The east coast of England is under threat from rising sea levels, the ABI has warned in a report on the coastal flood risk. Existing flood defences must be improved

The report, Coastal flood risk - thinking for tomorrow, acting today, concludes that a 40cm rise in sea levels could occur as soon as 2040, at which point 130,000 additional properties along the coast would be vulnerable.

Research for the report was conducted by Entec UK, one of the country's largest environmental and engineering consultants, in collaboration with catastrophe modeller Risk Management Solutions (RMS) and consultants Risk & Policy Analysts.

For this study, RMS explained, it identified three storm surge scenarios from the many hundreds of events in its stochastic model, which represented surges with a 200-250 year return period for different sections of the coastline. One of the three was a close match to the surge that caused the great flood of 31 January-1 February 1953, when more than 2,000 people were drowned in eastern England and the Netherlands.

RMS ran more than 100 simulations for each surge to sample the full range of surge possibilities, from storms arriving at low tide with flood defenses that performed well to storms at high tide with poorly performing flood defenses. RMS also increased the mean sea levels by 0.1, 0.2, and 0.4m at all reference locations to assess the effects of the expected rise in sea levels. The exposures and vulnerabilities employed in the simulations were those of the firm's standard model.

Based on the report, the ABI has put forward several recommendations to the British Government, including increased spending on coastal flood defences and in the Thames estuary, as well as changes in regional planning guidelines to account for long term flood risk. The study showed that maintaining levels of risk comparable with those of today would cost £3.7-4.6 billion in improving defences and flood risk management.

ABI director general, Stephen Haddrill, said, "Flooding is expensive, disruptive and distressing. This report shows that Britain needs a sustained and prolonged investment in coastal flood defences."

The full report is available at www.abi.orguk/climatechange.