Fighting Floods & Coastal Erosion

LSEG’s Group Head of Sustainability Jane Goodland speaks to Emma Howard Boyd, CBE, Environment Agency/Green Finance Institute Chair, to discuss the roadmap towards net zero and the critical role that the Environment Agency has to play in climate action.

The conversation focuses on the environmental issues impacting flooding and coastal erosion, and on other key risk management issues around climate shocks. Emma also explains her long-term vision for the climate agenda and the strategies to drive the green industrial revolution.

The Net Zero Conversations series was filmed at the Net Zero Delivery Summit, hosted by the City of London Corporation in association with the COP 26 UK Presidency 2022 and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).

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Emma, welcome and thank you for joiningus on Net Zero Conversations.It's great to be here, Jane.Thank you for inviting me. You're welcome.So you wear a number of professional hats.Please tell us a bit more about that.So your role atthe Environment Agency andalso the Green Finance Institute.So I'm currently chairof the Environment Agency in England.We are the environmental regulator.We also have responsibilityfor flood and coastal erosion risk management,which has been very much onmy agenda over the last few yearsin this role.I have a background in finance and I'm currently chairof the Green Finance Institute here in London.How is the Environment Agencyworking on climate generally?Is there a... what's the strategy?We are focusing onnet-zero and the climate agenda in many,many different ways through our work.If we start off with floodand coastal erosion risk management,this is about better protecting communities,lives, livelihoods up and down the country.We've just delivered our five-year flood programme,some 2.6 billion pounds worth ofinfrastructure better protecting individuals,communities from flood risk,and have started a new programme where that budget hasdoubled, because of the events thatwe've been seeing from a climate change perspective.But we also work onthe net-zero agenda throughour environmental regulatory work, for example,we are the administer of the UK emissions trading scheme.We administered that when we were part of Europe.We also as an organisation,have made our own net-zero commitment and weintend to meet net-zeroby 2030 throughout our operations.It's important that you also walk the talk, right?So that's, that's important.So how can other countries build this kindof climate adaptation and resilienceinto their long-term plans.I think this is one of the elements of our net-zero workthat as we race towards zero, net-zero,we also need to be racing towards resilience as well.For too long, whether it's inthis country or around the world,we've seen adaptation and resilience,preparing for climate shocks like floods, heat waves,droughts, other climatic events assomething separate to our mitigation work,the need to reduce our emissions at scaleand very quickly. We need to bring those things together.Otherwise, we risk all ofour net-zero investments literallybeing washed away in a flood or melting in a heatwave.And this is something that it might notfeel quite so urgent here in the UK,although we have been experiencingever more frequent flood-related events,it is very, very relevant in other parts of the world.Just this year, just last month,earlier this month, we've seen heatwaves in India,Pakistan, a billion people having their livesand livelihoods affected by too much heat.And again, around the world, different storms,different flooding events leading to loss of life.And does the UK, throughthe Environment Agency orother bodies, share best practice withother countries so that we canhelp other countries in that adaptation work.We share best practice,but we also have a huge amount to learn fromother countries that are atthe forefront of the climate change agenda.And I think this is particularlyrelevant for adaptation and resilience,where other parts of the world havehad to, because ofthe impacts that they've been experiencing,be looking at how they rebuildtheir infrastructure, building back better,but also how they prepare forincidents and make sure their communities,their individuals, their citizens,are ready for dealing with the climate shocks thatare happening at an evermore frequent basis.And I think this is where those of uswho are working in the Global North havea huge amount to learn from in terms of gettingprepared for these eventsthat we are seeing more frequently.And we've heard people talking about the pace,the pace of change and progress not being adequate.From your perspective, what can,what can the finance sector andother parties do to really accelerate,get things going quicker towards net-zero.We're seeing and we've heardabout some of the huge progress thathas been made since COP26 heading towards COP27.The whole purpose of the event that we've beenattending for the last dayis about showing that progress.I think where we're seeing things moveat pace is through collaboration.Bringing together sectors withthe world of finance,the different types of finance that areapplicable to funding net-zero,linking it to the real economy and tothose sectors where we can start driving change.So I think that the progress that we're seeing,it's definitely gearing up.but we also need to see that feedthrough to real projects on the ground,being invested in. Yeah, tangible projectsthat people can see for themselves.When we talk about net-zero,I think you touched on it before.Often people think about is justabout getting emissions down or that's the,that's the main point.but do we need to think morecarefully about some of the wider issues as we,as we accelerate and get those emissions down, are thereunintended consequences or wider issuesthat we need to be mindful of?We are still dealing inthis country around the world withthe unintended consequences ofthe First Industrial Revolution.We need to make sure thatthe Green Industrial Revolution allows for innovation,but also is structured in a waythat means that if mistakes are made,if there are unintended consequencesin relation to naturein particular, air quality,water quality, that we areengaging in a way that we will make sure that we,that the polluter pays.We don't want to slow down that innovation, andone of the ways that we can do this is making sure thatdifferent regulators are working together.And by that I mean, the financial regulatorsagain heard a lot about that today,but also economic regulators andthe relevant environmental regulators.If we are working togetherand allowing some of our innovation,some of the regulatory sandboxesthat are being referred to,to make sure that we're looking atthose unintended consequences thenI think we can move at pace.But that requires everybody to engage andeverybody to be aware of the risks that are being taken,but allowing for them to be dealtwith if things do go wrong.Thank you. And you mentioned nature though,which I just want to touchon briefly in terms of... it feelslike nature is the forgotten partin all of this sometimes,but actually, nature canbe a massive part of the solution.Tell me about what the EnvironmentAgency is doing withrespect to biodiversity and natural capital.Nature is so integral to how we deal withboth net-zero but alsoour adaptation and resilience programme.Again, it's essential to weave natureinto our work and we seethis with our flood programme in particular.But often the work that we're doing to providebetter flood protection isthe flip side of dealing with too little water as well.There's a massive role forgreat infrastructure, but as we work on flooding,particular, slowing the flow,using nature, the natural environment,different interventions higher up a river catchment canreally make a difference in terms ofthe flood event when it hits the urban environment.But at the same times of,helping with the flood agenda,it is also helping with the net-zero agenda as well.The things that we can do withour peatlands also absorbs carbon.So it's a win for both the net-zero agenda.It's a win for preparing for climate shocks.But we need to make sure that we arerestoring nature at the same time.One of the ways I look at it iscomparing our infrastructure budget forflood with the programme ofinfrastructure investment for the UK as a whole,the Infrastructure and Projects Authorityhas set out a programme of650 billion pounds worth ofinvestment in new infrastructure in the UK by 2030.If you look at the flood budget,it's a thin green line of defense.We need to make sure that we're working together, toas that infrastructure is built,it has net-zero at its heart,it is being built in a way thatis preparing for climate shocks,but also works alongside and with nature aswell so that we are betterprotecting our natural environment at the same time.A huge win if we get that right.A final question, if we may,as we look towards COP27,it's a tricky question,but if there was one thing to make it a key success,what's the one thing we need to get right?We need to make sure that we getthe finance world aligned around investing in net-zero.But resilience and natureneed to be at the heart of that as well.It is going to... adaptation andresilience will be firmly onthe agenda at the African COP,and it's a whole world issue,we all need to get our arms around itand support financing resilience.Thanks so much for your time Emma.Thank you.

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