Close up the floodgates: It’s time to protect ourselves from the future’s rising water
The highly anticipated Cop26 conference has finally finished and the thousands of delegates have returned home. But the real work on tackling the impacts of climate change is only just beginning. For the City of London, acknowledging our place in the world financially – as well as geographically, on the banks of the River Thames – is integral to our position in the efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.
It is clear we have reached a turning point in the international efforts to battle the challenges posed by climate change even if much more needs to be done. We saw a host of countries come together in Glasgow. The private sector is also showing exceptional leadership, with financial and professional services making serious strides towards mobilising green technology and solutions to the climate crisis.
The City of London Corporation is dedicated to taking strong action against the risks of climate change. We have set out our ambitious Climate Action Strategy, which will build climate resilience and support efforts to make the Square Mile net zero by 2040 – ten years earlier than the Government’s goals.
Practicality is at the centre of our mission and we have adopted a new Riverside Strategy to recognise the risk to the capital of rising sea levels. Taking steps to mitigate the practical effects of climate change, while still fighting for a better future, must be the focus of governments and companies across the world.
Our initiative aims to futureproof the Square Mile for the next century by increasing resilience along the River Thames. As well as providing security for Londoners, the City’s rich history must be preserved for generations to come. To do this, our buildings must be able to weather storm – whatever the weather.
To build resilience against rising sea levels, we need to raise flood defences by up to one metre along some parts of the Thames by the year 2100 or sooner. This defence raising will have an impact on riverfront structures and on views of the river from nearby buildings.
As the existing flood defences come up for refurbishment and replacement over the years, we will closely work with building owners, occupiers and other stakeholders to ensure the structures are fit for purpose
The strategy also sets a vision of accessibility along the Thames for all and details how the Square Mile’s riverside can be transformed into an outstanding space with wider benefits for City workers, residents and visitors.
While focusing on flood defences, it also presents us with an opportunity to increase biodiversity in and around the River Thames.
A recent report by the Zoological Society of London, has shown an increase in the range of birds, marine mammals and natural habitats in the river since the 1990s, but a number of fish species have also declined.
This strategy is the first of its kind for any local authority in London.
We hope it will provide a blueprint to others, so our plans can be replicated along the length of the River Thames.
Both the fight against climate change and the battle to keep London safe and sound against any future floods requires the same thing from all of us: working together all the way down the line. If one part of a river floods, it has a chain reaction. The same is true for climate change and we all need to pull our weight.