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The RSA and Bridgwater College were delighted to welcome Lord Krebs and Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, to The McMillan Theatre in Bridgwater to host an informative evening entitled ‘Somerset - Adapting to Climate Change’.

The audience of 250 included RSA Fellows and their guests, academics, local Councillors, representatives of many interested organisations and the public; they were treated to an expert presenter on top of his subject who spoke with authority and genuine understanding of local concerns.

“Everyone has a responsibility to reduce the risk of damage caused by climate change. Do not go looking for scapegoats but take measures within your own control, however small, to safeguard people, property and resources.”

This was an important message from Lord Krebs, a crossbencher and chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Climate Change Committee. Lord Krebs went on to outline the climate changes we can expect in Somerset in the next fifty years, including warmer wetter winters, increasing summer temperatures and a sea level rise of two metres, maybe more.

Every four years the Climate Change Committee reports to the UK Government about the risks faced by the UK through climate change. The next assessment of the evidence will be published in July this year. Lord Krebs indicated that the report will identify the three major risks as:

- river, flash and coastal flooding

- serious harmful effects on soil fertility

- water shortage, especially in southeast England.

He assessed the Government’s performance against its stated commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change. He said that our Government is not investing enough in flood defences and is still allowing too many houses to be built on sites which are known to have a high flood risk. He also mentioned that the Governments' new insurance arrangements, through Flood Re, which came into force in April, do not apply to new houses or to commercial buildings.

Lord Krebs’ final point was that the uptake of sustainable urban drainage systems is inadequate, and he is trying to amend new legislation to remove the automatic right for developers to connect to existing drainage systems. He would also like to see a requirement for all new houses to be built to a much higher standard of energy conservation.

The evening concluded with a good natured, yet lively, Question and Answer session. Given the experience of the recent flooding in Somerset by many in the audience, discussion might have become heated, however, with the revelations from Lord Krebs about his constant prodding of the Government to do more than just ‘talk the talk’ and the need to plan for the long term, he undoubtedly allayed their fears. Skilfully chaired by Matthew Taylor, who himself is no stranger to political machinations, the session rounded off a stimulating and thought-provoking evening that exemplified why the RSA believes it important to encourage debate in local communities. An important subject clearly articulated, it was an evening that all who heard Lord Krebs will have come away with a better understanding of the complexities and reasons behind the actions of national and local decision makers. It was refreshing to hear candid and authoritative views expertly elicited from Lord Krebs by Matthew Taylor.


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