David Cameron says climate change is to blame for the UK floods as ministers are accused of using global warming as an excuse for failures.
Cameron has been accused of blaming the UK flooding disaster on climate change rather than the fact that Britain’s flood defence budgets had been massively cut.
The Mail Online reports:
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David Cameron admitted that flood defences had not been sufficient, but suggested that the greater frequency of ‘extreme weather events’ was to blame.
And Liz Truss, the environment secretary, said the floods had been so severe because the rainfall had been ‘unprecedented’.
Last night Labour MP Simon Danczuk, whose Rochdale constituency has been badly affected by the floods, accused ministers of trying to ‘hide behind’ the issue of climate change – when the real problem was spending cuts.
Ministers reduced funding on defences before severe flooding in Cumbria a year ago forced them to reverse the cuts.
Mr Danczuk said: ‘The Government shouldn’t be using climate change as an excuse for what is a predictable phenomenon. Instead of trying to hide behind climate change, they should have ensured the Environment Agency was properly funded so people’s lives were not turned upside-down.’
And weather expert Helen Rossington said rainfall had been ‘above average’ in recent weeks but not at record levels.
Interviewed by the BBC yesterday, the Prime Minister said: ‘What has happened – the level of the rivers, plus the level of rainfall – has created an unprecedented effect and so some very serious flooding.’
Asked what needed to be done to stop floods causing so much damage in the future, he said: ‘We do seem to face more of these extreme weather events and problems of floods.
‘People are told that things that are one in 50, or one in 100, or one in 200 years, they seem to be happening more often.
‘So what we should be doing is continuing with the very high level of investment in flood defences.’
He added: ‘The flood barriers have made a difference, both the permanent ones and the temporary ones, but it’s clear in some cases they’ve been over-topped, they’ve been over-run and so of course we should look again about whether there is more we can do.’
Miss Truss, meanwhile, said levels of rain have been ‘unprecedented’ and that flood defences will be reviewed.
She also said flood defences had been ‘overwhelmed’ in Lancashire.
‘Every single river was at a record high,’ she said, adding that in Yorkshire some rivers are a metre higher than they have ever been before. She went on: ‘Clearly in the light of that we will be reviewing our flood defences.’
Floods minister Rory Stewart also blamed climate change for the havoc, saying: ‘What we’ve seen is rainfall levels that nobody’s ever seen before.’
Mr Stewart added that flood defences designed two years ago were never built to withstand such a level of rainfall.
But Miss Rossington, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, said: ‘It’s not been really record-breaking amounts of rain, but it’s been covering a large area and the rivers are already full from the rain we’ve had in the previous weeks.
‘We are experiencing above average rain in some areas, but no records have been broken since December 5 and 6.’
Mr Danczuk accused the Environment Agency of ‘ignoring warnings’ that flooding on this scale was likely to happen. ‘The Government’s massive budget cuts have left the Environment Agency as a remote and impotent organisation which is unable to respond sufficiently,’ he said.
But Hilary Benn, the Labour frontbencher and MP for flood-hit Leeds Central, said the flooding showed that the debate about climate change was over.
The former shadow environment secretary said that countries need to focus on reducing emissions.
He said flooding in his constituency has damaged many businesses and, while the torrent of water has slowed, some of his neighbours were asked to leave their homes as a precaution.
‘This is the worst we have ever seen,’ he said. ‘These are the highest levels that have been experienced in the centre of the city.’
Mr Benn went on: ‘The need for improved flood defence is increasing really, really fast because the climate is changing.’
There is now ‘no doubt’ that the world’s climate is now different, he said, adding: ‘We’ve got to adapt to the changing climate, and improving our flood defences is one of the urgent ways we need to do that.’.
On Sunday, the government said 200 soldiers were being deployed to areas hit by flooding, in addition to 300 already on the ground, while another 1,000 were on standby.
The Environment Agency has said that a “complete rethink” of the UK’s flood defences is required following widespread flooding across northern England.
Deputy chief executive David Rooke said better waterproofing of homes and improved warning systems would be vital for tackling future weather extremes.