Terrafirma roundtable examines impact of climate change on the property industry

terrafirmaBy Legal Futures Associate Terrafirma

Coming soon… a new cross-sector roundtable asks the burning questions concerning climate change, and the financial and physical risks to property.

Bringing together ground and flood risk specialists, conveyancing solicitors, mortgage lenders and insurers the roundtable events explore the prevalent topic of climate change.

Hosted by Modern Law and Terrafirma and joined by flood experts Ambiental Risk Analytics and JBA Risk Management, attendees, who consider themselves and their firms as conscious of climate-related issues, sat down virtually and in-person to discuss the rising risks facing different parts of the UK and the property industry.


Following Terrafirma’s appearance at the ‘Hitting Net Zero through Geospatial Innovation’ conference for COP26 in November, Dr Tim Farewell – one of the UKs leading academics on geohazards and the interaction between the natural and built environment – asked the burning questions every legal professional and homeowner should ask to better understand the future of financial and physical risks.

Those in attendance considered how prepared the UK property and finance industry is, when understanding their exposure to climate risks and what responsibility they hold when it comes to educating clients about the impact of physical hazards.

It is indisputable that there will be an increase in climate-related physical risk to property; climate change is impacting extreme weather events and environment globally which increase the severity and frequency of ground hazards. Legal professionals play a pinnacle role in reshaping the property industry alongside assisting clients in addressing, managing, and mitigating the risks of climate change.

Terrafirma’s Science and Communications Director, Dr Tim Farewell comments: “The property industry has had a tendency to look backwards to determine risk levels. Unfortunately, this just won’t do any more. We can’t look at the places which have been at risk to predict future risk, as the climate is changing so much. So, we need to shift peoples’ focus to looking at the outputs of well-crafted models rather than historic losses. In terms of the people on the roundtable, these three groups represent key players in the housing market and more and more they will need to be working off the same data and information as they determine risk levels for their clients.”

Did you know that subsidence is the most costly ground hazard in the UK? Around £64 million of subsidence claims were made in just three months in 2018, the highest in a decade, and it’s only going to worsen as climate change exacerbates ground movement in the hotter and drier summers ahead. The agenda included if properties are adequately prepared for the increased impact of physical hazards, including flooding, subsidence, and coastal erosion.

As part of the roundtable study, Terrafirma have uncovered as a worst-case scenario, approx. 16,500 properties are at risk over the next 60 years from coastal retreat, assuming that there is no active intervention to manage the coast.

Modern Law and Terrafirma would like to thank all those who were involved in making it an interesting discussion. The roundtable write up will be available in January’s edition of Modern Law Magazine, and Terrafirma will continue the conversation and help educate the legal profession on ground and climate-related hazards throughout 2022 and beyond.


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