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Image: Time Out / Greater London Authority

Sadiq Khan: ‘The climate catastrophe is being brought home to us’

The Mayor of London shares his thoughts about the flash floods and global climate crisis

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

This summer has been a particularly weird one, weatherwise. Last month, London experienced a wild heatwave, with Heathrow temperatures sneaking past 31C on July 18. Then the following week, tube stations and hospitals were submerged in water as torrential rainfall swamped the city in a series of flash floods. And it doesn’t stop there: if you’re after more doom and gloom, keep reading. The crazy weather is set to continue. 

Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a body of the United Nations – published a landmark scientific report, and its findings were far from pretty. It reported that global temperatures are set to rise by 1.5above pre-industrial levels within the next two decades, and flooding is projected to increase in all regions except the Mediterranean. What does all of this mean for the future of our city? Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says that time is running out.

‘What we've seen over the last few weeks with the freak weather, the flash floods and the heatwave, is the climate catastrophe being brought home to us,’ Khan said to Time Out today.

‘This isn't just an issue for those in Bangladesh, or those in Eastern Africa, or those in the subcontinent. This affects the entire planet. This year, COP26 is taking place in our country and we've got a new president of the USA who’s not a climate-change denier: that’s why it’s really important we use the small window we have to address the climate emergency. Things that were predicted to happen 20, 30, 40 years ago are happening now, so there really isn’t a second opportunity. We can be the first generation that gets it, or the last generation that doesn’t.’

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Obviously, everyone’s hoping that the world leaders get their shit together ASAP and save the planet from descending into a literal living hell before it’s too late. But can us, mere mortals, do anything to help out? 

Khan recommends some good, old-fashioned, activism. ‘The first thing is to lobby your politicians,’ he said. ‘Lobby those in power to do far more to address the climate emergency and the air quality crisis.’  

He also shared a few things that everyday Londoners can do to make a difference (stuff that we really hope you’re doing already). ‘We’ve got to be less car-dependent,’ Khan said. ‘I want London to be the greenest city in the world. If you're walking or cycling, you’re not emitting carbon. If you’re recycling more, if you’re reusing stuff more and reducing your usage, that helps.’ 

The Mayor spoke to Time Out today at the unveiling of a new family-friendly tube map spotlighting central London’s tourist destinations as part of his major £7m Let’s Do London campaign. ‘One of the things about this campaign Let’s Do London, is that it’s one of those environmentally friendly ways to have a great holiday through a staycation,’ Khan said. 

A family friendly map of London
Image: Greater London Authority

The map unveiling took place at London Zoo with five of the newly appointed young ‘Mayors of Play’, aged 8 to 11. Let’s hope London can deliver and give them a slightly less bleak future to look forward to… 

You can find out more about Let’s Do London’s tourism recovery campaign here. 

Climate change will put these areas of London underwater within a decade. 

Why was London flooding so much? We asked an expert to find out. 

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