Karim Elgendy, Chatham House & Martina Juvara, International Society of City and Regional Planners, explain why the UK’s planning system tool could be central to integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation in cities.
London’s Race to Zero: “Let’s get on with it”
London is one of 1049* cities to have so far signed up to the Race to Zero, the world’s largest alliance of non-state actors committed to halving emissions – at the very least – by 2030. Like the rest of the world, it needs to cut its carbon emissions and build resilience to the effects of climate change, and quickly.
Under its Mayor Sadiq Khan, the capital was one of the first cities to declare a climate emergency. In light of this, and a burgeoning weight of scientific evidence, it was agreed that a 2050 target (previously set) was not good enough. In 2020, the Mayor announced that London was aiming for zero carbon by 2030.
To meet this goal, London’s greenhouse gas emissions must be radically slashed and any residual – “hard to abate” – emissions, offset. The result will neutralize London’s environmental impact, help slow down climate change and create a liveable and thriving city.
But how does a city of over 9 million people, traditionally packed full of carbon emitting processes and structures, reach this ambitious goal?
During London Climate Action Week I discussed this monumental opportunity and challenge with Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy at the Greater London Authority; Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at the City of London Corporation; and Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council.
From its workers, citizens and tourists, to its businesses and investors, Rodigues, McGuinness and Gould represent a broad spectrum of parties that, they agreed, must all play their part if London is to transition to a cleaner, healthier, fairer, safer and more resilient city.
This converation focused on London’s mitigation efforts, but of equal importance is its adaptation and resilience strategies. The city is already being affected by climate change.
According to C40 Cities, flooding (from rivers and flash or surface floods), extreme heat (from heatwaves), water scarcity (from drought) are “serious” climate risks for London. Projected severe weather events make these risks more likely and more serious, posing a threat to Londoners’ health and wellbeing. And we know that the most vulnerable people in our society – the very young, the old, those in poor health, those on the lowest incomes – will be the most impacted by the climate emergency.
Fortunately, action is being taken to tackle these mounting threats, which will be discussed in a future conversation.
*At the time of interview, 733 cities had joined the Race to Zero.
The share of the world’s population living in cities is expected to rise to 80% by 2050, from 55% now.
Responsible for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions, the built environment is proving to be a driving force behind global climate change mitigation efforts.