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Delivering Sustainable Legacies for London
24 June 2021
A key theme of London Climate Action Week is net zero London, exploring how the city can build back after so much change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The city’s recovery from the pandemic should certainly be a catalyst for more sustainable and resilient growth, addressing the need to adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions to net zero.
The adoption of new digital tools and travel habits accelerated by the pandemic suggest that there is a potential long-term and profound shift in the way we work and use our cities. Yet the acute challenges of redefining the London city region post-pandemic and proactively addressing climate change are not being looked at holistically.
London has not been built to deal with rising temperatures, unpredictable weather events and water scarcity. The acute challenge of the climate emergency must shape future development now, requiring a reassessment of what makes a successful, liveable city. It must tackle the existing fabric and infrastructure of the city, as well as providing mobility options for people and businesses to meet their future needs. The scale of the potential impact is such that making London more resilient requires going beyond existing resilience planning.
The top-line challenge is to decarbonise travel, workplaces and homes to meet the Mayor’s commitments to achieve net zero by 2030. However, to help the capital become more resilient to future environmental shocks, the longer-term challenge is to go beyond net zero. London will need to take steps to become a regenerative built environment, essentially giving more – as a whole – than it takes.
This need to build resiliency is a key challenge addressed in AECOM’s recently published London 2070: Our vision for the future city region report, which highlights the need for a coordinated plan that can be progressed now for the long-term success of London and the wider South East region. The choices and bold moves we make today need to set in place a successful and resilient future for London.
Much focus to date has been to accelerate a transition to renewable energy in combination with energy efficiency measures. The huge challenge of retrofitting older housing stock and legacy infrastructure remains. But going forward, there also needs to be a growing focus on minimising embodied carbon in buildings and infrastructure through better use of resources. Prioritising the implementation of circular economy approaches from today is a first step towards building an economic system that aims at minimising waste by mapping resource flows and determining how waste from one system becomes a resource for another.
As a knowledge sector firm, AECOM recognises its responsibility to help reduce embodied carbon in the built environment. Sustainable Legacies, our new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy exploits our technical expertise by introducing initiatives that embed sustainable development and resilience across our work.
Certainly, accelerating the net zero agenda in London requires a collective effort. All businesses will need to align their objectives with carbon reduction and resilience. As more and more organisations look to roll-out ambitious strategies, action plans and targets, there is an opportunity for increased engagement, collaboration and leadership. The business community must work together to build back London in a way that embraces opportunity, improves resiliency, achieves sustainable growth and meets net zero targets. For the good of the city, we must be prepared to share our ideas and learn from each other.
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