Chapter Five: London’s Response to climate change

Supporting text

5.1  The Mayor is committed to making London a world leader in tackling climate change and the policies in this chapter will support delivery of the Mayor’s vision for London and the objectives set out in Chapter 1, in particular that London should be:

  • A city that becomes a world leader in improving the environment locally and globally, taking the lead in tackling climate change, reducing pollution, developing a low carbon economy and consuming fewer resources and using them more effectively.

5.2  This chapter sets out a comprehensive range of policies to underpin London’s response to climate change, including underlying issues of resource management. These policies cover climate change mitigation and adaptation, waste, aggregates, contaminated land and hazardous substances. Rising to the challenge of climate change is a theme that runs through this Plan, and is central to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, as set out in the NPPF.  There are relevant policies in all chapters of this Plan – particularly those on London’s Economy (Chapter 4), Transport (Chapter 6) and Living Places and Spaces (Chapter 7).

5.3  Climate change – the rise in average global temperature due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere – is a fundamental challenge facing the world. There is mounting evidence of its seriousness and its potential impacts. It is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide) that prevent the radiation of heat into space. Unless these are reduced, temperatures will continue to rise. Eventually, a tipping point could be reached, overcoming the earth’s natural buffering systems, bringing catastrophic climate change.

5.4  Even if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped now, it is projected that the world would still need to adapt to at least a century of irreversible climate change. London is already feeling the effects. It is particularly vulnerable to flooding, overheating and drought conditions which can lead to water supply shortfalls. Climate change will increase the probability and severity of these effects through rising sea levels, heavier winter rainfall, higher tidal surges, hotter summers and less summer rainfall.  The effects of climate change could seriously harm Londoners’ quality of life, particularly the health and social and economic welfare of vulnerable people.

5.5  The latest UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09)[1] have helped inform the development of the London Plan.  Like previous projections (UKCP02) these show how the UK’s climate is likely to change over the next century but provide greater detail regarding London’s future temperature, rainfall and seasonal changes. They point to warmer and drier summers, and wetter winters, with appreciable changes seen by the 2020s.  UKCP09 suggests that London could:

  • by the 2020s, see an increase in summer mean temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a decrease in mean summer rainfall of six per cent and an increase in mean winter rainfall of six per cent, all from a 1961–1990 baseline
  • by the 2050s, see an increase in mean summer temperature of 2.7 degrees, an increase in mean winter rainfall of 15 per cent and a decrease in mean summer rainfall of 18 per cent
  • by the 2080s, see an increase in mean summer temperature of 3.9 degrees, an increase of 20 per cent in mean winter rainfall and a decrease in mean summer rainfall of 22 per cent.

5.6  The Mayor is taking steps to tackle climate change through policies and programmes seeking to reduce London’s carbon dioxide emissions and to manage resources more effectively. Under the Greater London Authority Act 2007, the Mayor has a new statutory duty to contribute towards the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change in the UK. The Mayor will use all of his powers, resources and influence to work with other agencies to raise awareness and promote behavioural change. He has already produced a strategy for Climate Change Adaptation[2] (the first for a major world city) and a strategy for Climate Change Mitigation and Energy[3].  He has also produced other strategies related to Waste Management, Air Quality, Water and Biodiversity, to manage London’s resources and to protect and enhance its environment. The Mayor will ensure that policies in this Plan are complemented by those in other mayoral strategies (particularly the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, which sets carbon dioxide reduction targets to be achieved in the transport system), and by supportive national, European Union and international policies and programmes (such as the Kyoto Protocol or any successor).

 5.7  The London Plan supports the Mayor’s strategies for tackling climate change particularly in relation to the built environment. The biggest challenge for London is to improve the contribution of the existing building stock (80 per cent of which will be still standing in 2050) to mitigating and adapting to climate change.  While the London Plan’s influence may be limited in this regard, its policies can strongly influence the way in which new development in London responds to the challenge of climate change, and creates opportunities for existing areas with respect to both mitigation and adaptation.

5.8  For development proposals the early design stage is the most cost effective time to incorporate relevant design and technological measures, enabling proposals to realise their full potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and adapt to climate change. Responding to climate change has to be an integral and essential part of the development process and not a set of ‘bolt-ons’ – increasingly, this will be seen as a key part of ensuring buildings are fit for purpose into the future. Preventative and adaptive measures will generate long-term savings (particularly for energy and water use), and over time the inclusion of such measures should have positive impacts on property values as occupiers become more aware of the impacts of climate change on their environment. The costs and feasibility of measures to tackle climate change within developments need to be balanced against the potential cumulative costs that would come from failing to respond to the need for mitigation and adaptation.

5.9  Tackling climate change will also require a move towards more sustainable energy sources, and the London Plan seeks to support the development of decentralised energy systems, including the use of low carbon and renewable energy and the greater utilisation of energy generated from waste. This will also allow London to generate more of its own energy needs and enhance the security of its energy supply.

5.9a  To support the Mayor’s energy ambitions and to mitigate climate change it is essential that the additional energy infrastructure required to power a growing London can support low and zero carbon energy supply. The long term vision for London’s energy infrastructure is a resilient electricity network with capacity provided where and when it is required to accommodate projected growth and decentralised energy across the capital.

5.10  The Mayor believes that making better use of waste and careful husbandry of London’s limited aggregate reserves have major roles to play in tackling climate change. He believes that London’s waste is potentially a valuable resource that can be exploited for London’s environmental, economic and social benefit.

[1]  Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). UK Climate Projections 2009. June 2009

[2]  Mayor of London. London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, GLA, Summer 2011

[3] Mayor of London. Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy, GLA, Summer 2011