Environmental expertise in House of Lords flood mitigation report launch

Flooded fields and the tops of trees

Lancaster University research has contributed to a key report launched this week at the House of Lords, which set out to address barriers to bringing private finance into Natural Flood Mitigation schemes.

Home to one of the largest groups of environmental research scientists in Europe, the University’s Lancaster Environment Centre has specific expertise in flood modelling and mitigation measures.

As part of a broader work package on financing UK nature recovery, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) commissioned the Green Finance Institute (GFI) to explore how private sector sources of finance could be unlocked to help facilitate the delivery of natural flood management at scale across England.

The University’s role in the “Financing Natural Flood Management” report was to provide the strategic overview on how well Natural Flood Management (NFM) can reduce flood peaks and thence reduce flood risk to properties – using hard observational evidence supported by numerical modelling.

Natural Flood Management involves the restoration or protection of natural processes to reduce flood risk. These projects can also generate wider environmental and social benefits including carbon sequestration, biodiversity uplift, water quality improvements, and access to green space.

As a complementary approach to traditional flood risk infrastructure, NFM has been highlighted as key to reducing flood risk by the UK Government, in addition to helping meet environmental goals. The report states that it will require additional funding if it is to be delivered at the scale needed to address the increased risk of flooding due to climate change, including from the private sector.

Experts at Lancaster said a lack of confidence in the science has been one of the key barriers to bringing more private finance into flood mitigation schemes that incorporate NFM solutions. It has therefore been critical to identify NFM solutions that do work, and distinguish them from those that have no scientific support or that are self-evidently ineffectual at significantly reducing flood risk.

In a series of research papers, their contribution to this report and presentations prepared for the NERC, Lancaster University researchers say that that NFM must be designed in accordance with some specific criteria in order be effective. The Private Finance in NFM report cites two Lancaster University publications in support of this argument.

Dr Nick Chappell, Lancaster University, said: “Thanks to NERC- and Environment Agency funded science, there is now hard evidence to show that NFM can reduce flood risk to properties when designs are optimised. This pioneering report by the Green Finance Institute provides the insights needed to stimulate greater use of private finance in NFM, for the benefit of all.”

Helen Avery, Director of Nature Programmes at the Green Finance Institute, said: “Flooding is the number one natural hazard in the UK, costing the country billions each year. Natural Flood Management has huge potential to boost the UK’s resilience to flooding, but requires greater participation from the private sector as buyers of outcomes. The recommendations in this report serve to provide the confidence the private sector requires, and a standardised approach to developing NFM projects to more easily attract buyers.”

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