Hull, United Kingdom : A holistic approach to multiple hazards

The city of Hull, on England’s North Sea coast, faces a three-pronged climate-induced threat. In addition to exposure to freshwater flooding following severe rainfall, Hull is at risk from the impact of strong windstorms and coastal flooding. The area is also economically deprived and currently under regeneration, which increases its vulnerability. Flooding in 2007 resulted in 15% of the city’s population being evacuated from their homes and financial losses of US$ 300m, despite the relatively good protection package already in place. Integrating comprehensive existing data, including analyses by the UK Environment Agency, an independent study proposes an effective portfolio of measures spanning policy, engineering and risk transfer, at limited cost.

Multi-faceted economic threat

Since research reveals that the population of Hull has not been at significant risk from climate change in the past, the new report focuses on economic implications. In 2008 the total loss for Hull from the three defined factors exceeded US$ 50m. Within this total, coastal flooding from storm surge accounted for 70% of potential loss, with wind damage and freshwater flooding being responsible for a more or less equal share of the rest. Analysis shows that even with only moderate climate change by 2030, the risk across all asset groups would increase by 10% compared with that scenario, and 20% in the case of major change. For example, the worst-case situation would incur an expected annual loss amounting to US$ 50m for residential buildings alone.

Cost-effective resilience measures

The study sensitises decision-makers for Hull, and those for other similar locations in the UK and elsewhere, to the fact that potential losses can be partially averted through measures with net economic benefits. These include flood awareness campaigns, emergency response training, improvement and repair to Hull’s existing sea and river defences, as well as mobile protection for household contents. For low-frequency incidents, insurance measures to transfer rather than directly prevent expected loss, constitute an important, cost-effective component of the resilience portfolio. Among these are improved insurance penetration of public buildings and the extension of the existing City Council scheme to encourage tenants in public housing to take on personal household contents insurance, a particularly relevant measure to protect lower-income groups. The key to success for the package of measures is a holistic approach that intelligently assesses risk rather than simply reacting to recent history.

GDP, %1

1 Based upon select regions analyzed within the countries (e.g., Mopti, Mali; Georgetown, Guyana Hull, UK; North and Northeast China; Maharashtra, India; Central regions of Tanzania; Southeast Florida, U.S.)

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