Improving society’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from flooding requires integrated, anticipatory flood risk management (FRM). However, most countries still focus their efforts on responding to flooding events if and when they occur rather than addressing their current and future vulnerability to flooding. Flood insurance is one mechanism that could promote a more ex ante approach to risk by supporting risk reduction activities. This paper uses an adapted version of Easton’s System Theory to investigate the role of insurance for FRM in Germany and England. We introduce an anticipatory FRM framework, which allows flood insurance to be considered as part of a broader policy field. We analyze if and how flood insurance can catalyze a change toward a more anticipatory approach to FRM. In particular we consider insurance’s role in influencing five key components of anticipatory FRM: risk knowledge, prevention through better planning, property-level protection measures, structural protection and preparedness (for response). We find that in both countries FRM is still a reactive, event-driven process, while anticipatory FRM remains underdeveloped. Collaboration between insurers and FRM decision-makers has already been successful, for example in improving risk knowledge and awareness, while in other areas insurance acts as a disincentive for more risk reduction action. In both countries there is evidence that insurance can play a significant role in encouraging anticipatory FRM, but this remains underutilized. Effective collaboration between insurers and government should not be seen as a cost, but as an investment to secure future insurability through flood resilience.

Surminski, S. and Thieken, A. H. (2017). In: Earth’s Future. doi:10.1002/2017EF000587

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