Climate change could bring benefits as well as risks to East Anglia

Climate change could bring opportunities, as well as risks, for our region's growers. Picture: Matth

Climate change could bring opportunities, as well as risks, for our region's growers. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Climate change could bring benefits to our region's farmers and foresters - as well as increased risk of water shortages, flooding, storms and heatwaves.

Urgent action is needed to deal with risks posed by climate change, Government advisers have warned.

But its committee on climate change said there are also opportunities, including a potential boost to UK agriculture and forestry from warmer weather and a longer growing season, while British businesses will also be able to sell products and services to help people worldwide adapt.

'The NFU recognises that climate change will bring opportunities as well as threats to farmers and growers in East Anglia,' said Brian Finnerty, regional spokesman for the National Farmer's Union. 'The challenge is to minimise the threats while maximising the opportunities that warmer weather and a longer growing season should bring.

'Water management is one of the key challenges we face - both ensuring there is enough water to grow our food and that productive Norfolk farmland is protected from flooding.

'This will require a strategic, longer-term approach to total water management to increase the resilience of agricultural businesses and rural communities to extreme weather conditions.

'It is vital that the government removes regulatory barriers to enable businesses to mitigate the impacts of future water shortages.'

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'It's also important that there is adequate funding in place for the world-leading agricultural research undertaken by scientists in our region. As well as developing new crop varieties, this includes finding ways of helping farmers tackle new and emerging pests and diseases.'

While improving protection for some towns, cities and villages would be possible, others will face a significant increased risk - even putting the viability of some communities under threat.

A range of policies including keeping water further upriver and restoring rivers and peat soils, as well as traditional flood defences, will be needed.

Extreme heat also poses an urgent and growing risk, with the number of hot days a year on the rise since the 1960s and the heatwave in 2003 that killed 2,000 people across the UK likely to become the norm by the 2040s, the analysis warned.

The risk of water scarcity is also a growing one, with estimates that public water supplies will fall short of total demand by 5pc to 16pc across Britain by the 2050s, the report said.

Areas such as the north west of England and Wales, which currently have plenty of water, but rely on rainwater and reservoirs rather than groundwater to feed water supplies may face shortages in the future.

Lord Krebs, chairman of the sub-committee, said: 'We must take action now to prepare for the further, inevitable changes we can expect.

'Our independent assessment, supported by the work of hundreds of scientists and other experts, identifies the most urgent climate change risks and opportunities which need to be addressed.'

A Government spokesman said: 'We are committed to making sure the UK is prepared for the challenges of climate change.'

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