Reports

Seven steps to help protect UK homes, businesses and communities from climate change impacts

Weir on the Rover Soar
  • Aviva’s Building Future Communities report sets out seven key steps to protect homes and business premises from flood and extreme weather events over the next 30 years.
  • Urgent action needed by government, local authorities, developers, insurers and broader industry needed to protect communities for the future.
  • Stricter planning and design regulations, rigorous testing, more research and innovative, nature-based measures are among the key recommendations.
  • Extreme weather is already impacting the UK – in February 2020, Aviva received almost a year’s worth of storm claims in just one month1.
  • UK properties and communities are ill-prepared for climate change – over 570,000 new homes have been built since 2016 that will not be resilient to future high temperatures.2
  • Aviva research reveals that only 9% of people feel fully prepared for a flood happening in their home, and 36% haven’t thought about it at all.3
  • Yet 38% of UK householders believe climate change will have an impact on their homes in the next year, rising to over half (57%) in the next 10 years.

Aviva is calling for urgent action to ensure UK homes and businesses are protected from flood and extreme weather events caused by climate change as the insurer launches its first Building Future Communities report.

In Building Future Communities, Aviva calls for seven key steps that are urgently required by government, local authorities, developers, industry bodies and business to address the threats climate change poses to UK property, livelihoods and communities.

Aviva also calls for more work to encourage and support individual and community action, to ensure business owners and householders take the necessary steps within their communities.

The report, which draws together data, analysis and expertise from a variety of sources, outlines the threats being faced by people, homes and businesses now and in the near future, and demonstrates how communities can prepare for the challenges they may face. It examines the unique features of the UK’s natural, built and social environments and explores opportunities to address climate change impacts.

Aviva’s call for change

  1. Greater use of innovative nature-based solutions that are adapted to the UK landscape - innovative, site-specific nature-based solutions that help to guard against multiple climate risks, for example, Aviva’s partnership with WWF to help improve flood resilience.
  2. Ensure small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are sufficiently protected against extreme weather - new commercial properties built today to be fit for purpose, and for the government to better support SMEs in preparing for climate events.
  3. Strengthen planning regulation to protect UK properties - strengthen planning and building regulation to prevent new properties from being built on floodplains, and to ensure that all existing and future properties have adequate resilience and safety measures in place.
  4. More collaboration and research across all stages of the building process to combine sustainability with safety - from design to build, ensure that all current and future materials have both sustainability and safety in mind.
  5. Improve access to home insurance and narrow the insurance gap to protect those most at risk - increased research into the affordability and availability of insurance, and targeted measures to close the insurance gap – particularly among renters – and protect those most threatened by climate change.
  6. Encourage and incentivise property resilience to aid recovery - greater understanding, insight and collaboration on effective campaigns and incentives that drive preventative action against extreme weather impacts. These should include government grants to help return businesses and households to a greener and more resilient state after extreme weather events.
  7. Collaboration across recovery organisations to strengthen crisis response and resilience at community level - increased collaboration and support for communities through a more streamlined, quicker and joined-up crisis response to climate events, using insights from Covid-19 and existing community-level partnerships. 

Storm claims escalate as climate impacts hit the UK

The report highlights the impact that climate change is already having in the UK.  In 2020, the UK experienced severe floods in the spring and summer, and in February 2020, Aviva received almost a year’s worth of storm claims in just one month1. The Environment Agency predicts that the UK will experience a 59% increase in rainfall and a rise in summer temperatures by 7.4c  by 20504, which is likely to lead to more floods, heat and subsidence issues.

And whilst heatwaves can feel like a welcome respite, they can prove fatal for many vulnerable people. In 2020, there were more than 2,500 heat-related deaths during three heatwaves, and, without action, this is predicted to rise to 7,000 every year by 2050.5

Current regulations putting homes and businesses at risk

Aviva’s latest flood mapping data shows the risk of surface water, or flash flooding, is increasing.  Almost one in five (19%) properties are at risk from surface water flooding,6  yet worryingly, since January 2009, over 70,000 new homes have been built in flood zones7. Other impacts of climate are also not being adequately considered. In England alone, over 570,000 homes have been built since 2016 that will not withstand future high temperatures2, and without stricter planning regulations, this number is likely to rise.

Adam Winslow, Chief Executive Officer of Aviva UK & Ireland General Insurance, said: “Severe floods and storms are an acute reminder of how extreme weather is already affecting people, homes and livelihoods, across the UK.  And it’s not just floods; subsidence and heat-related risks are likely to increase as temperatures rise, putting more homes and businesses under threat.  We can’t stop the changes that are already happening, but we can act - now - to help reduce their impact in the future.

"We can’t stop the changes that are already happening, but we can act - now - to help reduce their impact in the future."

“At Aviva, we see first-hand the trauma that these weather events can have on our customers, not just in the immediate aftermath of an event, but the long-term effect on wellbeing and financial resilience. 

“Our Building Future Communities report sets out the challenges that lay ahead for the UK, the solutions that could help tackle some of the problems, and a call for collaboration to bring about urgent, tangible actions.”

Householder and SME concerns grow but action is lacking

New research in the report shows an increasing concern from UK residents and small to medium business owners about how climate change will affect them. Nearly two fifths (38%) of UK householders think that climate change will have an impact on their homes in the next year, rising to half (50%) in the next five years and 57% in the next ten years.3  Of those who believe climate change will have an impact, nearly half (46%) believe storms or wind will affect their property, 42% worry about excess heat and a third (32%) are concerned about the impact from flooding. 

It’s a similar story with small business owners. Nearly three fifths (57%) of SME owners believe that climate change will have an impact on their business in the next ten years, yet just 12% have a business continuity plan that includes climate change risks.8  

Although many householders are concerned about climate change, Aviva’s survey results show many are ill-prepared for the impacts or are taking little action to make their homes more resilient.  Only 9% of people feel fully prepared for a flood happening in their home, and 36% haven’t thought about it at all. A similar pattern emerges with preventative flood mitigation measures; three in five people (60%) in a high-risk flood area have not implemented any flood mitigation measures. The biggest reasons for not taking action are a belief that their home won’t flood (50% of respondents), an absence of action from others implementing measures (17%), and a lack of awareness (15%).

"To tackle climate change in the UK, a cultural shift is needed to better understand the risks from extreme weather and prepare for its impacts."  

Aviva is working with a number of partners on a range of projects to help trial new solutions to climate change. These include partnerships with the WWF to identify nature-based solutions to improve flood protection, and the University of Hull ‘Mapping the Gaps’ project to help communities in the aftermath of a climate event. Earlier this month, Aviva was announced as one of the founding members of the Net Zero Insurance Alliance.

Winslow added: “As the Covid-19 crisis has shown, communities can be at their strongest when people, businesses and organisations come together for a common cause. To tackle climate change in the UK, a cultural shift is needed to better understand the risks from extreme weather and prepare for its impacts.  We need collective engagement from government, local authorities, industry and home and business owners to bring about this shift, to help build stronger, more prepared communities for the future.” 

A copy of Aviva’s Building Future Communities report can be found here.

-ENDS-

Sources

1 Aviva property claims data analysis 2016-2021
2 Climate Change Committee, Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk 2021
3 Research commissioned by Censuswide for Aviva in May 2021
4 Environment Agency, ‘Blueprint to Protect and Prepare Nation from Flooding’, 2020
Environmental Audit Committee, ‘Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change’, 2018, pp.3
6 Aviva Flood Mapping Data, 2021
7 Bright Blue Think Tank, 2020, https://www.brightblue.org.uk/70000-english-homes-in-areas-prone-to-flooding/
8 Research commissioned by YouGov for Aviva in May 2021

Media Enquiries

Diane Mangan

General Insurance Lead

Liz Kennett

General Insurance — Products and regulation

Notes to editors:

  • For information on how Aviva is helping our people, customers and communities impacted by COVID-19 visit: www.aviva.com/covid-19-our-response/
  • We exist to be with people when it really matters, throughout their lives. We have been taking care of people for more than 320 years, in line with our purpose of being ‘with you today, for a better tomorrow’. In 2020, we paid £30.6 billion in claims and benefits to our customers.
  • Aviva is invested in our people, our customers, our communities and our planet. In 2021, we announced our plan to become a Net Zero carbon emissions company by 2040, the most demanding target of any major insurance company in the world. This plan means Net Zero carbon emissions from our investments by 2040; setting out a clear pathway to get there with a cut of 25% in the carbon intensity of our investments by 2025 and of 60% by 2030; and Net Zero carbon emissions from our own operations and supply chain by 2030. Aviva has been leading this agenda for decades: Aviva was the first international insurer to go operationally carbon neutral in 2006 and we are champions of renewable energy and energy storage at our offices, allowing us to achieve our 2030 carbon reduction target (70% reduction on 2010 levels) 10 years early. Find out more about our climate goals at www.aviva.com/climate-goals and our sustainability ambition at www.aviva.com/sustainability.
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