Flood Re says the findings ’support all the existing research on the impact of flooding in the UK’

Government-backed flood insurer Flood Re has urged the government to continue investing in key flood defences as a report claimed some of the UK’s most populated cities could see a 25% increase in their risk of major flooding events.

The University of Bristol and global water risk modelling company Fathom published the dataset that assessed flood hazards last week (7 March 2023).

The data highlighted the places in the UK where risks would increase most rapidly, even under the “best case” scenario where global warming was limited to 1.8c.

These included south east England, south Wales, north west England and central Scotland – the data revealed that damage increases of more than 25% were possible in densely populated cities such as London, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Conversely, the new model indicated flood hazards in north east and central England as well as eastern and northern Scotland changed very little from the present day.

The study also revealed that the forecast annual increase in national direct flood losses – defined as physical damage to property and businesses – could be kept below 5%.

But this was only on the proviso that all countries fulfilled the pledges they signed up to at COP26 and that countries, which made further net zero commitments, achieved those on time and in full.

COP26, also known as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, saw the participating 197 countries agree to a new deal, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, aimed at staving off climate change.

If COP26 and net zero promises were not collectively met, the study showed the annual cost of flooding in the UK over the next century could grow by between 13% and 23%, depending on different climate projections.

When collecting the data researchers used the most recent Met Office climate projections, which factored in the likely impact of climate change.

‘Embrace adaptability’

A Flood Re spokesperson said the findings “support all the existing research on the impact of flooding in the UK”.

“[The report] further underlines why the government needs to continue to invest in key flood defences and why adaptability needs to be fully embraced,” they added.

“It also provides yet more evidence as to why the Build Back Better scheme – launched in April last year and which has already gained major traction with insurers – is such a key initiative if the UK insurance market is to be able to continue to provide affordable flood insurance for householders in flood prone areas when Flood Re ceases trading in 2039.”

Meanwhile, the Association of British Insurers said the report further highlighted “what’s at stake”.

“Adequate, targeted and sustained government investment in flood defences remains vital,” it added.

“Flood Re continues to play an important role to ensure those households at flood risk can continue to access affordable flood insurance.”