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MARI/CCPO Seminar Series

Planning for Sea Level Rise: Lessons from London (Which has been Lucky)

Dr. Diane Horn, Birkbeck College, University of London

London is cited as an example of a city which has developed an effective adaptation strategy to address future flood risk. Although London is currently protected to a high standard by the Thames Barrier and associated flood defenses, this standard is declining as sea level rises, and walls and embankments near the end of their design life. At the same time, London is growing in an eastward direction along the Thames Estuary floodplain. The Thames Estuary 2100 study was carried out to determine the appropriate level of flood protection needed for London and the Thames Estuary for the next 100 years. The TE2100 report identified a series of adaptation pathways which identified thresholds at which various flood risk management measures fail to provide an acceptable level of protection, and the trigger points where a different approach to managing flood risk will be required in response to a higher sea level rise. However, lessons to be learned lie not only in the Thames Barrier, but also in the policy framework that surrounds it. All of the adaptation pathways identified in the TE2100 report lead to decisions about the level of protection rather than reducing exposure or vulnerability. This talk will explore the policy aspects of flood adaptation and how government policy and insurance can provide incentives to reduce flood risk.