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UK and German cities working together to combat climate change

20 February 2006

Cities are not only vulnerable to the environmental stresses caused by global warming and extreme weather events, but are also major contributors to the build up of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Leading academics, policy makers, industrialists and NGOs from the UK and Germany will discuss what science and technology can do to protect urban environments at a conference at University College London (UCL) on 11 and 12 April. Insights from twinning programmes between British and German cities (London and Berlin, Nottingham and Karlsruhe, Cambridge and Heidelberg) are to be used to promote collaboration in dealing with climate change.

The conference, hosted by UCL's Environment Institute, is the second in a series opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Berlin last year, and will make recommendations to the Prime Minister for the UK's G8 Presidency in 2005.

In the UK, 80% of the population live in urban areas. "Emerging research in urban meteorology and air pollution, linked to climate predictions is showing how the climate in urban areas is affected by planning decisions," says Professor Julian Hunt of UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics. "As London develops the Thames Gateway area this will have a major effect on the local climate over the next 30 years. London is greening itself, which protects biodiversity, but has some way to go to reach the green corridors common in most German cities."

The conference will enable the comparison of work in the UK and Germany on predicting and dealing with environmental extremes likely to be exacerbated by climate change, particularly high temperatures and floods associated with more intense rainfall. Social and administrative aspects of climate change will also be examined - for example, how buildings, underground transport and other systems will cope with another summer like that of 2003.

Other areas for discussion are how the Greater London Authority (GLA) can use its planning powers to reduce London's ecological impact by encouraging innovative heating/cooling and local electrical distribution systems. For example could the heat generated by the London Underground be utilised? German cities have more effective waste recycling than UK cities. Could such systems be introduced in the UK?

The final but perhaps most important issue is how to communicate with people about climate change and as Lord Whitty said recently "change behaviour as well as awareness". UCL's Centre for Spatial Analysis has worked with the London Borough of Hackney and the GLA to provide images and information on the web to enable people to understand and contribute to planning development in their communities. The conference will look at how this and other initiatives can be developed further.

Professor Malcolm Grant, UCL's President and Provost, will be attending the conference. Speakers include:

1 Ms Nicky Gavron, London's Deputy Mayor;

2 Prof. Rob Nicholls, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research;

3 Dr Eberhard Faust, Head of Climate Risks, Munich Reinsurance Company AG;

4 Prof Erich Platte, Environmental Research Centre, University of Karlsruhe;

5 Beate Weber, Mayor of Heidelberg.

Notes for Editors

1. The first conference in this series, Meeting the Challenge Together, was opened by HM Queen at the British Embassy in Berlin on 3 November 2004.

2. The conference at UCL is part of the UK Climate Change Initiative for 2005 and is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

3. In September 2002 UCL with other London Universities held the first meeting on 'London's Environment and Future' with Michael Meacher, Ken Livingstone, Richard Rogers and others. This led to a book edited by Julian Hunt, 'London's Environment', which has just been published by Imperial College Press (2005).

4. For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Leslie Bell at the UCL Media Relations Office on +44 (0)20 7679 7678, Out of Hours: +44 (0)7917 271364 or e-mail l.bell@adm.ucl.ac.uk