Environmental report predicts climate changes including storm surges and hotter summers

Spending on flood defence will need to double to £1bn annually by 2035 to cope with climate change, warned the Environment Agency this week.

Without the increased spending, climate change-driven flooding could cause £4bn worth of damage to the UK.

The Environment Agency made the assessment using information from the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCPO9) report, released last Friday, which revealed climate change will cause much hotter summers, outbreaks of wildfires, storm surges and crop failures by 2080.

ABI director general of insurance and health Nick Starling urged the government to start beefing up flood defences.

Starling said: “It is vital that government now sets out a long-term strategy for dealing with this increasing risk. Insurers are committed to playing their part in the debate, seeking the best possible outcome for their customers.”

Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith said: “There are important decisions for us all to take about how to manage these risks to protect people, communities, businesses and the economy in future.”

Environment secretary Hillary Benn said the report was a “call to action” for not only the government, but businesses and citizens.

More than 5.2m homes are at present built on a flood plain, near a river or where there is a risk of surface water flooding, the agency said.

About 490,000 homes are at “significant risk” and that will increase to 840,000 by 2035.

The agency also revealed the top ten local areas currently most at risk of flooding. Boston District in Lincolnshire currently tops the list with 23,700 homes at risk of flooding.

Aviva underwriting policy manager Arthur Phelp said it was crucial the government continued to prepare for climate change, otherwise more people would become uninsurable.

Phelp said: “I think the report is quite worrying because it is saying we need to spend more money just to stand still.

“From our perspective, it is important that the problem is tackled for us to be able to insure people at what is currently pretty modest premiums.

“We can only provide insurance on a commercial basis if it makes sense, it is difficult if nothing can be done for those worse affectedby such events.

“Ultimately, if nothing can be done it becomes very difficult for us to insure, and that is something we want to avoid.”