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Richmond and Wandsworth: Working Together to Combat Climate Change

2 July, 2024
Richmond and Wandsworth: Working Together to Combat Climate Change


Evidenced by London’s latest heat wave, flooding in Brazil, Germany, and the UAE, wildfires across Canada and countless other examples, urban spaces are increasingly facing growing challenges in health, infrastructure, human livelihoods, and more, stemming from climate change.

While they tend to be home to concentrations of high-carbon industries, cities may also be uniquely equipped to develop and implement local, context-specific solutions based in equity, furthering the idea of a just transition.

In the UK, London Boroughs Richmond and Wandsworth’s Councils are taking matters into their own hands with a shared targets and adaptation plan to reach their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Shared Goals and Overall Approach

Both councils are committed to their 2030 target, which is one strand of their 3-pronged approach laid out in Richmond and Wandsworth’s Climate Action Plans:

  1. Becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
  2. Creating an environment that is low carbon, sustainable, and resilient.
  3. Working with communities to collaborate and take action on climate change.

Progress on adaptation and resilience

One of the key themes of each council’s Climate Action Plans is adaptation and resilience. Both are working to identify areas most at risk from climate change and develop plans for protection and futureproofing.

To identify these areas, the councils have developed a climate risk map which uses UKCP data to map each borough and understand how key climate risk exposures and social vulnerability factors could change in a warming world. Climate exposure metrics include overheating, flooding, and air pollution while social vulnerability factors include asthma prevalence, and social renting data, among others.

In practice, the Richmond Climate Emergency Strategy highlights a recent project focused on reducing flood risk in the Beverley Brook catchment. This £6m Defra-funded project used a nature-based solution approach, which involved creating wetlands, terracing, and swales. This improves the safety of residents and infrastructure and encourages urban resilience.

It is necessary to understand risk to inform adaptation and resilience priorities, but these councils are going further by understanding different contexts and providing a bespoke approach to target infrastructure improvements and interventions in at-risk areas. They plan to update these maps annually.

Next Steps in Climate Action Plans

Using the new climate risk map tool, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils leverage their collaboration with other departments like public health and social services to bring climate-mindful changes to areas where they need it the most.

Looking forward, each council will develop the next phased plan of their Climate Action Plans with the following key themes in mind:

  • Vulnerability focused approach: Prioritising the most vulnerable populations is essential and the climate risk map allows them to identify the most at-risk groups, with a focus on community engagement in those areas to ensure a just transition.
  • Embedding adaptation and resilience across teams in the council: Working with council teams to mainstream climate work through cross-council approaches and embedding climate and sustainability into new and existing policies.
  • Maximising co-benefits: Identifying and prioritising actions that maximise co-benefits such as air quality, physical and mental health, economic savings for all residents of each borough.
  • Nature-based solutions: Emphasising biodiversity and green spaces, flood resilience, and more with the hope to replicate nature-based solutions in projects across the borough.
  • Adaptive pathways approach: With uncertainty surrounding exactly what climate change’s effect will be in the coming decades, the councils are taking an iterative approach and reviewing action plans every five years with new data and feedback loops to ensure long-term impact.

Key Takeaways

  • Richmond and Wandsworth Councils are using climate adaptive and resilience strategies that fit their environmental and social context, aligning with the principles of a just transition.
  • Accessibility and quality of data to build climate risk mapping tools is tantamount to their impact on policy and progress.
  • Collaboration between numerous different services within local organisations alongside iterative evidence-based review provides a comprehensive and bespoke approach to climate risk and adaptation.