E arlier this month, the United Nations issued a stark warning to Peterborough. If global temperatures continue to rise at the rate we’re currently experiencing then Peterborough will be by the sea within decades. If you’re imagining sandy beaches and sticks of rock: stop. Such a catastrophe would mean a devastating loss of agricultural land, and many thousands people would lose their homes, their livelihoods, writes Julie Howell, Coordinator, Peterborough Green Party.
Clearly, no Government would allow Peterborough-on- Sea to become a reality, but the cost of holding back the incoming flood water will be astronomical. We will have to build more and bigger flood defences to cope with the extra flood risk and to protect our city and infrastructure. This means billions of pounds of investment, money that would be better spent on our NHS and other public services.
Climate change is already affecting people living in poorer parts of the world and you may wonder what impact this could have on Peterborough. Well, it means immigration pressure will get more intense and there will be a stronger case for the UK to provide additional overseas aid to help other countries to cope.
According to WaterAid, one in three people in poorer countries don’t have access to a decent toilet, while one in nine don’t have clean water. Climate change will make these problems worse and we need to support charities that help people in poorer countries so they don’t become climate refugees.
And what can our Government do to minimise the risk that rising sea levels pose to our way of life in Peterborough?
While flood defences have a role to play, it is unrealistic to think that they are all we need to do to protect ourselves.
Working with Natural Processes (WWNP) must be a central part of our strategy to cope with flooding locally. WWNP implements a range of measures to protect, restore and emulate the natural functions of catchments, floodplains, rivers and coasts. It works by slowing, storing and filtering water. WWNP must be accelerated so we can adapt to the inevitability of increased flooding.
With America pulling out of the Paris Agreement an air of hopelessness hangs over us. After all, it’s the international corporations that must reduce their CO2 emissions if we’re to change course. But the UK Government can demonstrate leadership. We can switch to renewable energy, end fracking, bring forward our commitment to phase out fossil-fuelled cars, move away from single-use plastic and develop more circular economies where goods and services are sourced locally. We can invest in sustainable transport options such as trains and buses, with pedestrian and cyclist- friendly residential streets where 20mph is the norm.
As individuals, we can choose to use re-useable cups and bottles, stop using plastic straws, stop eating beef and eat lower impact meat like chicken or go meat-free.
Collective individual actions like these create a positive groundswell o for change that businesses will respond to. Lobby your politicians and large companies. But remember that you can make a difference too.