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Engaging with coastal communities about climate change

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Water lapping at rocks at the base of a cliff

This morning The Times published an article claiming that role-play scenarios and “community operas” are part of official proposals to help coastal towns and villages understand the risks they face from flooding and coastal erosion due to climate change.

The article states that a wide-ranging piece of research published by the Environment Agency last month says it will be impossible to protect all of Britain’s coastline as the oceans rise, and suggests using the arts to engage with “communities facing difficult choices such as managed retreat”.

The Environment Agency is neither using, nor considering using, opera or similar artistic methods to help coastal communities deal with climate change. The research paper aims to learn more about the engagement challenges communities face in the context of climate change. The research clearly notes the different existing ways communities share their experiences of these issues and how government agencies could bear this in mind in future community engagement.

The publication is one part of a large variety of scoping research as part of the Environment Agency’s long-term Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (FCERM) for England. The Strategy, which was launched in May this year and has recently been out for public consultation. The strategy sets out a long term plan for tackling, preparing for and adapting to the additional risks associated with climate change.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

This story is simply wrong. The Environment Agency is neither using, nor considering using, opera to help coastal communities deal with climate change. What we are doing is working with communities and experts to ensure that there is the best possible evidence about the effects of the climate emergency and how to tackle it effectively.

We are continuing with our record £2.6 billion investment to protect 300,000 homes from flooding and coastal erosion.

Earlier this year, Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, explained that the scale of climate change may be so significant tough decisions may need to be made in the longer term to ensure the safety of some coastal communities. She said that this work would involve conversations with communities to build a long term view about what transition might look like for areas in 30 to 50 years’ time, and then explore how that might be best achieved.

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