The number of people in the UK facing floods during the winter is more than the population of Birmingham and Manchester combined, according to a new report.
Published by campaign organisation The Climate Coalition and the Priestley International Centre for Climate, the report warns that the UK is already seeing wetter winters and more frequent and intense weather extremes due to climate change. Around 1.8 million people are now living in areas with significant risk of flooding.
In two recent studies, researchers found the likelihood of extreme rainfall happening in the UK had increased by approximately 40% because of climate change.
The report comes weeks after floods wreaked havoc for thousands of households in Yorkshire and the Midlands, with a month's worth of rain falling in some parts of South Yorkshire in November.
Ministers must require new homes to be compatible with a net zero emissions target, help homeowners to make their houses more energy-efficient and improve flood defences in vulnerable areas, The Climate Coalition argues.
The Coalition, which is made up of groups ranging from CAFOD and Christian Aid to the National Trust, WWF and the RSPB, is releasing the report as part of its Show The Love campaign, which celebrates things people love but that could be lost due to climate change.
'Families can't sell homes'
The report describes how major floods have caused devastating damage to UK households over recent years:
The past dozen years (2007-19) have seen a major flood event nearly every year with almost 100,000 properties damaged in England, according to data provided to The Climate Coalition by the Environment Agency.
Coastal, surface or river flooding is causing more than £1 billion worth of damage a year in the UK. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) told the report authors that the floods in Yorkshire and the Midlands in November 2019 led to more than 2,250 insurance claims for flood damage from homeowners with at least £45 million expected to be paid out to cover damaged homes and possessions.
One of the worst affected places during the November 2019 floods was Bentley, in South Yorkshire, where more than 400 homes were damaged. Previous flooding in the town in 2007 had left residents priced out of home insurance by high premiums and a £7,500 excess in one case. Flooding has also made it difficult for residents to sell or move home.
Catherine Berry, a community volunteer who helped the clean-up in Bentley after November's floods, said: "This is a deprived area with a large number of vulnerable people. There are people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who've been left with no choice but to live in homes with damp up the walls.
"For a lot of families and individuals here £100 a month premiums are just not affordable. We had one family who were going to put their house on the market to move somewhere bigger, but they're not going to be able to sell their house now in this area."
Alisa Dolgova, Manager of Prudential Regulation, and a climate change specialist at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), warned: "If we see a greater increase in the extreme weather events that we've had over the past decade then that will inevitably be reflected in insurance costs."
Steps needed to protect homes and tackle climate change
The Climate Coalition says the government must act urgently to strengthen flood defences and put in place plans to end the UK's contribution to the climate crisis.
The report argues that stricter controls on building homes in areas at risk of flooding and planting more trees in urban areas will both reduce the risk of flooding and help to cool cities during heatwaves.
The Coalition also says that improvements to homes - which contribute one-fifth of UK emissions - will play a key role in meeting the government's target of cutting emissions to net zero.
Measures include heating homes using ground or air source pumps and making houses more energy-efficient with better insulation, glazing and draught-proofing.
George Clarke, architect and TV presenter, said: "There is no question that living in a low-carbon home is better for our health, the planet and our energy bills.
"At this time of year, the cost of heating our homes is a strain on millions of households. Homes across the country are leaking energy from poor insulation and design, further and unnecessarily adding to the bills of low-income households and dragging them into fuel poverty."
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: "Adapting to the inevitable changes in our climate is vital, and we are taking robust action to improve the resilience of our people, economy and environment, including by investing £2.6 billion over six years to better protect our communities from flooding and erosion.
"Tackling climate change and the impact on our environment is both a national and international priority. The UK is already leading the way by delivering on our world-leading target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We will ask our partners to match the UK's ambition at this year's COP26 talks in Glasgow."
Sarah Croft, Campaigns Manager at Catholic aid agency CAFOD, said: "This report shows how once-in-a-generation events have become a regular reality for communities here in the UK.
"It demonstrates how the climate crisis is no longer something that belongs in the future but is already with us - and that's even more the case for people in the world's poorest communities.
"We need the government to put in place the measures recommended in this report so we can protect our own homes and also our common home from the impacts of the climate crisis. It's particularly important the government does this and leads the way as the host of this year's UN climate talks."
Full report available at: www.theclimatecoalition.org/s/Home-Truths-Report-Embargoed-until-2230-040220.pdf
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