Why do we need a plan?

6 months ago

London needs an action oriented plan that harnesses the community's desires and aspirations to address climate change, builds on the strength of businesses, collaborates with all levels of government, and establishes a measurable and progressive framework where we can hold each other accountable for our future. For now, we are calling it the Climate Emergency Action Plan. The evidence is clear, we all have a role to play. And our success will be measured by our level of collaboration and our pursuit in building a more sustainable city.

On April 24, 2019, the Declaration of a Climate Emergency was approved by London's City Council "for the purposes of naming, framing, and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our eco systems, and our community from climate change." As of January 28, 2020, London is one of 1,325 jurisdictions in 26 countries to recognize and declare a climate emergency.

There are two primary types of responses to address climate change:

  • Mitigation: mitigating future impacts through reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides, primarily as a result of the use of fossil fuels (e.g., gasoline for personal vehicles, natural gas to heat buildings).
  • Adaptation: adapting infrastructure, homes, buildings, landscapes, etc. to better withstand current and future impacts of more frequent severe weather events that are created from a climate that is “wetter, warmer, and wilder”.

The City of London needs a Climate Emergency Action Plan because decisions made by City Council regarding land use and transportation have influence on approximately 70% of London’s community greenhouse gas emissions.

These include:

  • Planning policies that encourage mixed-use and mixed-density land use (i.e., “growing inwards and upwards”) that supports walking, cycling, and transit use as well as district energy systems.

  • Transportation policies and infrastructure that emphasize “complete streets” that prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders ahead of single-occupancy vehicles.

  • Waste management systems that maximize the resource recovery potential of collected materials, including the production of renewable energy and compost from organic waste.

  • Engagement programs that “connect the dots” and foster collaboration between London’s stakeholders, given that most of the control over fossil fuel use rests with Londoners – our citizens, employers, and employees. Individual and collective action on energy conservation, energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy is key to our sustainable future.

The decisions made at City Hall have a direct influence in reducing London's greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the climate emergency.

Adapting to a changing climate requires taking action to protect our natural, built and social environments. London can expect more frequent snow squalls and river flooding events, plus warmer evening summer temperatures.

London has 43 km of Thames River located within its boundary and another 85 km of smaller creeks and waterways. Combined with the history of numerous floods, the majority of adaptation work has been focused on the river and stormwater infrastructure challenges.

London has had five severe flooding occurrences in the last 30 years (March 1977, September 1986, July 2000, April and December 2008). Current infrastructure was designed and constructed on the basis of standards and codes that were developed decades ago. With the changes in these rainfall events and climate patterns, some infrastructure may no longer have the capacity to handle the new rainfall events. Embedding climate change considerations has now become a necessary component of the majority of infrastructure projects.

There are many adaptation measures already completed or underway in London that will support a Climate Emergency Action Plan. Some of these adaptation measures include:

  • Rainfall intensity duration frequency curves research.
  • Increased public education campaigns.
  • Integrate climate change into asset management.
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit partnership to monitor for West Nile and other vector diseases.
  • Completion of the sewer system pollution prevention and control plan.
  • Low impact development installations (43 and counting).
  • Free downspout disconnect.
  • Update to the emergency flood plan.
  • Enhanced sewer maintenance and monitoring (including neighbourhood-scale precipitation monitoring).
  • Basement flooding subsidy program.
  • Increased number of public shade structures.
  • Enhanced invasive species removal.
  • Installation and monitoring of rain gardens.
  • Increased number of splash pads / cooling centres.
  • Update to the urban forest strategy with a tree inventory and tree protection by-law.
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