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Central Cambridge at major flood risk by 2050, warn Greens

Areas as far inland as central Cambridge could be underwater by 2050 if the risk of flooding is not addressed, the city’s Green Party has warned.

In a worst-case scenario, the riverside and north Barnwell areas of Abbey could be flooded along with Chesterton, they say.

The area of land that could be underwater by 2050 according to Climate Central, based on scientific data published in Nature Communications
The area of land that could be underwater by 2050 according to Climate Central, based on scientific data published in Nature Communications

The Greens called on the Independent Commission on Climate, set up by Combined Authority mayor James Palmer, to take action to prevent this scenario becoming a reality.

The party’s warnings are based on a coastal risk screening tool produced by Climate Central, an independent organisation of scientists and journalists.

It used data from a research paper published last year in Nature Communications that suggested global vulnerability to sea level rises was three times greater than previously thought.

Writing to the independent commission, which is due to report in February, the Green Party’s Jeremy Caddick says: “It is known that global warming will result in significant sea level rise in coming decades that will affect a large proportion of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. Will the commission face up honestly to the scale of the threat?”

Mr Caddick, who will stand for the party in Abbey division for the county council elections in May, laid down two more challenges to the commission on addressing the management of peatland and ensuring future development is sustainable.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “Research prepared for Cambridgeshire County Council’s Climate Strategy indicates that the peatland emits nearly as much greenhouse gas as all other human activity in the county. The good news is that our fenland soil can, with the correct management, be turned from a massive emitter of greenhouse gases into a huge sink. Allowing water back into the fens would be part of this, but it would mean a huge change for farming.”

And calling for a reality check on the level of development proposed for the region, his letter recommends that all new homes must conform to carbon neutral standards and that the Oxford-Cambridge expressway is cancelled.

Cambridge Green Party’s Jeremy Caddick. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Green Party’s Jeremy Caddick. Picture: Keith Heppell

“It is, to put it bluntly, fanciful to pretend that the number of houses being planned for this region can be built sustainably. Will the commission have the courage to say this in the face of entrenched and powerful political interests that stand to gain from development on this scale?” he writes.

Mr Caddick said the party “warmly welcomes” the commission and urged it not to “shy away from pointing out uncomfortable facts and making radical recommendations”.

He said: “We need to think big now, because we are not going to get a second chance.

“This all boils down to a question of political will. Does the commission have the vision and courage to recommend strategies that will actually get to grips with the problem, and do the mayor and the Combined Authority have the will to implement them?”

Mr Palmer has pledged that the commission, chaired by Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Julia King, will provide “what no other local area has: a strong evidence base and a well thought through plan of action, based on local environmental needs”.

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