The woman in charge of climate change reduction has visited the most iconic pieces of engineering designed to counter the threat from global warming.

New Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd chose to mark World Environment Day (June 5) to visit east London’s Thames Barrier.

The Barrier was initially designed to be closed on average once every six years and was closed just four times throughout the 1980s. However, the closures have increased dramatically and between February 8 and 17, 2014 this year, during the height of that year’s floods, it was closed a record-breaking 20 times.

The barrier protects 125 square kilometres of central London from storm surges, but rising sea levels as a result of climate change is increasing the risk these surges will become larger and more damaging.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd was accompanied by Environment Agency chairman Sir Phillip Dilley.

She said: “The Thames Barrier is one of our best protections. But barriers like this can only do so much – the world must act now to cut emissions and build a cleaner future, and this year World Environment Day is more important than ever to focus minds ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris.

“A strong global deal in Paris will give certainty for businesses and investors and put the world on a low carbon path as we grow our economies and make people around the world more prosperous.”

While visiting, Amber Rudd met with Environment Agency representatives who operate the barrier, and discussed the current challenges as well as the future of the project in the context of the Thames Estuary 2100 initiative.

This document provides a series of rolling measures to manage flood risk and is widely seen as the benchmark for how organisations can adjust for climate change.

The Thames Barrier spans 520m across the river Thames between Woolwich and the Docklands.

When raised, the 10 steel gates stand as high as a five-storey building and as wide as the opening of Tower Bridge. Each main gate weighs 3,300 tonnes. It is envisaged that the Barrier will be useful until 2070 but itself took 30 years to plan.