Opinion: The city: environmental issues and sustainable development

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The city with which I am most familiar is Greater London. The crucial environmental issues for London have been benchmarked in the Mayor’s State of the Environment Report for London (May 2003) as required by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It covers the following issues, which are probably applicable to a lesser or greater extent to any metropolis: land quality and the conservation of natural resources; flooding, groundwater levels; pollution incidents; river water quality; biodiversity; noise; air pollution; road traffic levels; litter; waste management; energy use; and climate change.

The Report benchmarks London’s environment and provides a means by which environmental quality is not prejudiced in the future in the drive to commercial and industrial profitability: by which we can take a long term view of our modus vivandi for the benefit of both us and our progeny: by which we can preserve our environment both for its own sake and as a basis for social well-being (environmental degradation is particularly associated with social deprivation) and sustainable economic progress.

Over and above the local/internal issues of London highlighted in the Report, however, are the external/global issues related to the ‘ecological footprint’ of London: that is, the area of land and sea on which Londoners are dependent to supply the capital’s resources and absorb its waste. Recent analysis has demonstrated that if all planet Earth’s population were to live to the same formula as Londoners we would need at least three planets to support us.

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