A winter that started with the threat of tidal surges now looks like it will become the wettest winter because of the rain. Already this year parts of England have seen the wettest January since records began. We have been fortunate, wet but not flooded out. Our sea defences, marshes and drainage channels have responded well acting like sponges and carrying water into the Swale keeping Sittingbourne and Sheppey free from flooding.
The land is very soggy and the fisherman in Queenborough report having to sail further out to sea to find their catch, the acidity of the salt water has increased because of the amounts of fresh water draining into it but we are managing the impact. On BBC 1’s recent edition of Countryfile we saw how Elmley National Nature Reserve manage the water levels across the marshes, so flooding is avoided, farming can continue and migratory birds thrive.
Elsewhere in Kent and southern England people’s homes and livelihoods have been under attack from the extreme weather, science shows a strong link between climate change and extreme weather conditions.
Labour has always warned that climate change threatens our national security and that of regions around the world. Extreme weather patterns destabilise economies, impacting on food and water supplies and displace communities.
As a Government we brought forward the 2008 Climate Change Act committing the UK to reduce carbon emissions and we learnt from the 2007 floods, increasing funding for flood defence works from £500m to £675m. By 2011/12 the Tories had cut spending on flood defences to £576m.
Today there is no political consensus on climate change in Parliament, the number of climate change deniers is increasing. Cameron has allowed climate change to become downgraded across Whitehall and there are inconsistent messages coming from his own ministers. There is a chronic lack of policy on decarbonisation and renewable energy. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is not a priority to the extent that spending has been cut by 40% and the team leading on this in Whitehall has been reduced from 38 to 8.
A Labour Government can’t legislate against the rain but we will create the policy environment that will tackle climate change, reduce our carbon emissions and create the low carbon energy infrastructure that we need for future generations. We will support the growth of the UK energy efficiency industry and enable investment into our economy so British jobs are created at the heart of the £3 trillion global market for low carbon and environmental goods and services.