London and Leicester are two of the most prepared cities in the UK when it comes to climate change according to new research by Newcastle University.
Researchers ranked 30 cities by giving them ‘Urban Climate Change Preparedness Scores’ based on four levels of readiness: assessment, planning, action and monitoring.
Publishing their results in the academic journal Climatic Change, they reveal huge variation across the UK with London and Leicester gaining the highest scores both for adaptation and mitigation and Wrexham and Derry the lowest.
Newcastle University’s Dr Oliver Heidrich who led the research said: “Of the 30 cities we assessed, all of them acknowledged that climate change was a threat and all except two had a strategy or policy in place to reduce emissions and also adapt to cope better with future weather patterns, in particular flooding,” said Heidrich, a senior researcher in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences.
However, he added that a plan is only any good if it is implemented then assessed to see how effective it has been. “We found that in many cities this wasn’t happening. In some cases, plans were in place but nothing had been done about them. Many cities published plans and partially implemented associated schemes such as introducing electric vehicles or solar panels as well as making changes to the built environment to reduce the risk of flooding. But very often, no-one was monitoring to see whether it made a difference or had actually made things worse.”
The 30 cities chosen for the study are representative of urban areas across the UK. London was found to have one of the most advanced strategies in place, mitigating the impact on climate change through, for example, energy efficiency and saving, increasing the use of renewables, waste management and the introduction of greener modes of transport. Leicester also scored highly, carrying out rigorous monitoring and providing regular reports on the city’s carbon footprints.
Other cities, such as Newcastle, had advanced electric vehicle infrastructures in place while Sheffield and Coventry have established programs to produce more energy from waste and reduce landfill.
Almost all cities had set targets for reducing CO2 emissions although quite a few would not commit to an actual target, figure or timescale, rendering them meaningless; reduction targets varied from just 10% to 80%. Edinburgh was one of those with a deadline, setting a target of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 and to achieve a zero carbon economy by 2050.
In most cities, adaptation policies lagged behind the mitigation plans. With flooding a key threat in many urban areas – both now and in the future – the team showed that many cities were still unprepared to cope with extremes of weather patterns. Although many had flood protection schemes in place, few had assessed whether they were actually effective.