London Councillor Recognises Benefits of Green Infrastructure


Cities need as much green infrastructure as possible, given how dense and impermeable they tend to be. In the urban environment, green infrastructure covers everything from parks to street trees and green roofs to bioswales — really anything that helps absorb, delay, and treat stormwater, mitigating flooding and pollution downstream. Green infrastructure also creates oxygen, sequesters carbon, and creates wildlife habitat. Urban greenery has also been proven to improve mental health and well-being.

In a letter to the editor of The Economist, Councillor Harry Phibbs of London’s Hammersmith and Fulham Borough responds to the September article “London’s Sewers, Smelling Sweet” about the Thames Tideway Tunnel. He comments on the use of green, natural stormwater infrastructure solutions by referencing Philadelphia’s, “better, cheaper alternative of green infrastructure that soaks up the rainwater in various ways to stop it causing sewage overflows in the first place.” He’s referring to Philadelphia’s cutting-edge, low-cost approach for dealing with its city’s stormwater run-off problems, ‘Green City, Clean Waters‘.

‘Green City, Clean Waters’ is Philadelphia’s 25-year plan to protect and enhance the city’s watersheds by managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure. The Philadelphia Water Department developed ‘Green City, Clean Waters’ to provide a clear pathway to a sustainable future while strengthening the utility, broadening its mission, and complying with environmental laws and regulations

Every city should have its own green infrastructure strategy and actionable plan to make it happen. Philadelphia and New York City are leading the way with their model-breaking green infrastructure plans.  Philadelphia’s comprehensive green infrastructure approach is estimated to cost just $1.2 billion over the next 25 years, compared to over $6 billion for “grey” infrastructure, a term used for the concrete tunnels created to move water. With this plan, 250 people are expected to be employed annually in green jobs. The city is expecting up to 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emission to be avoided or absorbed through green infrastructure each year, the equivalent of removing close to 3,400 vehicles from roadways. With improved air quality due to all the new trees, green roofs, and parks, communities will benefit on the social or health side, as well. The city estimates 20 deaths due to asthma will be avoided, and 250 fewer work or school days will be missed. Deaths due to excessive urban heat could also be cut by 250 over 20 years. Lastly, the economic benefits are also outstanding: the new greenery will increase property values by $390 million over 45 years, also boosting the property taxes the city takes in.

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