Extreme weather events driven by climate change are having severe impacts that are increasingly being seen across Europe. Between 1980 and 2017, weather and climate-related extremes caused approximately €453 billion of total economic losses. Among those losses, it is estimated that only 35% were insured. Climate change has a substantial impact on real estate markets. It can directly damage individual buildings, decrease their value or even lead to assets being rendered unusable. In Europe, floods from extreme rainfall and sea level rise represent a major threat to real estate markets. As climate change leads to more frequent and severe extreme weather events it is increasingly important for real estate investors to understand the climate risk exposure of key assets and prepare for impacts.
To provide a view on physical climate-related risk for the real estate industry in Europe, Four Twenty Seven used a proprietary model that leverages global climate data to provide asset-level risk assessments to physical climate hazards. We analyzed the exposure of 20,816 retail spaces and 16,188 offices in Four Twenty Seven’s database of one million corporate facilities. The real estate sites are owned by over 900 listed companies, out of the 2,000 companies included in our database. We used our climate risk scoring methodology to assess each facility’s exposure to climate hazards, with a focus on floods, sea level rise and heat stress looking out to mid-century. Flood risk and sea level rise are assessed with a precision of 90x90m. Heat stress is evaluated at a 25x25km scale.
We found that 19% of retail spaces and 16% of offices are exposed to floods and/or sea level rise, with floods representing the highest risk for both types of asset. Heat stress also presents significant risk to these facilities.
Inland Floods: A Major Threat for a Warming Europe
Floods are one of the most prominent risks for real estate in Europe. In most European cities, climate change is increasing the frequency and the intensity of heavy precipitation events, threatening urban infrastructure and increasing flooding.
Floods can inundate facilities directly, leading to disrupted operations and equipment damage and can also have indirect impacts on operations by damaging regional transportation, power and communication infrastructure. Fluvial and pluvial floods can increase costs associated with maintenance and repair of buildings, lead to higher insurance premiums, and reduce revenue due to business disruptions.
Floods also have wider impacts on real estate markets. For example, studies looking at the residential market in Germany and Finland show that properties in flood-prone areas are sold at lower prices compared to properties without flood risk.
Retail spaces in the United Kingdom are particularly exposed to flood risks, based on our analysis (Fig. 1). Climate change is likely to contribute to more events like the winter storms of 2015-2016 which resulted in around £1.6 billion of total economic damages in the United Kingdom. Over 20% of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sheffield’s retail assets are located in flood-prone areas.
The amount of rain during heavy precipitation events in Glasgow (Fig. 2) is projected to double by 2030-2040 compared to 1975-2005. London is also exposed to surface, fluvial and tidal floods. In our analysis, London is the city with the highest number of retail spaces in flood-prone areas (Table 1). Its most exposed sites have a 20% probability of being flooded each year, and a 1% probability that the flood depth will be higher than one meter, based on Four Twenty Seven’s data.
Without adaptation measures at the site-level and the city-level, these assets will likely suffer from increasing property damages and potential business disruptions due to more frequent and severe rainstorms. For example, floods can reduce business at retail sites such as clothing stores when consumers may prefer to stay home or be prohibited from shopping by inundated infrastructure. Likewise, grocery stores and other retail sites may experience supply chain disruptions or damaged goods with impacts on sales and revenues.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have a Climate Change Adaptation Program. The English program pledges to construct additional hard defenses and to support communities and businesses in increasing their properties’ and investments’ resilience.
Sea Level Rise: When Beach Front No Longer Means Value
Several recent studies have found that there is potential for severe sea level rise if certain tipping points are reached. For example, East Antarctica is warming faster than previously expected, with immense implications for global sea levels. According to opinions gathered from experts, there is a possibility of sea levels rising to two meters by 2100 under a 5˚C scenario. Without coastal adaptation investment, it is estimated that annual damages, due to storm surges and king tides, could reach up to almost €1 trillion by the end of the century in Europe.
The real estate industry is at the front line of sea level rise risk. Properties can suffer from severe damages leading to maintenance and repair costs. Even if a facility itself is not permanently inundated, it may be rendered unusable if its closest rail and road infrastructure experience chronic disruptions. Sea level rise can also have far-reaching market impacts such as increasing insurance costs and higher local taxes to fund adaptation efforts. The perception of sea level rise risk can also impact an asset’s value. For example, French coastal properties suffered from substantial damages after coastal flooding caused by storm Xynthia in 2012. At the Ile de Ré, a touristic French island close to La Rochelle, material losses had a longer-term effect on the real estate market. Home prices dropped in the most exposed part of the island. Fields previously sought after by developers became classified as non-constructible areas after the storm.
Our assessment found that corporate offices are highly exposed to sea level rise in Europe (Fig. 3). Increasing floods and chronic inundation from sea level rise can affect employee commutes, with implications for business continuity at offices. Assets in Ireland, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom have particularly high exposure.
Copenhagen is highly exposed to sea level rise, with 81% of its offices exposed to coastal flooding. In its Climate Adaptation Plan, the city acknowledges that it will be at high risk of flooding in 2040, stating that if no adaptation measures are undertaken, sea level rise will cause “unacceptable” damage. An asset’s risk to sea level rise will be largely driven by regional adaptation efforts to prepare for flooding from higher tides and storm surge.
Copenhagen has defined a long-term adaptation strategy, including the creation of green infrastructure and flexible spaces that can be inundated during high tides, such as sports fields and parks. The city also constructed dikes and quays to protect it from up to 2 meter storm surges. However, the construction of hard protective infrastructure is leading to very high expenditure for local authorities, which can have impacts on local taxes and the strength of other government services. Adaptation policies may also affect building permit requirements and add restrictions to real estate development. Dublin is the city with the highest number of corporate offices from our database exposed to sea level rise (Table 2). This exposure is concentrated in Dublin’s business district (Fig. 4). Floods in the business district can impact the transportation system, electric grid and telecommunications networks, which all impact local businesses.
Dublin is aware of its risk and has developed a 2019-2024 adaptation plan that budgets the construction of new flood defenses and includes a flood risk management strategy. Property managers and real estate investors can engage with the surrounding community to support these regional resilience-building efforts that will also mitigate the risk to their own assets.
Heat Stress: Shattered Records Becoming the New Norm
Heat stress is a growing concern for Europe. The region experienced two recording-breaking heat waves within two months during summer 2019, affecting public health, hindering productivity and contributing to train delays, with implications for economies across the continent. The decade from 2009-2018 was the warmest on record, with temperatures around 1.7°C above the pre-industrial level in Europe.
Our analysis shows that offices and commercial spaces throughout Europe will experience heat waves that are 21 days longer on average compared to 1975-2005. Based on Four Twenty Seven’s data, Southern Europe is expected to experience the highest increase in the duration of heat waves, with projections showing an additional month of temperatures above the 90th percentile every year in Madrid (Fig. 5). Heat waves will also bring higher temperatures, with an 8% average increase in maximum temperatures by mid-century, and over 10% in Paris, for example. This will manifest in cities experiencing climates typically associated with locations significantly further south. For example, a recent study noted that “Madrid’s climate in 2050 will resemble Marrakech’s climate today, Stockholm will resemble Budapest, London to Barcelona.”
The urban heat island effect and worsening air quality will exacerbate the impacts of increasing average temperatures in many European cities, with implications for human health and economies. Heat stress can create new cooling needs for buildings and thus increase operations costs at real estate assets. This is particularly true for assets such as data centers and retirement residences, with significant cooling needs. Extreme heat can also affect consumer behavior, reducing the desire to window shop outside, for example, but increasing the visitors to air-conditioned facilities such as shopping malls. In the long run, increasing average temperatures could have indirect effects on real estate markets as consumer preferences shift.
To reduce their vulnerability, many cities are adapting to extreme heat by increasing green spaces and the use of reflective materials to reduce the albedo effect, for example. Property managers can model on-site adaptations after these examples, while also contributing to wider regional efforts that reduce the urban heat island effect to preserve public health and economic activity.
Real estate assets are already experiencing the impact of extreme heat and floods across Europe and the real estate industry will continue to be impacted by climate change in the near-term. There is an urgent need for resilience-building across assets to ensure business continuity and reduce financial losses. Understanding asset risk is an essential first step towards building resilience. Asset owners and managers can leverage asset-level risk exposure data, alongside awareness of regional adaptation efforts, to improve the resilience of their assets and engage communities around shared resilience priorities.
 This analysis does not capture coastal flooding for areas further than five kilometers inland from the coast. This limitation may under-represent risk in coastal-adjacent, low-lying areas that extend inland like Amsterdam.
Four Twenty Seven’s ever-growing database now includes close to one million corporate sites and covers 2000 publicly-traded companies. We offer equity risk scoring and real asset screening services to help investors and corporations leverage this data.
What does the future hold?
New research on sea level rise emphasizes the potential for dire changes over the course of the century. Recent satellite data suggests that warming water is causing East Antarctica to melt more quickly than previously thought and a study released in early May found that almost a quarter of West Antarctica’s ice is thinning, with its largest glaciers shrinking five times faster than in 1992. A study based on expert opinion found that there is the possibility of sea levels rising by 2 meters (6.5ft) under an extreme scenario of 5˚C global temperature increase. This would mean an area of land as big as Libya would be lost, and up to 2.5% of the population globally could be displaced.
Extreme scenarios of sea level rise will have severe impacts on our cities and economies. Sea level rise is happening today to a lesser extent; however it is already having tangible impacts on real estate values. This means increasing costs for property owners and tenants, but it also has far-reaching market impacts on access to and cost of insurance, fluctuations in market values and potential increase in local taxes to fund adaptation efforts.
Of all U.S. states, Florida is expected to experience the greatest consequences of sea level rise. Between 1960 and 2015, sea levels along the Florida coast rose by 10-15 cm (4-6 in), and the range of projections vary wide looking a few decades out, with projections ranging from 33 to 122cm (13-48 in) by 2060.
Widespread flooding risk in Florida
65,000 homes in Florida worth $35 billion are expected to be underwater or impacted daily by high tides in 2040. From soaring insurance premiums and increasing risk of disclosure to declining property value and diminishing tax revenue, sea level rise is already challenging property owners, investors and banks. Among other impacts, the value of single-family homes in Miami-Dade County that are exposed to sea level rise declined by about $465 million between 2005 and 2016.
Furthermore, climate change is predicted to increase the number of strong hurricanes in the region. These stronger storms will combine with sea level rise to exacerbate the impacts of extreme floods. Storm surge flooding damages buildings and landscaping, destroys merchandise, and can also have wide-reaching economic impacts due to damaged power and transportation infrastructure.
Last but not least, tidal flooding, also called “nuisance” or “sunny day” flooding increased from 1.3 to 3 days per year in the Southeast from 2000-2015. By the end of the century tidal flooding could happen daily. Even with no rainfall, these floods have significant impacts – halting traffic, overburdening drainage systems and damaging infrastructure.
Investors and businesses have a responsibility to understand these risks: using best available science to measure exposure to sea level rise and other flood risks, getting informed on adaptation efforts by local governments, and engaging with local industry associations or other groups to promote further investments in resilience.
Four Twenty Seven works with investors to provide portfolio hotpot screenings and real time due diligence with site-specific data on sea level rise and other climate risks. Contact us for more detailed analysis and site-specific data on sea level rise exposure and detailed analysis of local jurisdictions’ response.
Do bond ratings reflect governments’ and businesses’ exposure to physical climate change? Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, joins the Bond Buyer’s Chip Barnett to discuss physical climate risk for investors, businesses and governments. Emilie describes the financial sector’s growing awareness of material climate risk in their bond and equity portfolios and shares efforts being taken to understand and address these risk. Chip and Emilie also discuss the challenges cities face when striving to adapt to climate impacts, the benefits of building resilience and the interactions between corporate and community resilience.
For more insight on the interactions between climate change, cities and financial risk read our reports on Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Munis and Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks, or listen to our webinar on Building City-level Climate Resilience.
FEBRUARY 19, 2019 – SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Four Twenty Seven receives Climate Change Business Journal Awards for three climate change risk and resilience projects.
The Climate Change Business Journal (CCBJ) released its 10th annual CCBJ Business Achievement Awards, recognizing outstanding business performance in the climate change industry. CCBJ assesses markets and business opportunities across the emerging climate change industry and acknowledged Four Twenty Seven’s contributions to this field through our global dataset on climate risk in real estate, the development of the California Heat Assessment Tool and our contribution to the EBRD-GCECA initiative on Advancing TCFD Guidance on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities.
Four Twenty Seven and GeoPhy earned the Technology Merit: Climate Change Risk Modeling and Assessment award for releasing the first global dataset on climate risk exposure in real estate investment trusts (REITs). REITs represent an increasingly important asset class that provides investors with a vehicle for gaining exposure to real estate portfolios. However, real estate is also increasingly affected by risks from climate change. Four Twenty Seven applied its scoring model of asset-level climate risk exposure to GeoPhy’s database of listed REITs holdings to create the first global, scientific assessment of REITs’ exposure to climate risk.
The California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT) earned the Project Merit: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience award for its innovative approach to helping public health officials, health professionals and residents understand what changing heat wave conditions mean for them, through a free online platform. CHAT is part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, a state-mandated research program to assess climate change impacts in California, and was developed by Four Twenty Seven, Argos Analytics, the Public Health Institute and Habitat 7 with technical support from the California Department of Public Health.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation initiative on Advancing the TCFD Recommendations on Physical Climate Risks and Opportunities earned the Advancing Best Practices: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience award. This project culminated in a conference and report building on Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations and providing common foundations for the disclosure of climate-related physical risks and opportunities. It identifies where further research or market action is needed so that detailed, consistent, industry-specific guidelines can be developed on the methodology for quantifying and reporting these risks and opportunities. Four Twenty Seven and Acclimatise provided the technical secretariat that led the working groups and authored the report.
January 15, 2019 – 427 REPORT. Building resilient communities and financial systems requires an understanding of climate risk exposure, but also of how prepared communities are to manage that risk. Understanding the adaptive capacity, or ability to prepare for change and leverage opportunities, of the surrounding area can help businesses and investors determine how exposure to climate risk is likely to impact their assets and what the most strategic responses may be. This report outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for creating location-specific actionable assessments of adaptive capacity to inform business and investment decisions and catalyze resilience-building.
Every investment, from real assets to corporate initiatives, is inextricably connected to its surrounding community. From flooded or damaged public infrastructure hindering employee and customer commutes to competition for water resources threatening business operations and urban heat reducing public health, the impacts of climate change on a community will impact the businesses and real estate investors based in that community. Thus, evaluating how acute and chronic physical climate hazards will affect local communities and communities’ responses enables investors and corporations to assess the full extent of the risks they face.
This report, Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for capturing a city’s adaptive capacity in a way that’s actionable for corporations seeking to understand the risk and resilience of their own facilities and for investors assessing risk in their portfolios or screening potential investments. The framework focuses on three main pillars: 1) awareness, 2) economic and financial characteristics, and 3) the quality of adaptation planning and implementation. It is informed by social sciences research, recent work by credit rating agencies, and our experience working directly with cities and investors.
While a city’s adaptive capacity plays a key role in determining whether or not exposure to climate hazards will lead to damage and loss, cities are also likely to find that their resilience to climate impacts is an increasingly important factor in attracting business and financing, as adaptive capacity is more frequently integrated into credit ratings and screening processes. It is valuable for both cities to understand how investors are interpreting adaptive capacity and for investors to understand which factors of local adaptive capacity translate into increased resilience and reduced financial loss for their assets.