Flooding and coastal damages risking £12bn to UK economy

Rising sea levels, storms and flooding driven by climate change has placed more than £12bn of the UK's economy at risk, according to new findings from WWF which warns that almost 2.5 million homes in the UK will be at risk of flooding by 2050.

Flooding and coastal damages risking £12bn to UK economy

The Environment Agency is set to manage the new £25m programme.

The £12bn loss to the UK economy could be driven by coastal damages alone, according to the Global Futures initiative, created through a partnership between WWF, the Global Trade Analysis Project and the Natural Capital Project to calculate the economic losses associated with ecological damages.

Coastal protection is largely provided by saltmarshes and seagrass beds. Yet the UK has already lost up to 92% of its seagrass in the last century and 85% of its saltmarsh. The new findings warn that unless action is taken, up to 0.8% of the UK’s GDP will be lost – more than what the UK Government spends on the police, fire services and law courts annually.

WWF’s executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett said: “Our research reveals the potentially devastating economic impact of the climate and nature crisis. Many coastal areas in the UK are at serious risk of land erosion and flooding, threatening hundreds of thousands of businesses and homes, roads, railways and huge swathes of valuable farmland. 

“But we have the solutions and we have a choice. At this critical time for our planet, we can vote for our world. All UK political parties must make urgent commitments to invest in the restoration of nature. We need to stop deforestation in our food supply chains, end our contribution to climate change and put nature on the path to recovery – and that includes protecting and restoring our natural coastal defences.”

Flood defence

Flooding has caused havoc across the UK over the last few months. Flooding in November, which killed at least one person, has been described as a “once-in-60-years” weather event by experts.

Storms and sea level rises linked to climate change could lead to further flooding and could impact 2.5 million UK homes by 2050.

In response, WWF is urging all political parties to commit to new policies that halt contributions to climate change through net-zero targets, stop deforestation, and drive finance and ambition to respond to a “planetary emergency”.

Globally, continued loss of habitats that provide coastal protection services – including coral reefs and seagrass beds – would see £205bn wiped out of the economy annually by 2050 – equivalent to 0.47% of the global GDP.

Sky’s Ocean Rescue arm has partnered with WWF on a new project aimed at restoring carbon-sequestering seagrass habitats in west Wales. The project will see 20,000m2 of seagrass habitat restored at Dale Bay, Pembrokeshire.

The launch of the project came as green campaigners are urging Ministers to rewild at least one-quarter of British land, coasts and seas in order to reach net-zero by 2050 while boosting biodiversity.

And, on ocean habitats specifically, a coalition of MPs hailing from across the political spectrum recently set out a three-year plan detailing key policy actions they will take to champion conservation.

Matt Mace

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