Climate Change: A Melton Times Article by our columnist Hamish McAuley

What a winter we’ve had… and its only early in the new year! With the highest winds for 20 years recorded  from Storm Isha, just weeks after recovering from the unprecedented rain and flooding during Storm Henk the real-world effects of climate change for the British Isles might be starting to show. For me, this raises two subjects; first the big one – what are we doing about climate change? Now, this is clearly too big for me or even everyone in Britain to tackle, it is a truly existential human problem and will probably only be solved by an appropriately grand response.

The second subject though, is more manageable - what are we doing in the UK and locally in Melton to reduce the impact of a changing climate? By the looks of things, not enough. The flooding in early January didn’t come without warning, I’ve seen flooding along the Wreak valley at least every year since I moved here and I can find no evidence on the Environment Agency website of any large-scale work to mitigate the risk of future floods despite clear modelling showing a high probability of increased and more persistent rain in the coming years. Perhaps morally worse than not doing anything to prevent future flooding is the planning system which has demonstrably allowed development resulting in increased and more frequent flooding due to increasing surface run-off in key locations as well as development on flood plains. Although the much-discussed problems of sewage dumping may seem unrelated here, it is another symptom of the same underlying problem of underinvestment in our drainage infrastructure.

Last week the UK Government Office for Environmental Protection published a timely report titled “Progress in improving the natural environment in England, 2021/2022.” Its available on their website and well worth a read thought the findings are pretty damning. They state that they found no evidence that any government environmental improvement targets were being met and highlight the poor progress towards climate change mitigation. A particularly poignant concern for those of us who enjoy living in a rural area is the “deeply concerning” trends seen in biodiversity. A key thread that comes out the report is the interwoven nature and overlapping effects of policy and changes in the environment with apparently unconnected subjects like biodiversity and flooding actually being two sides of the same problem.

The report is also much more that a doom and gloom listing of failings and problems (though they detail a lot of these), it provides a vision and road map for how we can change course from where we are and sets out a structure for a new Environmental Improvement Plan to replace failed policies. Here, the authors highlight the need not just for vision and ambition but for clear deliverable targets and outcomes as well as wider engagement across society.

For us, as individuals, I think we should let this message sink in and consider its implications – what can we do? For many of us the first thought is to change how we live, travel and eat, and this is probably a good start. But in particular this year the UK is going to have a general election that offers each one of us the opportunity express our priorities. This doesn’t start at the ballot box, none of the main parties have yet published a manifesto and all of them are trying to work out how convince you to vote for them. If environmental improvement is highlighted by us now it will be given more priority by whoever wins the next election. I can only speak for the Liberal Democrats who have environmentalism as one of our 7 core values and who will be putting these issues at the top of our policy priorities. I’ll leave you to decide if the other parties are offering enough.

Hamish McAuley