Managing London’s climate change risk

Managing London’s climate change risk

By Will Bugler

Last year London suffered severe floods, and spells of unseasonably hot temperatures, which caused major problems to vital services including transport and power. While some of the weather events were certainly unusual – London recorded it’s hottest September day in 100 years, for example – they were not events that would be considered extreme. That considerable disruption was caused by fairly typical weather events, poses questions over the capital’s ability to cope with climate change and severe weather in the future. This prompted Future of London – an independent policy organisation – to investigate how London can best increase the resilience of its infrastructure systems to climate change.

The resulting report, ‘Managing London’s Exposure to Climate Change’ identifies areas of weakness in London’s current systems and offers approaches and strategies to help them adapt. Noting that London has “deteriorating housing stock and stressed infrastructure, as well as growing demands on land”, the report warns that the capital is currently il-prepared for extreme weather events.

Flooding was found to be one of the biggest risks to the capital’s infrastructure systems. According to the report, today 800,000 properties are at risk of surface water flooding – a number that is likely to rise with continued development and increased rainfall intensity. The report recommends that city planners prepare for much more intense flood events in the future.

Lisa Taylor, chief executive of Future of London, was clear that urgent action is needed. “This is not just a generations-away risk,” she warned, “there are current-day operational, legal and economic costs to being underprepared – or out of sync with complex response systems. London is already at high risk from floods, heatwaves and drought as there are so many properties, assets and businesses at stake.”

The report makes it clear that responding to these complex challenges will require involvement of a wide range of organisations from both the public and private sectors. In particular the report emphasises the need for involvement of financial and insurance industries who can help identify risk and provide access to funding. The report makes several specific recommendations targeted at key stakeholders including:

  • National policymakers: Mandate that all public retrofit programmes should specifically address surface water flooding and overheating buildings, prioritising resilience measures such as drainage and night ventilation.
  • National policymakers: Incentivise property owners, businesses and citizens to retrofit assets they own or manage through fiscal rewards.
  • Greater London Authority: Prioritise the update of London’s existing climate change adaptation plan and clarify roles, responsibilities and actions of all stakeholders.
  • Local authorities and public service providers: Produce up-to-date climate change risk assessments and strategies that use socio-economic and geo-spatial measures to focus on the most vulnerable communities.
  • Developers and house builders: Move sustainability strategies beyond carbon reduction; include approaches to long-term asset management and user education/engagement.

Download the full report by clicking here. 


Cover photo by Pointillist (CC by 2.0)

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