“… In February, the Environment Agency warned that if global temperatures continue to rise in line with current trends, the UK will need to spend £1 billion a year to adequately protect homes from flooding. Currently the UK government spends just under two-thirds of that amount – £600 million. Meanwhile, the risk of flooding appears to be heading in only one direction: upwards.
… While the risk of heavy flooding is becoming more frequent – the Met office logged 17 record-breaking rainfall months since 1910, with nine of them since 2000 – the UK remains reliant on flood defense systems to limit its impact. A June 2019 analysis by Flood Re, a scheme set up by insurers and the government to cut the cost of property cover for people in flood-prone areas, showed that inland flooding would cost the entire country almost three times more on an annual basis without defences – £1.8bn rather than £700m.
This is based on the UK’s past experience with flooding. For instance, the Environment Agency said the floods caused by Storm Desmond in 2015 cost the economy about £1.6bn in England alone, a figure which could have exceeded £2.8bn if Cumbria had not upgraded its flood defences, following previous flooding in 2009 and 2005. The agency’s latest economic assessment estimates that for every £1 spent on defences, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts would be avoided.
On launching the Environment Agency’s new strategy, chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods.” Building high walls and barriers may not be enough to deal with flooding as climate change is increasing and accelerating the threat, she says, adding that “We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.” These standards could include sustainable drainage systems and the design of existing and new properties, in addition to traditional barriers and natural flood control techniques such as tree planting and no-till farming.”