UK floods: from the flooded North to the Paris climate talks

Anna Watson

10 December 2015

This week I’ve been visiting flood-struck Lancashire and Cumbria to talk to people affected.


flooded building

I set off on Wednesday with some trepidation – the floods have been horrendous for the communities, and the last thing I wanted to do was get in the way while people are clearing up the mess.

But I’d been in touch with some Friends of the Earth supporters in the areas who were keen to speak – and send a message to the politicians in Westminster and the climate negotiators in Paris.


flooded fields train Cumbria
Traveling to Lancashire, I passed by fields still submerged by floodwaters


The first person I met with was Jon Sear, who lives at Halton near Lancaster.

Jon built his own house, that came perilously close to being flooded this week.

height of flood waters
Jon points out how high the flood waters rose

Yet when Jon built his home, he’d taken great care to factor in the risks of climate change worsening flooding in the area.

With floods getting so much worse, perhaps it’s time the Government strengthened its planning guidance on climate change and flood risk.

Watch Jon tell me his story in this film:

Cliodhna Mulhern and Patrice Van Cleemput (main image), both from Lancaster, were affected by the floods this week.

Cliodhna watched during Saturday as the River Lune broke its banks – and as the lights went out, she could hear the rising flood waters thundering closer and closer.

Patrice was away – but her partner was at home watching the flood waters get closer and closer by the hour.

Patrice lost contact with her at 10.30pm when the power went down, and had a sleepless night worrying if her partner and their house had survived the flooding, as the last she knew was that levels were still rising.

pillowcase flood defenses
Children’s sandpits were emptied into pillowcases as makeshift sandbags to protect people’s houses from the floodwaters.

Both Cliodhna and Patrice are travelling to Paris this week to join with others in the climate movement to call for courageous action on climate change from world leaders.

Cliodhna and Patrice are taking with them a pillowcase and a wind-up torch to hand in to the UK Government’s delegation, to symbolise the impacts of the flood on their Lancaster community

“I’m going to Paris to swell the human presence there,” says Cliodhna.

“We need to show world leaders that we support them in taking action on climate change.

"I want to be visible and stand beside people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and experiences, to call for them to act.”

“We went on the London march,” says Patrice.

“Some people said to us what was the point but I said, ‘If you don’t march, how will the politicians know that so many people care enough and are urging them to take action for the sake of all of us across the planet’.

We have just seen our house  come close to being flooded when it was built to withstand a once-in-a-thousand-year flood.

"If world leaders don’t take action and agree to a maximum 1.5C temperature rise, these events will only get worse and more frequent.”

Read our briefing on floods and climate change (pdf).

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Cliodhna Mulhern and Patrice Van Cleemput, flooded