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The House of Commons Library prepares a briefing in hard copy and/or online for most non-legislative debates in the Chamber and Westminster Hall other than half-hour debates. Debate Packs are produced quickly after the announcement of parliamentary business. They are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issue being debated and identify relevant briefings and useful documents, including press and parliamentary material. More detailed briefing can be prepared for Members on request to the Library.

Recent flooding and impacts

Major flooding events over recent years have included the recent Storm Desmond flooding in the North West of England, southern Scotland, North Wales and Northern Ireland; the winter floods in 2013/14 affecting much of the UK including large river catchments such as the Thames and Severn; and summer flooding across England, Wales and eastern Scotland in 2012. Impacts of these major flooding events have included fatalities, homes and businesses being flooded and evacuated, roads and rails being closed, power stations being flooded resulting in loss of power for communities and hospitals, schools being temporarily closed.

Government support

On 9 December, Chancellor George Osborne announced a £51 million fund for those affected by flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire, confirming that this takes total Government support pledged to over £60 million. A National Flood Resilience Review was announced on 13 December and a report will be published in summer 2016.

Links between extreme rainfall and climate change

Scientists are improving their understanding of how individual weather events may or may not be partly attributed to climate change, but there is a general understanding that climate change is likely to be linked to increased winter rain in the UK. 

During her statement to Parliament the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Liz Truss, agreed that the extreme weather patterns seen during storm are consistent with climate change trends.

Government funding on flood defences

The Government has protected the next 6 years of £2.3 billion capital funding in flood defences (up to 2021) and has confirmed that flood maintenance spending will be protected in real terms over this Parliament. In 2014/15, the Government spent £171 million on flood maintenance.

Paris Climate Conference

Agreement was reached at the Paris Climate Conference on 12 December 2015 on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol that will apply to all countries, and come into force by 2020.  There has been widespread relief that this had been achieved, whilst also recognising that it is a first step towards limiting anthropogenic climate change to safe levels. 

An unexpected outcome of the conference is that the ambition of the emissions goal has been increased beyond what was previously agreed to keeping temperatures “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”. The agreement also sets an aim for emissions to peak “as soon as possible” and for emissions from human activity and absorption by carbon sinks to balance by the second half of the century.

Low Carbon Policies Changes

There have been a number of policy changes since the election in May 2015. The Government has stated that it is focused on reducing the cost of energy for consumers and security of supply.


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Related posts

  • The report from Climate Assembly UK, The Path to Net Zero, will be debated in the House of Commons on 26 September 2020. Climate Assembly UK was jointly commissioned by six Parliamentary Select Committees in 2019 to answer the question of how the UK should meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

  • This briefing from the House of Commons Library examines some of the recent concern and controversy about the Green Belt and discusses how the white paper Planning for the Future treats it. It applies only to England.