"We all need to be ready for anything"

Wed, 03/17/2021 - 17:36


Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, addressed the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission at its launch event on 17 March 2021. These are her remarks.

The Olympic Games may or may not happen this year.

In 2012, Yorkshire won seven gold medals, two silver and three bronzes - if was an independent country it would have come twelfth in the medal table.

This year, the UK hosts the COP26 climate negotiations – and there’s an opportunity for Yorkshire and the Humber to be an international leader once again.

Earlier this month Leeds was announced as the home of the new National Infrastructure Bank, with £12 billion (as well as £10 billion in loan guarantees) to invest in public and private infrastructure projects.

The bank aims to drive the Government’s plans for a Green Industrial Revolution while supporting local and regional economic growth.

In the same city the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is one of the largest river flood defence schemes in the country, with the most ambitious natural flood management programme throughout the catchment upstream.


Where better to demonstrate the benefits of climate resilient infrastructure?

Where better to realise the economic opportunities in reaching net zero?

Where in the world is better than Yorkshire?


The climate emergency will affect all of us.

By 2050, there will be 59 percent more winter rainfall and summer temperatures are set to be up to 7.4 degrees hotter.

It is well known that Dan [Jarvis MP] was a Paratrooper and that Regiment’s motto is “Utrinque Paratus” which means “ready for anything”.

With the climate emergency set to bring both predictable and unpredictable shocks, we need our infrastructure, our economy and our communities to be more resilient.

We all need to be ready for anything.

That’s why it is so important that the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s approach recognises the importance of BOTH reducing emissions AND helping people prepare for climate shocks.


The National Investment Bank aims to generate private investment towards £40 billion in infrastructure spending by creating investable markets.

Regulation underpins these markets by providing monitoring which provides assurance that companies are meeting environmental targets.

In 2019, the Environment Agency delivered over 98 percent compliance in the 5 major energy efficiency and emissions trading schemes we administer.

They cover over 40 percent of the UK’s carbon emissions from industry, business and the public sector.

As we reduce emissions we must also adapt.

As part of the national flood and coastal erosion strategy the Environment Agency are developing long term adaptive pathways in four locations (including Yorkshire and the Humber respectively) to ensure the investments we are making today are resilient to tomorrow’s climate.

Part of this involves Nature-Based Solutions and we are developing ambitious programmes across Yorkshire and the Humber.

One example is at the Alkborough Flats on the South Bank of the Humber estuary.

This landscape increases climate resilience to thousands of people and nationally important infrastructure and protects wildlife.

Another place where investment in nature could lead to wider benefits is at the River Wharfe at Ilkley.

At the end of last year, the Government decided to make it the first river to get bathing water status in England.

Sorting this will take time, investment and cooperation to meet standards… but it’s huge news for water quality; it’s good for people’s health…

…And, it’s another gold medal for Yorkshire.


The famous investor in coronavirus vaccines, Dolly Parton, once said:

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

The climate emergency will be experienced by everyone, but as an industrial powerhouse with a glorious natural environment, Yorkshire and the Humber’s leadership in managing climate change could and should be a beacon to the rest of the world.

I wish the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission every success.