Research highlighted design flaws in the UK's new flood insurance scheme Flood Re, resulting in the scheme taking account of climate change impacts – potentially affecting more than five million flood-risk properties in the UK.


  • Following a 2013 consultation submission from Dr Swenja Surminski and colleagues about the design of the new Flood Re insurance scheme, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a response which confirmed that climate change, and in particular the growing risk of surface water flooding, should be taken into account in the scheme.
  • The revised impact assessment acknowledged that improvements in river and coastal flooding defences as well as upgrades to urban drainage systems were needed to avoid an increase in the number of households covered by the insurance scheme over the next 20-25 years.
  • The research by Dr Surminski and colleagues led to an ongoing dialogue and collaboration with the DEFRA team responsible for the design of Flood Re.
  • Following a subsequent submission to a 2014 DEFRA consultation on Flood Re, Dr Surminski's research is changing thinking around how the insurance sector can raise awareness of flood risk and reward flood prevention efforts by homeowners.
  • Dr Surminski's work is being used by policymakers and the insurance industry to inform negotiations about the availability and affordability of flood insurance, both in the UK and abroad.
  • The Flood Re analysis is now further developed through an agent-based computer model in collaboration with the University of Oxford and other European research partners. It is featured in the Bank of England's first Climate Change report and has led to close collaboration between researchers and the insurance industry in the UK and internationally.

As a result of Surminski's and the Committee on Climate Change's advice on Flood Re, the underpinning legislation was revised by the House of Lords to address many of the issues raised. Flood Re as now proposed is more likely to encourage cost-effective flood mitigation. (Daniel Johns, Head of Adaptation, Committee on Climate Change)

About the research

Over five million residential and non-residential properties in the UK are estimated to be at risk of coastal, river or surface water flooding. Since 2000, flood insurance to households at high risk of flooding has been covered through a series of voluntary agreements between the UK Government and members of the Association of British Insurers. In 2013, the joint Statement of Principles on the Provision of Flood Risk expired, requiring a new insurance agreement.

The insurance companies and the government developed an alternative way of offering affordable flood insurance for high-risk households - a 'flood re-insurance' scheme known as Flood Re, to be phased in from April 2016 and covering the next 25 years.

Dr Swenja Surminski’s research has found that more frequent and severe flooding as a result of climate change is a barrier to continued provision of affordable flood insurance, and that linking insurance to effective adaptation and flood risk management is crucial to ensure affordability and availability. However, these issues were not fully taken into account in the initial design of Flood Re.

Following a consultation response by Dr Surminski and colleagues from the ESRC-funded Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), the revised impact assessment from DEFRA acknowledged that improvements in defences to protect against river and coastal flooding due to climate change would be needed, to ensure that the number of households requiring access to Flood Re would not increase over the next 20-25 years.

The discussion continues with those involved in Flood Re about how the scheme should promote awareness of flood risk and encourage and reward households to take steps that increase their resilience to flooding. Most recently Dr Surminski has teamed up with colleagues at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute under the EU project ENHANCE to further the analysis of Flood Re through a pioneering agent-based computer model.