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Climate change and flooding 'could force UK towns to be abandoned' according to a shocking warning from the Environment Agency.
They warn that at least £1 billion a year needs to be spent on traditional flood and coastal defences in order to counteract the effect of climate change.
But EA chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd explained that "we cannot win a war against water" by building ever-higher flood defences, and efforts are needed to make communities more resilient to flooding.
The warning comes as the government agency publishes its long-term strategy for managing the risk of flood and coastal erosion.
It is planning for the potential of up to 4C of warming, well beyond the 1.5C or 2C limits which have been agreed internationally and are seen as thresholds beyond which dangerous climate change will occur.
Launching the strategy at Brunel University in London, Ms Howard Boyd said that in some cases villages will have to be abandoned.
She said: "In some places, the scale of the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best long term solution."
"In these instances, we will help communities to move out of harm's way."
Ms Howard Boyd said urgent action was needed to tackle more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rises driven by rising temperatures, and called for more resilient homes and infrastructure.
She urged: "More should be done to encourage property owners to build back better and in better places after a flood, rather than just recreating what was there before.
"This could involve home improvements, such as raised electrics, hard flooring, and flood doors."
Homes hit by flooding need to be "built back better", with improvements such as raised electrics and hard flooring, while some communities may have to be helped to move in the face of growing risks of flooding and coastal erosion.
Alongside traditional defences, other measures to help communities become resilient to flooding are needed.
These could include temporary barriers, natural flood management schemes such as planting trees to slow the flow of rivers and sustainable drainage systems with ponds and areas where water can soak away into the ground.
This will deliver positive benefits for the environment as well, such as creating habitat for wildlife.
There should be effective flood warnings and emergency response will be needed, alongside designing and adapting new and existing properties to help them recover quickly from a flood.
And with only a third of people who live in areas at risk of flooding believing their property is under threat, the agency wants to build a nation of "climate champions" educating youngsters through the curriculum about the risks of floods.
Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: "Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment.
"That's why we are already providing £2.6 billion over six years, delivering more than 1,500 projects to better protect 300,000 homes.
"But the threat of climate change will mean an increasing risk and preparing the country is a priority for the Government, and the nation as a whole."
The Government will be launching a call for evidence to inform future action towards flood and coastal erosion risks, she said.