The Environment Agency (EA) is preparing for a 4°C rise in global temperature that will cause flooding and storms affecting millions of households and businesses across the country.

Launching a major, long-term strategy to tackle flooding and coastal change, EA Chair, Emma Howard Boyd called for a new approach to ensure communities are resilient to the threat of flooding posed by climate change.

“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.”

Currently, two thirds of properties in England are served by infrastructure in areas at risk of flooding and for every person who suffers flooding, around 16 more are affected by loss of services such as power, transport and telecommunications.

The strategy calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050 and outlines EA plans to work with partners to develop standards and tools to help communities prepare for and respond to the predicted increase in flooding and coastal change.

The EA also calls for more to be done to encourage property owners to ‘build back better’ after a flood, including making homes and business premises more resilient, such as raised electrics, hard flooring and flood doors.

But the strategy also points out that the scale of flooding and coastal impacts in some areas may be so significant that the concept of ‘build back better’ may not be appropriate. This could mean moving whole communities out of those areas most at risk.

“Climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats,” Boyd added. “We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences.”

Even with resilience measures in place, an average of £1 billion will still need to be invested each year in traditional flood and coastal defences and natural flood management.

This is money well spent, according to the National Audit Office, who calculate that for every £1 spent on protecting communities, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts is avoided.

Last reviewed 14 May 2019