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Press Release

Protecting Londoners as the capital warms up
10-10-2006   501

More trees, 'green roofs' and 'cool pavements' are all on the agenda for the capital as a new report draws attention to the higher temperatures in London compared to the surrounding counties.

Plans to tackle the 'urban heat island' phenomenon - which sees London's temperatures soaring compared to neighbouring areas – are explored in the study launched by the Mayor of London today (Tuesday 10th October).

London can be up to nine degrees Celsius hotter than the green belt around it, particularly at night. Climate change means that temperatures are now reaching levels that could have serious health impacts and this summer was one of the warmest on record.

The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: ‘London has experienced two heat waves in the past three years and, as this report shows, it is clear that such events will become the norm rather than the exception that they are today. London is noticeably hotter than the surrounding counties and we need to act now to address this phenomenon, which will have growing implications.

'We need a greener city and we have to adapt the design of our buildings to cope better with summer heat, but in a way that does not contribute further to global warming. We also have to be prepared to protect the most vulnerable Londoners, such as older people.

'Climate change is already happening and while large energy using cities like London, have a responsibility to try and prevent catastrophic climate change, we also have to adapt to those changes that are now inevitable.'

The ‘Urban Heat Island Effect’ describes the phenomenon that buildings and man-made surfaces absorb more energy from the sun than green spaces. As the sun's energy fades at dusk and air temperatures begin to drop, these surfaces release their stored energy, preventing the city from cooling and denying Londoners respite at night from summer heat waves.

Climate change is increasing average temperatures and the frequency of extreme hot weather events, such as heat waves.  In 2003 there were more than 600 excess deaths during the August heatwave. It is possible that the higher night temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect contributed to the number of deaths.

The most important factor in creating an urban heat island effect is a lack of green space in built up areas, but human activity in response to hot weather - such as the use of air conditioning, which pumps hot air out into the atmosphere -can exacerbate the process.

The study examines a series of recommendations to help prevent higher temperatures affecting health and quality of life. These include protecting and enhancing green space, designing buildings to stay cool without using energy intensive air conditioning, promoting 'green roofs' and 'cool roofs', plus making preparations to safeguard vulnerable Londoners such as older people.

This study looks at these changes and what steps London needs to take to adapt our cities to these warmer temperatures. These include protecting green spaces and increasing the amount of trees and vegetation in the capital. Buildings should be designed to stay cool and the materials used for making roads, roofing and pavements should reflect and not absorb heat. Vulnerable groups need to be identified early ensuring health plans are in place so that public health and social care professionals can be prepared in the event of a heatwave. 

The Mayor commissioned this research, which was led by Kings College London, with contributions from climatologists, meteorologists, geographers, engineers and public health experts.

Notes to Editors

1. For a copy of the Urban Heat Island Effect report go to
2. In the 1960s the urban heat island effect meant that the city centre in the summer was warmer than the green belt by 4-6 degrees. Now the city can be as much as 7-9 degrees warmer at night, meaning that Londoners are losing cool evenings which can help them recover from the heat of the day.

For media enquiries please call Nicola Dillon on 020 7983 4755 or Hilary Merrett on 020 7983 4753 in the Mayor’s Press Office.
For out of hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000.
For non-media enquiries please call the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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