EA2025 strategy vows to strengthen UK climate resilience and enhance natural habitats in pursuit of net zero goals, as Flood Re warns flood mitigation efforts must continue to evolve
The Environment Agency has today published a new five year plan, detailing how the body plans to embed fundamental changes to its operating model that can help embed some of the environmental benefits seen during the coronavirus crisis.
Dubbed EA2025, the new strategy sets out how the agency plans to promote health, equity and environmental enhancement, while delivering on its core goals to create more climate resilient places, improve air, soil, and water quality, and deliver on its target of net zero emissions by 2030.
"Tackling climate change must become a default position for everyone. We know that life post-lockdown presents a unique opportunity to change the way we live and work for the better," said Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency.
"We have been gifted a glimpse of how we could adapt our lives and think differently about how we operate. This applies not just to us but the communities we serve, too. People are ready to think differently, and with our new five year plan we want to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead the way."
The EA2025 strategy sets out three long-term goals: "a nation resilient to climate change; healthy air, land and water; and green growth and a sustainable future".
These overarching goals are backed by a series of annual targets, such as plans to improve more than 4,000 kilometres of river during 2020/21, create nearly 1,200 hectares of habitat, and cut carbon emissions eight per cent a year, to put it on track to deliver net zero emissions by 2030.
The organisation also said it was exploring how to retain some of the emissions savings technologies and practices it has deployed to remain operational throughout the lockdown.
For example, with the majority of staff working from home in recent months the agency has concluded legal hearings remotely and used drones to monitor regulated sites where possible.
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said the new strategy would support the Prime Minister's stated aspiration to "build back better, build back greener, build back faster".
"This action plan sets out how we will help to accelerate a just transition to a low-carbon and more resilient future," she said. "Although the plan points at 2025 it starts now, and the lessons we learn along the way will help develop the whole UK workforce for the risks and opportunities of the coming decades."
The move comes just days after the Flood Re flood insurance scheme published its annual report, warning that long term flood risks are continuing to rise and the government should seize the opportunity to strengthen climate resilience as part of its economic recovery plans.
The body said that in 2019/20 a wave of floods throughout the winter meant it processed more claims and paid out more than in the first three years of operation combined, with gross costs reaching £160m.
The scheme - which effectively provides the insurance industry with support so as to ensure households and businesses in areas with high levels of flood risk can still access affordable policies - said escalating climate impacts could have implications for the current plan that would see the scheme exit the market by 2039.
"Flood Re has had a significant impact on the affordability and availability of home insurance with more than 300,000 households in the UK who are at risk of flooding directly benefitting from the Scheme," said Flood Re Chief Executive, Andy Bord. "We are helping more families than ever before and are in a strong financial position ready to support those impacted by flooding.
"This year has been significant in many ways. We have seen the first major flooding events since our launch in 2016 as well as having to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. In these unprecedented times, the country must build back better, developing a recovery plan that creates sustainable and resilient foundations for the future. For those at risk of flooding, it is critical that investment in flood mitigation strategies be maintained."
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