Speaking at a flood and coastal erosion conference in Telford, Bevan welcomed the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but said this would not eliminate climate change-related damage to the country and that communities and infrastructure would be at risk without renewed action.

“Even if we didn’t produce another gram of carbon from this moment on, sea levels will continue to rise for centuries,” he said, adding that the UK needed to prepare for a “different future”, concluding that the “best way to predict the future is to invent it”.

Bevan said that the draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England, which is out for consultation until 4 July, sets out the EA’s ambition to build climate resilient places and infrastructure and create a “nation of climate champions”.

On creating resilient places, Bevan said the EA would continue to build defences, but that “new tools for a new future” were also needed. These include good land use planning, natural flood management, better design of places and buildings, and “being honest that we cannot prevent some parts of the country from flooding or eventually disappearing into the sea”, he said.

Moving communities out of high risk areas “will need to happen, because if it doesn’t, one day the sea will come over the wall and a lot of people will die. I would rather it happened before there is another national tragedy like 1953, not afterwards,” he added.

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