Top 5 take-home messages from Flood & Coast 2021

30 July 2021

Our Flood Management Policy Advisor, Dr Mhari Barnes reports, and gives her thoughts, on this year’s Flood and Coast Conference and Expo.

Flood and Coast is the go-to event for anyone in the flood and coastal erosion risk management industry.

It’s the place where you can hear about the latest innovative technologies for modelling and predicting flooding or see the latest eel-friendly pumps in action.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event was held virtually over four days – be assured, it did not disappoint.

There was so much information, new ‘virtual’ faces and great debates. So much so that I found it difficult to whittle down what I thought was the ‘best bits’ but here goes!

The top 5 take-home messages 

  1. The theme of the first day of the conference was ‘Delivering together’.
    The focus of Caroline Douglass, Environment Agency’s new Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Executive Director’s opening speech was on shared lessons learned from recent flooding and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on response and recovery.

    But my take-home message from Day 1 came from the ‘Building social resilience through effective community partnerships’ session where the Corvedale (Shropshire) natural flood management project was presented. The project has led to the implementation of catchment interventions to help slow the flow.

    The main reflection of the project was the recognition of the need to provide adequate compensation to farmers who store floodwater.
  2. Another take-home message was that community resilience outweighs community emergency planning by discussing the cascading socio-economic impacts of flooding during a pandemic.

    Some speakers highlighted how the pandemic created new engagement touchpoints with communities that can also be mobilised to act on climate change adaptation and resilience.
  3. ‘Future skills, knowledge and tools: A nation resilient to climate change’ was the theme for Day 2. I presented an agricultural perspective on ‘Reducing multi-source flood risk and the role of asset management’. The session was really well attended with many delegates showing a keen interest in the NFU’s Integrated Water Management Strategy.

    However, my take-home message was from ‘Delivering FCERM schemes effectively in partnership’ session where it was clear that flood management outcomes are similar for multiple sectors, but we need to work together to achieve resilience.
  4. There was a focus on beavers in the session ‘Managing flood risk and building resilience through nature’ with research findings from the River Otter beaver trial and Knepp Estate being presented.

    My penultimate take-home message is, nature-based solutions should be exactly that ‘based’ – a strong engineered and modelling approach is required to manage flood risk in our catchments, we can not rely on wild animals to mitigate risk.
  5. My final key message is on the climate crisis – this hit home hard with me with the early careers delegates setting out what they would put to the world leaders at this year’s COP26.

    There was a strong focus on managing water-related risks, the environment and coastal erosion and, hopefully to the delight of NFU members, a clear emphasis on our nation’s food security in a changing climate.

Monumental opportunity

I’ll conclude with the closing remarks of Environment Agency Chair, Emma Howard Boyd: “COP26 is a monumental opportunity to elevate adaptation on the international agenda and to send clear market signals about the importance of nature in managing climate risks. Now is the time to race to net-zero, to race to resilience, and to race towards trillions invested in nature. Now is the time to adapt.”

Looking forward

As I look forward to Flood and Coast 2022, the NFU will ensure that farmer’s voices are heard when it comes to tackling the impacts of climate change, including flood risk management and food security across all relevant platforms.”

For more information on flood management or for any advice on the topics discussed in this article then speak to NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

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