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06/10/2016

London’s infrastructure increasingly at risk from extreme weather

Words: Laura Edgar

As extreme weather events become more frequent and unpredictable, London’s roads, Underground stations and properties are increasingly at risk.

A report by independent policy network Future of London follows severe flooding in the capital earlier this year and hot weather, as well as the flooding, disrupting transport and power.

The hottest September day in London for 100 years was also recorded this year.

Managing London’s Exposure To Climate Change states that the London city-region has a “rapidly growing and ageing population, deteriorating housing stock and stressed infrastructure, as well as growing demands on land and specific climate vulnerabilities, particularly in flooding and overheating – all exacerbated by climate change”.

Flooding, Future of London says, is cited as one of the “greatest risks” facing the city, as heavy rainfall and storms become more frequent because of the effects of climate change.

The report reveals that an estimated 800,000 properties are at risk of surface water flooding alone, and this number is expected to rise.

Therefore, it calls for more transparent and collaborative relationships, particularly between investors, insurers and local and pan-London government, to ensure that investment goes into rendering the city more resilient to climate change.

This is not just a generations-away risk,” warns Lisa Taylor, chief executive, Future of London. “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 aims to help London’s public asset owners, service providers and their partners build strong business cases for adapting their assets to climate change.

Paula Kirk, director, Arup, a part sponsor of the report, said that strategic thinking and investment are “urgently needed” to make sure cities such as London are prepared for climate change.

“We are seeing an increase in enquiries from a range of organisations looking to mitigate climate risks and adapt.”

Kirk added that the report highlights that the economic impacts of not investing now are “huge”.

The report makes a number of recommendations, 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.

Jo Wilson, report lead and head of policy at Future of London, said while cutting carbon is important, it is adaptation that “will keep London’s property and infrastructure above water, protect services and ultimately, communities”.

“The impacts of climate change threaten to increase inequality across the city, but there are ways to identify climate ‘hot-spots’ and target the right investment into the right places.”

The report can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | iStock

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