UK Government should not have been surprised by this winter’s flooding

Posted on 24 Mar 2016 in

The UK is in urgent need of a national flood risk management strategy and devastating floods, such as those experienced in the north of England this winter, should not come as a surprise to the Government, according to a new policy paper published today (24 March 2016) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The paper by Dr Swenja Surminski has been submitted to the inquiry on the winter floods 2015-16 by the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Dr Surminski’s written evidence points out that the Government ignored calls last year from the independent Committee on Climate Change to create a national flood risk strategy on the grounds that it “would not be appropriate at this time”.

The evidence states: “The flooding that has occurred this winter now shows that decision was wrong, and that the Government urgently needs to produce a national flood risk management strategy”.

The UK has experienced unprecedented rainfall in recent years and an increasing number of homes are at risk from flooding as a result of climate change.

The evidence notes: “According to the Met Office, six of the UK’s seven wettest years on record, and its eight warmest years, have occurred from 2000 onwards. The UK experienced its wettest and second wettest winters on record in 2013-14 and 2015-16, respectively. The heavy winter rainfall over the past few years may have been unprecedented, but it should not have been unexpected.”

Dr Surminski’s evidence calls on the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review, launched in December 2015, to consider the impact of coastal flooding and surface flooding, as well as river flooding.

The evidence states: “It is important that the Review does not only consider river flooding, which was the cause of much of the damage during the exceptional rainfall this winter, but should also examine the UK’s resilience to coastal flooding and surface water flooding, both today and in the future.”

Dr Surminski also highlights her recent study which found that climate change and a high demand for housing are both likely to lead to a sharp increase in the number of properties at risk from surface water flooding. The study also concluded that the new Flood Re insurance scheme, due to start operating next month, will not reduce losses from flooding.

The evidence states: “In its current form the scheme will not help to address the underlying causes of flooding. There are no direct levers for Flood Re to influence flood resilience and the scheme will not impact the behaviour of those groups that will determine future risk levels: homeowners, national and local governments, developers and insurance companies. This is a missed opportunity.”

Dr Surminski argues that Flood Re could actually be detrimental to flood risk management as it does not encourage households to increase their resilience to flooding.

The evidence notes that “Flood Re is ‘invisible’ to the households it covers, and recommends: “Those households covered by the scheme should be made aware in their policy documentation that they are benefitting from subsidised insurance cover and should be provided with information about their flood risk level and what measures are in place to protect them.”

For more information about this media release please contact Ben Parfitt (b.parfitt@lse.ac.uk) or Bob Ward (r.e.ward@lse.ac.uk)

 NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (https://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).