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Almost half of London’s commercial properties at higher flood risk

Almost half of London’s commercial buildings are at risk from flooding fueled by the climate crisis, a new analysis has warned.

Paving, lack of green space and increased use of basements put further strain on an already antiquated sewer system in the city

A new analysis from Zurich UK has found that 42% of London’s 301,000 commercial buildings will face increased risk and likelihood of flooding from the climate crisis.

Following last July’s flash floods, Zurich analyzed commercial and mixed-use properties in the capital and mapped them against areas at risk of flooding in the event of heavy rains.

The research found the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had the highest percentage of buildings at risk of flash flooding (63%), followed by Hammersmith and Fulham (56%), Merton (54%), Southwark (54%) ) and Wandsworth (53%).

The research also warned that 14,780 of London’s 44,3205 commercial basement properties are at risk of surface water flooding. Of these, 5,692 face a ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ flood risk, with the highest number of buildings in Westminster.

Zurich UK identifies paving, lack of green space and increased use of basements as reasons which are putting further pressure on an already antiquated sewage system in the city.

David Nichols, Zurich UK Chief Claims Officer, said: “Flash flooding is one of the most serious climate threats facing the capital. Even at current levels of global warming, we have seen the chaos caused by last year’s heavy rains. More frequent and severe thunderstorms could be hugely disruptive to Londoners, businesses and the city’s economy.

“Extreme weather is the new normal and businesses need to adapt. It is crucial that businesses urgently assess the flood risks they face and put plans in place to respond and recover.

Prepare to fail

Last year the Environment Agency released a new report outlining how the UK is unprepared for the impacts of a worsening climate.

Titled ‘Living better with a changing climate’, the report warns that the UK is dangerously under-prepared for the physical impacts of climate change which are already priced in, regardless of future emissions cuts on the path to net zero d 2050.

A 6% increase in winter precipitation and a 15% decrease in summer precipitation by the 2050s are projected. This would have devastating effects for farmers and exacerbate the water scarcity problems already affecting cities like London due to population growth and aging infrastructure.

The report also contains worrying flood forecasts, indicating that sea levels in London are set to rise by 23cm by the 2050s and 45cm by the 1980s. river flows will be more extreme, report warns; they are expected to be 27% higher in the 2050s than today.

The findings of the EA are similar to those presented in the latest climate risk assessment from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Released in June, the assessment said none of the risks facing the UK had urgently diminished since the last assessment in 2016. It warned that the costs of damage from extreme weather could triple the 2080s without decisive political action and increased investment in the short term.

Matt Mace