$30b needed to protect coastal communities: Insurance Council

Governments will need to invest $30 billion in large-scale coastal protection and adaptation over the next 50 years, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.

A new report prepared for the ICA by Baird Australia says climate change is driving rising sea levels and exacerbating coastal hazards such as tidal inundation, coastal and estuarine inundation, coastal erosion, and shoreline movement.

As these events increase in frequency and intensity, a growing number of exposed properties in Australia will become uninhabitable.

Insurance cover for “actions of the sea” is generally not available because of the inherent risks, and is being further constrained because of the growing risks from climate change impacts.

With insurance largely unavailable, the report recommends building greater protections for at-risk communities through:

  • Investment in coastal protection infrastructure where these can be shown to be economically and environmentally feasible;
  • Improved and coordinated data collection by local, state and federal governments to build a comprehensive picture of the scale of the problem; and
  • Land use planning that considers actions of the sea, including in some cases making difficult decisions about the long-term viability of existing communities or property.

Investing $30 billion in large-scale coastal protection and adaptation projects over the next 50 years would represent just 1.2 percent of the average yearly infrastructure spending by all local, state and federal governments.

The report finds that with this modest investment significant returns can be realised through avoided damage and financial loss for individuals and avoided community economic loss due to disruption.

However, it finds there are limits to mitigation and in some cases adaptive management and planned retreat from coastal hazard zones may be the best long-term community option.

The report recommends urgent action by federal and state governments to build a coastal hazard information database to measure and monitor the actions of the sea as sea levels rise.

Click here to read The Actions of the Sea summary report.