Preparing London for rapid global warming

MQT on 2019-05-16
Session date: 
May 16, 2019
Question By: 
Caroline Russell
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How will you fill the gaps in your climate change adaptation policies and targets?


Answer for Preparing London for rapid global warming

Answer for Preparing London for rapid global warming

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chair.  Urgent action must be taken to reduce the impacts of climate change.  I am already taking some of the most radical action of any royal city to adapt our city to our changing climate.  The aim is for London and Londoners to be resilient to severe weather and longer‑term climate change impacts of flooding, heat risk and drought.  We are tackling this with policies in our Environment Strategy and London Plan, including reducing overheating in buildings, managing flood risk on transport and encouraging better use of London’s water. 


We are making sure that Londoners know when heatwaves are forecast and what to do to protect themselves by promoting the Met Office of Public Health England’s heatwave alerts and advice.  We also ran London’s first Flood Awareness Week last November [2018] to help Londoners understand how to prepare and what to do if their home is flooded.  Through our funded programmes like the Greener Cities Fund, I am making sure we have more green spaces in London that are better at holding and slowing down rainwater to reduce surface water flooding.  We are working closely with the transport, health and food sectors to develop plans to address the impacts of our changing climate. 


My London Plan contains robust policies to ensure new development is well‑adapted to climate change and resilient to severe weather.  This includes more measures like green roofs to help absorb and slow rainwater to reduce flooding as well as helping to cool buildings so that they do not overheat by installing shading.  My team is also working with the Environment Agency to ensure London remains well‑defended against tidal flooding, including successfully calling on neighbouring authorities to ensure that land is safeguarded for a new Thames barrier which is likely to be needed in the 2070s.  TfL is also working to make its network more resilient, including modifying stations to address flood risk.  I am also holding water companies to account to increase their resilience and that of London’s water, plan for new water resources and reduce leakage. 


However, the majority of levers for tackling climate change lie with the national Government.  That is why I am urging Ministers to listen to the growing concerns and either take action or devolve powers and resources to cities like London so we can do what is needed to tackle the crisis.


Caroline Russell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I recently sent you my report on climate risks for London, which looks at the risks and impacts that Londoners are expected to experience in the next few decades in terms of floods, heatwaves and severe weather events as a result of rapid global warming.  It is good to hear the list of things that you are working on.


Now, the report highlighted some big gaps in research.  For example, there are 643 schools in London that are at high risk of flooding.  However, there is a lack of research on the impact of this risk on teaching days and pupil attainment.  There is another example of a big gap in research on heatwave risks to London businesses, how they will cope during heatwaves and droughts and the impact on their employees’ wellbeing and productivity, working in buildings that were not designed for these conditions.  Will you do the research, or make sure that the relevant bodies do it, to address these and other gaps that are identified in my report?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, through you, I would like to thank the Assembly Member for her report, for sending that to me, and the recommendations made.  My officers have been gathering and publishing data but it is time to take action now.  What is more important now is that we move from research into action and that is what we are doing.  We are working closely though with the Committee on Climate Change at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency to ensure we access the latest data and research in this field. 


My officers and the London Climate Change Partnership have been working closely with health, food, transport and emergency sectors to develop plans for sectors to manage the risks and impacts and identify actions to be taken.  The work also involves convening sector partners and relevant experts ‑ you have mentioned some of them, Assembly Member Russell ‑ such as hospital temperature data to assess whether they are overheating, links between transport disruption and higher temperatures, and identifying thresholds which are crucial for planning to prevent disruption.  We are phasing our sector‑based approach towards housing, workplaces and schools in future phases.


Caroline Russell AM:  Thank you.  Do you have a timetable for this work so that we can follow what you are planning and keep track of how you are doing?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The London Climate Change Partnership is going as fast as they can with my officers.  Some of this is contingent on the sectors bringing information forward.  A lot of this data, by the way, we have also put out there on the London Datastore, Chair, so it is accessible to others who can help. 


Caroline Russell AM:  Thank you.  At the Plenary meeting last year [29 November 2018] on your Draft Economic Development Strategy, I asked you to commission an assessment of the economic risks of climate change and to include this in the datasets in your final Strategy.  It was not included in the final Strategy.  Will you do this now, commission an assessment of the economic risks of climate change?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The danger of spending all our time doing research is that we are not taking action.  I said in answer to a previous question that more than half of the steps that are needed to reduce carbon emissions have to come from the Government.  We can only do less than half.  Unless the Government changes tack, we will not make any progress.  That is why we are working closely with the Committee on Climate Change, Defra and the Environment Agency as well as lobbying central Government directly.


Caroline Russell AM:  Of course, but even your MacDonald report that you published last May [2018] said that most small and medium‑sized enterprises do not have or only have limited business continuity plans and would struggle to maintain operations during a severe drought.  These are urgent issues and you do need to have that research so that Londoners can prepare themselves. 


You mentioned the London Climate Change Partnership.  My report also recommended a substantial increase in budget for them.  The GLA gives them £62,000 a year, which includes funding for one staff post.  Will you carry out an urgent review into the funding that the London Climate Change Partnership needs to scale up their vital work to prepare London for climate breakdown?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is worth reminding colleagues that since I became Mayor we have begun hosting the Partnership, from 2017, and funding the secretariat.  We also support the Partnership in other ways, recognising the benefits they bring.  We will carry on giving them all the expertise, information and advice they need.  It is not simply budgetary assistance but other assistance we give them as well.


Caroline Russell AM:  Is that a yes or a no?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We will continue to help them as we have been helping them.


Caroline Russell AM:  OK, but you are not necessarily going to give them any more money.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We are not going to directly increase their budget immediately but we are going to carry on helping them and scaling up the work they are doing.


Caroline Russell AM:  OK.  Thank you.  I am out of time.