Fit for the future – The reform of flood insurance in Ireland: resolving the data controversy and supporting climate change adaptation


Headline issue

Increased flood risk is a major challenge for Ireland, due to climate change and socio-economic trends such as changing land-use practices. This is putting pressure on existing strategies – including flood insurance – to cope with floods and reduce their impacts.

This paper provides suggestions to inform the current debates about flood insurance and climate adaptation in Ireland, proposing a radical shift away from the current approach to collecting and sharing flood risk data.

Key messages

  • Flood insurance in Ireland is not fit for the future but remains a key tool for coping with risk.
  • The underlying problem – rising flood risk as a result of climate change – must be addressed in order to improve the current and future availability and affordability of flood insurance.
  • Improvements in access to and use of high-quality data and transparency about risk are needed.
  • A fundamental review of the collection and sharing of flood risk data is required.

Recommendations

The paper proposes a data-sharing platform that would aid a collaborative approach to understanding flood risk and resilience. It would be populated with information from and used by all stakeholders and could become a powerful tool for flood resilience and climate adaptation, and could help resolve the current flood insurance problems. Its objectives would be to:

  • provide more insights to resolve the current problems with flood insurance; and
  • facilitate data-sharing across sectors including but not limited to government and insurance, to help them recognise and manage current and future risk levels, enabling different stakeholders to incorporate this into their day-to-day decision-making.

A data platform would offer transparency and guide any possible government interventions, for example to provide short-term relief measures for those currently struggling to secure affordable insurance, without losing sight of the underlying picture of risk. It would also support investment and planning decisions, and help those tasked with managing flood risk. The proposed data-sharing platform would provide an opportunity to increase transparency, clarify risk ownership and provide improved evidence for policy-making to help ensure that a sustainable approach to flood insurance can play its part in the country’s efforts in managing current and future risks.

 

This paper is part of a research project conducted jointly by University College Cork and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and funded by the Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).