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Thursday, 03 March 2016 06:43

Flood investment: Environment Agency updates climate change guidance

The Environment Agency has updated its guidance setting out how risk management authorities can account for climate change within their flood and coastal erosion risk management investment decisions.

The advice is an update to the 2011 version of ‘Adapting to Climate Change: Advice to Flood & Coastal Risk Management Authorities’.

This latest version reflects an assessment completed by the Environment Agency between 2013 and 2015 using UK Climate Projections (UKCP09) data, to produce more representative climate change allowances for England.

The advice is based on Government’s policy for climate change adaptation, and is specifically intended for projects or strategies seeking Government Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management Grant in Aid (FCERM FCERM GiA).

Introducing the guidance, the Environment Agency said:

“The purpose of this advice is to ensure that an economically credible appraisal, taking account of the uncertainties associated with climate change, can be made to support Government investment decisions. This is necessary to ensure that a fair comparison can be made between investment in projects in different locations that compete for central government grant, as well as ensuring that the most appropriate means of reducing risk is investigated in any one place.”

“Given the long lifetime and high cost of the built environment and many flood and coastal erosion management measures, it is imperative that plans and investment projects take into account, in an appropriate way, the changing risks over the coming century.”

The guidance says that where possible, preference should be given to a managed adaptive approach which would ensure a fairer and more flexible spread of public investment.

A managed adaptive approach is based on taking action when particular trigger points are observed - this is most likely to be appropriate in cases where ongoing responsibility can be assigned to tracking the change in risk, the guidance says.

However, in some circumstances, this may not be technically feasible e.g. it may not be possible to manage multiple interventions or it may be economically more efficient to build in a precautionary element at the outset. In this instance, a precautionary approach, with a one-off intervention, may be the only feasible or best option. Considering only precautionary options would lead to greater levels of investment at fewer locations, according to the guidance.

Risk management authorities must apply the guidance to projects or strategies seeking government flood and coastal erosion risk management grant in aid (FCRM GiA) funding.

The Environment Agency said the advice should be applied to all future appraisals that are started (new) from March 2016 or are to be submitted for approval after 1st September 2016.

Work already in progress should, as a minimum, be assessed to ensure that the advice would not lead to different decisions. However, even for substantially complete work, or that submitted for approval before September 2016, the Agency says if the new advice can be factored in, or the plan or investment decision tested against it without slowing completion or adding significantly to the cost, then this should be done.

According to the Agency, by following the guidance, risk management authorities will carry out a credible economical appraisal that takes account of the uncertainties associated with climate change.

Click here to download Adapting to Climate Change: Advice for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Authorities

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