Legal action in response to coastal flooding

This letter to the Guardian was sent on December 10th.

Despite improved coastal defences, last week’s storm surges, the second series in nine days, flooded 1,400 homes destroying several.  While it is not possible to pin the blame for an individual extreme weather event on climate change, there is near certainty that climate change is increasing the risk of flooding. This is acknowledged for example in the UK government’s National Audit report on flood risk which estimates the annual costs of flood damage in England to be at least £1.1 billion, this sum “expected to rise as the risk of flooding increases with climate change”.

Flood protection can only delay but not prevent the irreversible inundation of London and many other low lying towns including Portsmouth and Hull and many of the world’s capital cities. To do this carbon emissions need to fall by 6% year-on-year starting now and much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Frustrated by the slow pace of UNFCCC negotiations, a growing number of low lying communities throughout the world are turning to the courts to seek injunctions requiring governments and fossil fuel corporations to play their part in achieving these two targets. FEASTA’s Sink or Sue and the recently formed Climate Litigation Network ( are working together with the aim of helping vulnerable coastal communities in Western Europe to plan such actions.

Prof Steffen Boehm, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Institute, Essex University

Prof Robert Whitmarsh, concerned citizen

Prof Frank Barnaby, former director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Prof David Knight, Sink or Sue, FEASTA

Emily Shirley, Director, Kent Environment and Community Network

Lady Dido Berkeley, NGO Thamesbank

Laurence Matthews, Cap & Share, FEASTA

Brian Davey, Cap & Share, FEASTA

Dr Nicholas Bardsley, Cap & Share, FEASTA

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