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Large disparity between UK cities for climate change preparedness

Climate response in the UK is a ‘postcode lottery’ with many cities failing to put comprehensive measures in place

While London and Leicester are leading the way, many cities are failing to adequately prepare, despite acknowledging that climate change could pose a major long-term risk for urban centres.

A team of researchers from Newcastle University investigated the climate preparedness of 30 of the largest cities in the UK.

London tops the table for climate preparedness

The study, which was published in the journal Climate Change, found that London topped the table for climate preparedness thanks to its new energy efficiency initiatives. The capital also has plans to increase renewable energy capacity and electric car adoption, as well as various climate adaptation strategies for lessening the impact of heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Coventry also fared relatively well in the study, while Wrexham and Derry scored the worst. The research was based on cities’ performance when it comes to climate assessment, planning, action and monitoring measures.

Dr Oliver Heidrich, a senior researcher in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, who led the research, commented: “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.”

Cities ‘need to establish targets’

“But a plan is only any good if you implement it and then assess it to see how effective it has been; this requires a long-term investment in the strategies. We found that in many cities this wasn’t happening.”

The scientist noted that many cities published plans and went only part of the way to implementing associated schemes, for example introducing electric vehicles or solar panels, as well as making changes to infrastructure to limit the risk of flooding.

However, he continued, often no-one is monitoring to see whether it made a difference or had actually made things worse. For example, while almost all of the cities in the study had emission reduction targets in place, a number of them had no specific target figure or date by which the reductions had to be made.

Report not meant to ‘name and shame’

Dr Heidrich said while the report was not made to “name and shame cities”, the authors were hoping it would encourage all cities to improve their efforts to step up their climate resilience, with research showing that weather in the UK will become increasingly extreme.

The main findings highlighted by the report are the “huge variations” in different cities when it comes to their state of readiness for climate change, he said.

Dr Heidrich hopes that this method of measuring preparedness will be applied to cities in other countries.

“Although cities of all sizes across the UK acknowledge climate change is a threat, there is considerable spread of measures in place and huge inconsistency in policy between areas and against national and international targets,” he concluded.

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