity and taking action. Is the balance right because is there not a fear that we could be getting towards five years' time, 2015, and we are still analysing? How do we get the right balance so that we get the action we need linked to the evidence and the analysis?

Professor Adger: In the Tyndall Centre we have a very strong view that now is the time for action and, in fact, not wanting to put ourselves out of a job, I think we already know enough about the general direction of the impacts of climate change and the scale of them certainly over the next two or three decades. My colleagues did an analysis going back and looking at the UK's future projected scenarios of climate change for the UK. The process started in 1990, so they have projected from 1990 onwards to 2000-2010. They re-analysed those and found that the UKCIP scenarios were very accurate in predicting the sorts of weather that we might have. They certainly argued that there is not much of an information deficit. Certainly for major infrastructure and the major risks we know the direction of change and the general magnitude of some of those changes, at least over the next two or three decades. I do not think there is much of an information deficit and that suggests that now is the time for action on adaptation to climate change.

Q232 Joan Walley: Do you think the Government, with all the different committees and so on that it has set up and the policy which it has, has got that balance right and is now poised to put into action the outcomes that yours and others' analysis is leading to?

Professor Adger: Yes. In saying that we have enough information to act in terms of the general direction does not, of course, mean there are not very specific types of risks which are somewhat still unknown. The key is defining strategies and having policies that deal with that range of uncertainty going into the future. If we take large-scale infrastructure type projects, such as the potential for the Thames Gateway, the Thames Estuary 2100, we could plan for three or four metres of sea level rise. It took 30 years effectively to design and build the Thames Barrier, it could take us 30 years or longer if we decided to build an outer barrage on the Thames Estuary, but we need a process by which as new information comes onboard and the risk of significant sea level rise unfolds - there are observations from Greenland as to how sea level rise is going to occur, how the modelling becomes better and we become more certain - then we need decision processes by which we can make decisions on those large-scale infrastructures. I think it is the same in other areas of planning around flood risk, et cetera. We will never be effectively adapted to climate change. Because we have perturbed it, it is going to change over the next century or two. It is not going to be, here is the present climate and we are going to wake up one day with two degrees of warming or even three or four degrees of warming and the associated impacts, those risks are going to change in different areas of public policy and it is going to wax and wane in the attention of different government departments over time. There will be some randomness in that because it is partly to do with the return period of extreme events and randomness. Although the heat wave of 2003 was a one in 500-year event, that does not mean to say we could not have two or three of those in the next decade and then suddenly that issue of planning for heat would be much greater.

Q233 Joan Walley: In respect of those different government departments that will be looking to bring in different adaptive policies, is there more that Government could be doing given that ours is a cross-departmental Select Committee? What are the drivers that will ensure the necessary actions on the ground are in place, for example social responsibility, any directions given to regeneration, to the extent to which regeneration initiatives and investment future plans would have regard to the need for adaptation? On the whole issue about regulation, we are very much into a phase of light-touch regulation. The CBI is calling for much less regulation, yet surely regulation could be a key driver because that could give the certainty which would be needed when investment is being made.

Professor Adger: In our 350 examples that we derived, in many of the examples we looked at regulation was the key driving force. Individuals, even up to large-scale companies in the private sector, were not necessarily directly themselves assessing climate risks associated with their business or with their locality or operation, they were reacting to changes in regulation. Clearly it is through planning policy guidelines and through the regulatory system that the major adaptation steering hundreds of thousands of individual decisions is going to come.

Q234 Joan Walley: Is there not an inconsistency there because, correct me if I am wrong, is not the Government Department BIS looking at lighter regulation and less regulation? How does that square with the need to have certainty about where companies invest?

Professor Adger: In terms of localities and places, I think lighter regulation does not necessarily mean that regulation is not effective in identifying where those risks are and the sorts of activities where that might be. When we looked at flood risk a few years ago and looked at the operation of the house-building sector to changing flood risk, even within a sector they were reacting to a regulation which effectively comes from the planning system, but you have a diversity of responses even within an individual sector. We looked at some large-scale providers of social housing, large-scale house builders and some smaller-scale companies and we found that when a flood risk area is designated some companies will retreat from that and say, "We cannot engineer in that area", so the reaction to that regulation would be to reduce their investments or not take on projects in those areas. Whereas other companies said, "Actually, we have the engineering competence, we are going to go into that floodplain". Land prices decline and so there is an opportunity to make money. If we have the engineering competence even in the Blyth Estuary to build houses that are flood-proof, then there are still opportunities to go into that. Within a sector you have a very diverse set of responses even to a regulatory framework and information. That can be as light-touch or as heavy-touch, but the information needs to be out there as to where those risks are and we need to observe consistent, as you say, clear guidance, that this is led by the Environment Agency, this is not a good idea to be planning or building here, these are the sorts of risks in other areas of public policy. I absolutely share your concern that light-touch regulation means no regulation. The whole set of information that the UK has done a very good job on getting together on what these risks are needs to be brought clearly into this regulatory framework.

Q235 Dr Turner: You have already alluded to the potential effects on the UK of climate change in other countries. Obviously agricultural products are a good example. Should we be doing more to anticipate and understand these potential impacts, perhaps changing our own pattern of agriculture in response to, for instance, a world shortage of grain or whatever and so on?

Professor Adger: The Adaptation Sub-Committee set up under the Climate Change Act is specifically looking at this, it is undertaking a national climate change risk assessment which is ongoing at the moment. I think part of that is looking at how the weather is going to change in the UK, but the part which is both more unknown that also we have not really got a handle on is specifically this issue of how impacts on other parts of the world are directly going to affect here. The major effect of climate change in UK agriculture may be to change the relative prices and relative availability of major foodstuffs and that is what farmers here and the farming sector are going to have to react to and adapt to. We are going to have to promote and provide guidance on how to go through that transition to ensure food security.

Q236 Dr Turner: Are you satisfied that sufficient work is being done on that?

Professor Adger: I think it is a very uncertain area. It is something that UN bodies, particularly through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have highlighted as one of the key areas, but there are others. The two others I have highlighted are the impact of climate change on UK overseas investments and the impact on the finance sector, particularly through the insurance sector is quite significant, but also the potential for movement of people around the world and whether or not that is going to have some impact on the desirability of people in the UK to go and retire in Spain if Spain becomes an uncomfortable climate to live in. It is going to change demographic patterns like that as much as people wanting to migrate to the UK.

Q237 Joan Walley: You talked a little while back about the fact that the average man in the street probably would not have all that much information to hand about adaptation and what is needed, but I wonder, given the need to engage with people and also vulnerable people, not just those who are well informed, what actions there should be, how we can have that community engagement process and what lessons could be learned from abroad on that as well.

Professor Adger: I said that the average person in the street may not have a good grasp on what adaptation might be and the imperativeness of it, but I think the average person in the street in the UK has got a good grasp that the weather is changing. Certainly in my own personal networks and experience - my father being a farmer and the rest of it - people who observe this quite closely know the weather is changing, gardeners realise this, and people are concerned, both in this country and internationally, about their local environment and about things they care about. Those issues can become iconic in demonstrating to people what the impacts of climate change might be and what the adaptations are that we might require. That will become a more significant motivator of the justification for a low carbon economy and move towards decarbonisation. If people realised that the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim is going to be under water and that is not only a local tourist issue but it is an icon of the whole of the North of Ireland, those are the sorts of things which hit home. If it is the Fens, the Broads, if it is the non-arrival of spring, coming two weeks earlier, not having frosts in the winter and never seeing a white Christmas again, those are the sorts of things we all have a good grasp on and begin to see what climate change is going to do to the UK in material and iconic and representational terms.

Q238 Joan Walley: Am I right in thinking that your advice to Government is that more localised planning and novel ways of engaging, particularly with vulnerable people, is needed to be able to deal with the effects of climate change that come up? Is Government as well prepared as it could be to do that or what more should it be doing?

Professor Adger: This is a very difficult area. We undertook some research with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and various other health professionals at University College London on the Heatwave Plan and we interviewed the populations who were vulnerable to heat wave, who are primarily the elderly in Norwich and London. These are the people that the Heatwave Plan through the GP system and all the rest of it tries to target and say, "These people with underlying health problems are going to be vulnerable to these sorts of impacts". Basically what we found was there are very persistent and very hard to reach populations who are always going to be vulnerable, in this case for two reasons: one of which is they have very low what is known in the trade as 'self-efficacy', people who were frail and elderly did not really have the ability to do things, thought they did not have the ability to do things even though the actions they needed to take to adjust to these risks were quite simple. At the other end of the spectrum - the age range in our population was 75-94 - people were saying to us, "Oh well, elderly people are vulnerable to heat wave risks, but luckily I am not vulnerable because I am not old". These were people in their 90s saying this to us. Their whole identity was about their independence, they were living alone and all the rest of it, so they were denying the risk and saying, "Well, it is nothing to do with me because this is not my risk". Those people from a public health perspective are at risk, but there are reasons both in this case because of marginalisation and economic reasons and for reasons of identity, et cetera, where people react to these risks rather differently. There are always going to be difficult to reach populations and the Heatwave Plan from the Department of Health is very, very good in setting out what GPs should do and encouraging people to look in on their neighbour, but there are always going to be these persistent pockets of vulnerability and I think that is the same if you look especially across the country as a whole.

Q239 Joan Walley: I am an honoury Vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Do you believe professional organisations like that have a role to play in this mix as well?

Professor Adger: Absolutely. Identifying where these particular vulnerabilities are, sometimes it is easier to see those geographically when we are talking about properties on the coast or inner-city floodplains, places that are susceptible to flooding, to the 2007 summer floods in Hull, Oxford and Gloucestershire and the like, than it is perhaps to see which populations are vulnerable to heat wave risk. There is an awful lot of work to be done to identify those specific areas. If I gave the impression that we know the climatology of where the general risks are, that is true, but down to the specifics of where the vulnerable populations are is a much more critical area.

Q240 Chairman: Looking at another group of vulnerable people, people who might suffer from coastal erosion, a fairly easily geographically defined group, what should the Government do to help them if they are going to suffer or have suffered a major loss?

Professor Adger: I have already alluded to this, but I think this is probably the most difficult question that Government really needs to tackle at the moment, which is where is public liability for the impacts of climate change which are clearly exposed on populations. It is an inequality associated with historic, present and probably future emissions. We are all blithely polluting the atmosphere and causing harm to others, but where does the liability for that stop? Let me say one thing. I think the environmental sciences in the climate area over the next 20 years or so are going to be able to attribute the weather patterns that we see to climate change and are going to be able to say, "Oh well, here is an event for the 2003 heat wave or the 2007 summer floods, well let us say that would not have occurred or there is a 50 per cent probability that would not have occurred without human induced climate change", and therefore you can immediately see that is human action causing that impact on individuals. If that is the case then it is the polluters who are liable for that, but if the polluters are everyone in the world for the last 150 years or the industrialised world, then where does the liability for that actually occur? In societies where there is much more litigation, the US, these cases are already starting to come through. Then there have to be processes by which that liability is bounded in some ways so that if you have a property on the coast and you bought it within the last five years and you know the risks then do you have a case for compensation, even with the fact that the costal erosion you are facing is human induced and caused by prior polluters that we all have sanctioned in some way. I think the coastal one is at the forefront of this issue and if we do not get it right there then those public liability issues are going to cascade and be in other areas where 20 or 30 years from now we will know that the weather we are facing, the events, the excess mortality associated with heat waves, is down to human-induced climate change and that will be much more widely accepted and much more defensible in court in some senses or through the legal systems. We have got to get it right for coasts. Defra and the Environment Agency are clearly struggling with this at the moment from an ethical perspective. There is an onus on central Government to directly deal with these risks where people were unaware of them. I will not say any more than that, but clearly there is an ethical onus on us given that we have to pay for the pollution that we have, in fact, caused. There is also the need for very clear guidance through the planning system at the moment so that liability does not stretch back for 100 years or whatever and that when the impacts of climate change are known and understood, then in a way that puts a limit on that actual liability. That is another good reason for the Government being very clear through the Climate Change Act of what climate change is and the need for action.

Q241 Joan Walley: In terms of what you have just said about planning, can I ask whether or not you feel the new planning legislation sufficiently incorporates what you just said about future liabilities?

Professor Adger: I do not know in detail, but I know that Defra are still trying to work out or be very explicit and clear about what this liability should be. As I understand it at the moment I do not think the planning system is clear about what that liability is. I have to say that some local coastal communities and even coastal authorities obviously do not want that liability, but they do not see themselves to have significant competence. Some coastal local authorities we have spoken to would like to see that going up a level back to central Government to be very strategic in this area, not only because of the issues we talked about, but also what one local authority does in its coast tends to affect the others up and down the coast. There are impacts being transferred up and down the coast with sediment budgets and the like, so what happens in Suffolk actually affects Norfolk.

Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for coming in. That has been a very useful session.