'Is London prepared for the effects of climate change? Are you insured?'
Cllr Sian Berry AM, Highgate ward
- Credit: André Langlois
Tragically, we saw the awful loss of a life in our local area last week, as exceptionally high winds battered the country and brought down trees across the city.
With storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin in quick succession, it is unprecedented to have three named storms in one week, underlining the growing instability of our weather systems, and Greens on the London Assembly are very concerned about London’s preparedness for the risks of climate change.
High winds are only one of the climate-related extremes that can cause damage and danger. We commissioned research in 2019 that showed more than two thirds of London flats will experience dangerous overheating in summer by the 2030s. For each serious five-day heatwave, up to 1,000 fatalities and 5,000 casualties can result from cardio-respiratory conditions made worse by the heat, mainly amongst older people.
In recent years we have also seen how sudden rainfall combined with poorly maintained drainage can cause localised flash flooding in unexpected areas and devastating property damage.
Are Londoners ready for this? My Green colleague Zack Polanski AM polled them ahead of the recent storms and found that few are mindful of climate risks. Whereas two in five think power cuts caused by extreme weather are likely in the next decade, only around a quarter are personally concerned about wind damage or overheating, and only 12% think any kind of flood could affect their homes.
My first full-time job was at an insurance company, where the claims I saw drummed in the need to make sure of help if the worst happens. As a private renter I have moved home many times but, even when it was very hard for me to make payments, I have never dared let my contents cover lapse, even for a day.
I know this makes me unusual, especially for a Londoner. In 2019, 45% of Londoners reportedly had no home contents cover at all, even before the current cost of living crisis.
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To have this number of people uninsured is worrying, and we can’t sit by and leave so many Londoners without this vital safety net. For those who can afford it, raising awareness may help but, for people already cutting back on essentials, the government should be making plans for more help to prepare every citizen for our uncertain future.
Sian Berry (Green Party) is a London Assembly member and a Highgate councillor.