Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and South West Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, have paid a trip to the Somerset Levels, an area devastated by the winter floods of 2013/14 and which cost the county up to £147.5 million. During their visit Ms Bennett and Dr Scott Cato met with representatives from the new Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) to hear about flood management plans and climate change adaption strategies.
The SRA agreed in September to recommend to Ministers a funding option for future county wide flood protection which could establish it as a new statutory body with legal powers to raise income from householders, land occupiers and landowners. The Green Party have called for a new ‘People’s Convention’ which would include the kind of local powers being advocated by the SRA. Natalie Bennett said:
‘We are pleased to see progress being made towards ensuring that there is adequate funding being made available to protect Somerset against future floods. However, we need to adhere to the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ and so we would insist on full representation of the community on the board of the Somerset Rivers Authority. This should include representatives from various flooding campaign groups as well as lay people.’
Molly Scott Cato was particularly impressed with the ‘whole catchment management’ strategy being adopted. She said:
‘I was heartened to see how the communities of Somerset are working together to build resilience against future floods and have been impressed by the projects put in place by the Hills to Levels project. The emphasis on whole catchment management and working with natural systems to ‘slow the flow’ is the most effective way of managing the intense rainfall that climate change is bringing. Areas that are designed to hold such water can also provide excellent habitats for wildlife and in future we believe that such land use should attract payments through Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding.’
Ms Bennett and Dr Scott Cato made the visit as a final text was being agreed at the COP21 international climate talks in Paris. Natalie Bennett concluded:
‘We have heard about the devastation, chaos and huge financial costs the floods inflicted on Somerset. It serves to remind us of just how critical it is that governments enact policies to keep us to the 1.5 degree temperature rise limit established in Paris. Somerset is showing how a community can work together to manage and adapt to a changing climate but the Paris Agreement offers a unique opportunity to shape a better future for us all.’