The dual challenges of increasing flood risk in the United Kingdom and the impact of climate change are demanding improved planning, greater adaptability and proactive engagement across multiple stakeholders to better identify climate-related exposures and enhance resilience measures, particularly in the built environment. This is according to industry policy and building development specialists speaking at a recent flood resilience event co-hosted by Guy Carpenter and Flood Re, the United Kingdom’s flood reinsurance scheme.
On November 20, Guy Carpenter and Flood Re co-chaired a webinar entitled “Climate Change – Improving the Flood Resilience of the Built Environment.” The event brought together senior representatives from Guy Carpenter, Flood Re and the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency, as well as the wider flood risk management community. Speakers addressed how flood-related mitigation and recovery plans spanning multiple critical stakeholders must be introduced to provide a more sustainable and economically viable approach to resilience across the United Kingdom.
“Fundamentally, we need to get better at planning and adapting to the unavoidable impacts of climate change,” warned Julie Foley, Director of Flood Risk Strategy and National Adaptation at the Environment Agency. Highlighting steps currently being taken by the Agency to boost flood resilience, she said: “We are updating our guidance so that all new flood and coastal defenses in England are designed to account for a range of climate impacts, including from a 4°C rise in global temperature by 2100. We are also refreshing our strategic approach to tidal flood risk management for London and the Thames Estuary to the end of the century.”
The theme of adaptation was also central to comments by Andy Bord, Chief Executive Officer of Flood Re, who called for a more all-encompassing approach to flood risk management that extended beyond more effective flood defenses and into the wider built environment.
“Over the next 30 years, climate change will increase U.K. annual flood losses by up to 80 percent,” Bord told delegates. “While GBP1.1 billion a year of flood damage is being prevented by the United Kingdom’s existing network of river barriers and coastal defenses, it is not enough to just build higher defenses to hold back the water. We need to learn to adapt. It is critical that flood considerations are prioritized when making planning decisions and developing new homes or retrofitting existing homes. Such considerations are also central for householders at high risk of flooding. By taking action now I believe we can adapt and ‘build back better’ – an approach we have been advocating for over four years. This is what must happen to ensure the built environment is more prepared for and resilient to future flooding.”
The ability to respond effectively to climate-related changes will be highly dependent on access to granular exposure data – in particular, for high-gradient perils such as flooding, which are greatly influenced by climatic shifts.
Commenting on the need for robust modeling capabilities, Emma Raven, Head of Research and Development at leading flood modeling company JBA Risk Management, said: “It is critical that we are able to access flood models that fully incorporate climate change science. Our recent modeling, for example, suggests that over 1 million more properties in Great Britain may be at risk to a 200-year flood event by 2040, under a realistic warming scenario. It’s a very interesting time for flood modelers, and the challenges are sparking some innovative approaches.”
The insurance and reinsurance industries clearly have a critical role to play in bolstering resilience to rising flood risks and the impacts of climate change. A key aspect of this is fostering greater collaboration between public and private entities to establish the most effective ways of addressing these risks.
Charles Whitmore, International Public Sector Lead at Guy Carpenter, said: “More recently, the theme of resilience has gained increasing resonance in discussions around public sector de-risking, and we believe that sessions such as these are essential in helping all stakeholders to further understand the benefits of improved risk mitigation measures to move toward risk-based pricing. The (re)insurance market needs to move faster to embed risk mitigation and adaptation measures in the insurance product and thereby incentivize consumers to own more of this process.”
The virtual event, which was attended by almost 300 delegates, also included three panel discussions, “Flood Modeling and Climate Change: the Adequacy of Catastrophe Models for Assessing the Impact of Climate Change,” “Building Development, Flood Risk and Climate Change” and “Insurers’ Role in Improving Flood Resilience, Given Climate Change.”