The method to rate cities’ climate change preparedness could be applied internationally.

14 August 2013 — The ability of cities to cope with and adapt to climate change varies significantly across the UK, research at Newcastle University has discovered.

Scientists at the university revealed a “postcode lottery of preparedness” across the country based on what each city was doing to reduce greenhouse emissions as well as adaptation measures to deal with extreme weather such as flood and drought.

Thirty cities were ranked based on four levels of readiness: assessment, planning, action and monitoring. Publishing their results in Climatic Change, the scientists revealed immense variation across the UK.

London was found to have one of the most advanced strategies in place, mitigating climate change impacts through energy efficiency and saving, increasing the use of renewables, waste management and the introduction of greener modes of transport.

Wrexham and Derry, however, scored very low.

Research leader Dr Oliver Heidrich said the method of ranking highlighted at a glance the “state of readiness” across the country.

“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,” Dr Heidrich said.

“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. 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.”

In most cities, adaptation policies lagged behind the mitigation plans. With flooding a key present and future threat in many urban areas, the team showed that many cities were still unprepared to cope with extremes of weather patterns.

“The aim of this research is not to name and shame cities,” said Dr Heidrich, “but if we are to be prepared for the increased occurrences of floods and droughts then we do need to make sure that our climate change policies are in place, that they are working and that the consequences of implementing these strategies are being checked.

“What this research highlights more than anything is the huge variations in the state of readiness for climate change across the UK, and the method of assessing the preparedness of cities can easily be applied to cities in other countries.”