Climate adaptation: London unprepared for ‘lethal risk’, report warns

More than 4,500 heat-related fatalities were recorded in England during the summer of 2022.

This is according to the interim report for the London Climate Resilience Review (LCRR), commissioned by the Mayor of London in 2023.

The Review’s full report will be published later in 2024 and will include full findings and complete set of recommendations.

Based on the analysis, the city faces already significant risks including more intense and frequent heatwaves, more intense rainfall, the risk of flash flooding and sea level rise.

According to the report, the economic impact of climate change becomes evident as reductions in labour productivity due to heat and humidity have already resulted in considerable losses.

During the July 2022 heatwave alone, Transport for London (TfL) reported an £8.4m revenue loss across their operations.

These risks will only worsen over time. The report forecasts a lack of water that will cost London’s economy £500m per day by 2050, to give one example.

The interim report provides 20 recommendations for the Government to advance London’s adaptation to increasing climate change impacts. These include:

  • Launching a collaborative forum with Government representatives and London’s local authority leaders
  • Setting out a clear, strategic vision with meaningful targets for 2030 and beyond
  • Developing joined-up funding programmes to help local authorities and organisations invest in accelerated climate adaptation

LCCR chair Emma Howard-Boyd CBE said: “The UK has been viewed as a global leader in climate change mitigation for nearly two decades. Many aspects of that leadership are still strong even if the political rhetoric has shifted since we began this Review.

“The people who have contributed the least in terms of carbon emissions usually suffer the most in terms of weather impacts. London is currently underprepared for climate shocks but nowhere in the world is adapting fast enough.”

The report emphasises that adapting London to climate change is not just a local necessity but a measure crucial for the entire UK.

Last year, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned that the Government has neglected to include adaptation across all areas of the economy, which risks undermining the net-zero targets and places millions of people at risk.

Key principles and recommendations

The report offers a set of principles and recommendations to guide climate adaptation efforts, emphasising a people-centred approach that addresses socio-economic and racial inequalities.

It calls for the integration of climate change adaptation into Government and council decision-making processes, emphasising the importance of local leadership and the inclusion of adaptation plans in finance processes.

With sea levels in the Thames Estuary expected to rise significantly and a looming water supply shortfall across England by 2050, the report urges that urgent action is imperative.

It recommends the development of a regional strategic plan for adapting to higher temperatures in London, with a governance framework outlining roles and responsibilities.

In November last year, the National Trust urged the Government to pass a new Climate Resilience Act with clear legal duties and targets to prepare the nation for changes in weather patterns caused by the climate crisis.

The report also highlights the necessity of funding programs and increased fiscal devolution to empower regional and local organisations to accelerate climate adaptation.

According to a briefing from the CCC, at least half a billion pounds and up to £1bn, will need to be funnelled into adaptation in the UK each year during the coming ten years.

In the face of an unpredictable climate, the report concludes with a call for flexible adaptive pathways and the prioritisation of nature-based solutions.

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