The UK Government’s comprehensive climate change risk assessment for London does not make for happy reading. It predicts a barrage of flood damage and heat waves, as well as water shortages in which by the 2050s between 27 million and 59 million people in Britain will be living in areas where water demand outstrips supply. A significant proportion of the city lies within the flood plain of the River Thames and its tributaries, meaning that a significant proportion of London’s critical infrastructure is already at risk of flooding, with costs that could run into the billions. The Thames flood barrier across a 520-metre stretch of the river was closed four times in the 1980s, 35 times in the 1990s and more than 80 times since, according to the Environment Agency, demonstrating the growing risks.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) says that summers in the city are set to get hotter by an estimated 1.6°C in the 2020s and 2.7°C in the 2050s. They are also getting drier by an estimated seven per cent in the 2020s and 19 per cent in the 2050s, while the winters will get something like six per cent more rain in the 2020s and 14 per cent in the 2050s. Managing the effects of these weather extremes will be the UK capital’s biggest climate change challenge.
The GLA has pledged to reduce London’s CO2 emissions by 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2025. The Authority plans to go about this by retrofitting London’s homes and public sector buildings with energy efficiency measures, and aiming to supply a quarter of London’s energy needs from secure, low carbon local sources such as solar, wind and waste gas by 2025. The city appears to have done well in getting initial reductions underway: an independent report by London Southbank University showed that new developments in the city cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent more than required by the building regulations between 2006 and 2009.
In recent years the UK’s Environment Agency has also created a host of regional and local plans for actions to adapt to climate change impacts as they occur, mainly with regards to managing water supplies, flows and floods.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London said: “London has an unrivalled opportunity to benefit from the shift to a low carbon economy. The time for trials and experiments is over. We are putting in place large scale programmes that can deliver significant CO2 reductions and billions of pounds of energy savings.”