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Mayor of London Launches Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Surface temperature of London at 21:30 on 7 August, 2003 showing the signature of the urban heat island during the killer heatwave. Click to enlarge. Source: NASA

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, launched the London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy—one of the first comprehensive climate change adaptation strategies produced by any major city worldwide. The launch of the strategy comes weeks after the UK Government’s chief scientist advised that the UK needs to adapt to increased average global temperatures of four degrees Celsius.

Expected results of climate change for London include warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers, with more extreme weather (heatwaves, tidal surges and heavy rainfall) and rising sea levels. These changes will increase the risk of heatwaves, floods and droughts, which will affect the prosperity of the city and the quality of life of Londoners.

Adaptation is a dynamic process. As the climate changes, so we must prepare for the impacts and opportunities that will occur. Measures that manage the impacts of our climate today may not provide the same level of protection or opportunity in the future, and so new measures will be needed as different thresholds are reached. There is therefore, no steady state of being ‘adapted’. There is considerable evidence to suggest that we are not actually very well adapted to our current climate—as the impacts of extreme weather regularly highlight.

Adapting to climate change is not about drafting lots of new policies. It is concerned with understanding how climate change may affect the world around us and then routinely integrating that understanding to make better decisions. Decisions about spatial planning and development, social justice, value for money and public safety will all be affected, positively or negatively, by climate change. Decisions with long-term implications will tend to be more affected by climate change as their outcomes will experience more climate change. It is essential that decisions taken today do not constrain adaptation options in the future.

—London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

There are three key high-risk climate impacts for London: heatwaves, floods and drought.

  • Heat. 600 people died in the 2003 heatwave. A large proportion of London’s population is vulnerable to heat and much of London’s development and infrastructure is not designed for high temperatures.

    It is not possible to prevent a heatwave, and as heatwaves do not have a defined physical boundary (like a floodplain), the consequences are felt city-wide.

    While it is not possible to prevent a heatwave, it is possible to reduce vulnerable people and asset’s exposure to high temperatures and to reduce their sensitivity. Examples are managing London’s urban heat island through an ‘urban greening program’; designing new, and adapting existing buildings and infrastructure to minimize the need for cooling as far as possible; ensuring that where cooling is still required, low-carbon, energy efficient methods are used; ensuring that recommendations in the Heatwave Plan are implemented.

  • Flood. 15% of London currently lies in the ‘high’ risk flood zone, including 1.25 million people and extensive public infrastructure. Risk is increasing because of new development on flood plains.

    The Mayor will work with the Environment Agency to plan the next generation of tidal flood defences; encourage the restoration of London’s rivers to provide flood storage; and improve the permeability of London’s urban landscape through an urban greening program.

    Flood defences can reduce the probability of a flood, but there is always the risk that they might fail and therefore a residual risk exists to the people and assets behind the defences. The Mayor will review the London Strategic Flood Response Plan to identify the key assets at risk. The Mayor will promote flood resilient design for development at highest risk and raise public awareness through an information campaign.

  • Drought. As with a heatwave, a drought cannot be prevented, but its impacts can be managed.

    The Mayor’s Water Strategy proposes a hierarchy of actions: reduce water loss through better leakage management; improve the efficiency of water use in development; use reclaimed water for nonpotable uses; develop water resources that have least environmental impact. The Mayor will work with London Resilience Partnership to review the London Water Shortage Plan.

The potential climate impact on London’s transport network is also significant, the report notes, aside from the immediate impact of flooding on underground and overground rail and other surface transport or high temperatures causing discomfort and danger to passengers. Fluctuating soil moisture content, for example, can cause ground instability on clay soils, cutting embankments and water mains, while thermal expansion of tracks leads to speed restrictions and rail buckling, and melting binder in road material.

The combined effects of climate change could make travel on all forms of transport more uncomfortable and less predictable in the future. The emphasis of the Mayor’s transport policies is to encourage people to use public transport, walk or cycle rather than using their cars, through making public transport accessible, affordable and efficient and walking and cycling pleasant and safe. Anecdotal evidence suggests that extreme weather—high temperatures, rainfall or storminess—discourages people from using public transport, so unless steps are taken to manage the impacts of extreme weather on the transport network, the changing climate could make achieving the Mayor’s ambitions of getting people out of their cars and onto public transport more difficult.

—London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Transport for London (TfL) is tasked with preparing an adaptation plan for delivering the London Adaptation Strategy across their transport systems. The TfL adaptation plan will:

  • Undertake a climate impacts risk assessment to identify challenges and opportunities for each of the modes and the integration between the modes;

  • Improve the resilience of the existing network to the impacts of climate change;

  • Ensure major procurement contracts (including design, construction and maintenance) consider the impacts of climate change; and

  • Ensure passenger safety.

We need to concentrate efforts to slash carbon emissions and become more energy efficient in order to prevent dangerous climate change. But we also need to prepare for how our climate is expected to change in the future.

The strategy I am launching today outlines in detail the range of weather conditions facing London, which could both seriously threaten our quality of life—particularly that of the most vulnerable people—and endanger our pre-eminence as one of the world’s leading cities.

London is not unique—all major cities such as New York and Tokyo are at risk from climate change. By producing this strategy, we put London in a position of strength.

—Boris Johnson

The Mayor launched the strategy at a visit hosted by the Environment Agency to the Thames Barrier—London’s most famous example of a structure designed to manage the threat of extreme weather.

This strategy will now be open to consultation with the Greater London Authority bodies—the London Development Agency, Transport for London, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Metropolitan Police Authority—and the London Assembly although wider comment from organizations are invited. The Mayor will consider the responses submitted by these bodies and then publish a second version of the strategy for public consultation. The Mayor’s intention is to publish the public consultation draft of the London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in 2009.




Environmental problems in and around big cities are nothing new. Just look at the Olympic Games in Beijing - or watch the weather reports on the Weather Channel where they show doppler radar of major cities. The weather patterns around big cities are not natural.

What cities should do is provide major tax breaks for green roof technologies. As part of comprehensive urban renewal programs, the mass deployment of green roofs will help clean the air and reduce the effects of smog. They'll also create permanent jobs (ie. installation & maintenance jobs) that can't be shipped overseas.

John Taylor

Reducing the "heat island" effect in big cities can be achieved.

The 'low hanging fruit' is the cheapest easiest things that will make a difference.

1 ) Good work introducing Electric cars in the inner city. The next step is making recharge points for highway capable electric cars (220v 100a 3ph)

2 ) Give special incentive for new roofing jobs to use WHITE reflective material. Also, find and use white, or light colored paving for city streets. This reduces city heat load by reflecting more light rather than absorbing it and turning it to heat.

3 ) Use a "river source" heat rejection system for large building air conditioning systems. River water is filtered, pumped to buildings, absorbs waste heat, and is returned to the river. This will reduce heat in the air, and the warmer return water will have a higher evaporation rate resulting in cooler air.

4 ) Require all new construction to be 'energy efficient' at the highest standard that is reasonably achievable.

5 ) Promote inner city installations of wind and solar units on building rooftops, and of co-generation when using combustible fuels.

A lot can be done, but it takes political will to get the change underway.


London is not that far from the sea, and there is no doubt a lot of water that flows through the English Channel every year. I'm sure there is some reseach in the UK for ocean energy, but it would make sense if there was a large-scale national effort. Florida Atlantic University's Center For Ocean Energy Technology is exploring ocean energy with some very promising research ---- one would think there are opportunities for London and the UK as well.....check out the media page - fascinating presentations...

"Florida's cleanest and most abundant source of renewable energy is its oceans. The Gulf Stream Current flows northward past the southern and eastern shores of Florida, funneling through the Florida Straits with a mass transport greater than 30 times the total freshwater river flows of the world - over eight billion gallons per minute. The warm, surface water of the Gulf Stream overlays much colder deep water that flows through the depths of the ocean and into the Florida Straits from the Arctic regions, yielding an energy-rich and stable source of ocean thermal power. The cold, deep ocean water also has enormous potential for cold water air-conditioning (up to 45% of Florida's residential electricity consumption is used for air conditioning) and environmental mitigation. These energy sources can supply all of Florida's energy needs."

tom deplume

How about this silly idea?
Bring back the barrage balloons of WWII as artificial clouds. Millions of these over our urban areas could blot out the sun on summer days and cut AC demand. Stick wind turbines on their tails and thin film PVs on top as clean power sources to generate the hydrogen that keeps them afloat.


The issue here is climate change so it is (unintentionaly?) disingenuous to say that city heat island effects ae nothing new.
Pointing out that Bejing has an air pollution problem and describing mitigation schemes is all well and good but the bigger issue - lving with 4oC climate change is not a local issue.
While globally many people think of Australa as largely desert, most Aussies think of London as a cold wet sort of place. That they expect Climate change effects to substantially alter the amenity of this city should be raising the very same concern in cities and towns around the globe.
Town planners are onto this trend with environmenal building practices in various stages of legislation and penetration.
I understand Londons new building codes are calling for 0 carbon development in the near future, (if not already legislated.)
This means that all new (domestic?) construction must over its lifetime repay the energy required to create the same and any energy used in heating, cooling lighting and appliances for the life of the building.


@ arnold:

It looks like the Aussies could be a renewable energy powerhouse, with vast deserts for solar & wind production, and tidal currents for various forms of ocean energy'd think it be a national priority of Australia to be a global leader in renewable energy....

Florida Atlantic University's Center For Ocean Energy Technology

Koen van Vlaenderen

Don't worry be happy:

In Dutch:
( ocean temperature measurements show cooling trend )


@ Koen van Vlaenderen:

Don't write that Koen!!! Erase it!!! We haven't had our radical expansion of government, taxes, regulation & bureaucracies yet to deal with the climate "crisis"!!


these are some of the noisiest and largest (media) players

Wave power.

Solar thermal.

Ethanol is a market force, Algae has some quieter proposals with small scale players and trials, geothermal is seeing proving plants near completion and grid accessible sites identified with a lot of interest being generated.
Wind is being (relatively) slowly expanded. Photovoltaic and domestic water heating is expanding rapidly with govt rebate assistance.

Either direct assistance, or a carbon price seems to be required for any real useful increase.
Otherwise we have had "greenpower' including hydro and all the above.
"Opt in" billing available for nearly a decade now which is steadily increasing in popularity and offering a wider range of options.

Climate change is a worldwide crisis causing beautiful cities like London to be underwater. Please help the world to change. Please, I can only ask you.

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