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Londoners doing more than ever to address impacts of climate change

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Londoners are doing more than ever before to address the effects of climate change, according to the Environment Agency’s latest State of the Environment report for the capital. Household recycling has increased since last year’s report from 25% to 29%, and the average amount of water used per person has fallen, as residents of the capital start to make real progress into helping preserve and protect the environment, the report shows. The report, which is updated annually, is designed to help inform policy makers, developers and the public, promote sustainable development, and protect and improve the environment in London. • 85% of the properties at risk of flooding in London have a low likelihood of flooding from rivers and the sea due to defences such as the Thames Barrier. • Household recycling and composting has increased by 4% and the amount of municipal waste sent to landfill continues to decline. • The five-year average water use per person in London has declined slightly. Since last year, leakage has declined and water metering has increased, but more needs to be done.
The report is broken down into nine key themes as follows:

Flood risk
• The Thames Barrier has been raised 114 times to protect London from tidal and fluvial flooding since it became operational. Closures are becoming more frequent with two thirds occurring since 2000. Climate change may increase the risk of flooding, and require the barrier to be closed more often in the future.
• Approximately half a million properties are in the floodplain in London.
• Climate change may increase the risk of flooding, and require the Thames Barrier to be closed more often in the future.

Climate change
• Greenhouse gas emissions in London are declining and the carbon footprint is lower than the UK average. London’s lower than average carbon footprint is primarily due to reduced emissions from transport as a result of high public transport use in the city. Emissions from the industrial and commercial sector need to be reduced – these make up almost half of the capital’s CO2 emissions.
• We need to adapt to climate changes that are now unavoidable and work to limit any further impacts.

Water quality
• The majority of London’s river water bodies require improvements to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
• 80% of river water bodies in London are heavily modified (man-made channels, underground culverts etc – not in the natural state). The quality of these is impacted by urban diffuse pollution, and low biodiversity. Restoration work through the London Rivers Action Plan to return some of these rivers to their natural state will help improve biodiversity through improved fish passage and habitats.

Water resources
• The 5-year average water use per person has declined slightly in London from 163 to 161 litres per person per day.
• There has been progress in reducing leakage in London – which is within target levels – and increasing metered households.

Waste
• Municipal waste (predominantly household waste) production in London has declined, along with the amount sent to landfill. This is complemented by an increase in recycling.
• Landfill capacity in London, and other regions receiving London’s waste, is declining.

Land
• 95% of new homes in London were built on previously developed land, and none on greenbelt. Development must be sustainable and in the right location. The area of previously developed land in London is declining as more is reclaimed for development, but the use of this land protects greenbelt, and in some cases means contaminated land is cleaned up for use.
• Land needs to be found within the boundaries to accommodate the required housing for the growing population, without forfeiting greenbelt, open space, wildlife habitat or quality of life.

Sustainability
• The average Londoner has an ecological footprint of 4.54 global hectares. Together this covers an area the size of 34 million global hectares – over 200 times the city’s actual area. The demand on resources significantly exceeds the global bio-capacity (area available to provide resources). This is not sustainable and we will need to use resources more efficiently.
• Population growth and additional housing required (33,400 on average per year in the London Plan) will put further pressure on land, resources, infrastructure and the environment.

Air quality
• The overall air quality in London is improving. However concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter have exceeded national objectives in 2009. These mainly come from transport in the city.

Wildlife
• London’s green space and biodiversity is improving through urban regeneration. Habitats are being restored and rivers returned to a more natural state. Projects completed in 2009 restored 1.5km of river habitat in London – progress towards the target of 15km by 2015. Alongside benefits to biodiversity, this also benefits society by providing quality green space that can be enjoyed.

Today marks the launch of the State of the Environment report for both London, and the South East of England. For more on these and other State of the Environment facts and figures, visit
 www.environment-agency.gov.uk/londonsoe or http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/publications/34103....

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