As we in London go to the polls on 3 May, we have to decide on the best option for London for the next four years. It’s a difficult choice and you have to decide what you think is the priority for London.
Is it to stimulate economic growth? Is it to develop the most deprived areas? Is it to tighten the gap between the rich on the poor? To provide a more fair and sustainable transport system that will promote cycling? Do we need to think about London as community? Should we see London as an example for a green and sustainable city? All of the above?
I believe in Ken Livingstone we have a candidate that have all the right policies on these issues.
Cycling out of London’s dark clouds
The health and safety of Londoners must be the number one priority. Air pollution in our capital is a travesty; we’re heading towards a fine of £300 million, something Boris has managed to delay without dealing with the problem. Now it appears unavoidable. These problems result in increasing stress on our fragile NHS system with increased cancer cases, cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and asthma cases; the list goes on. In a modern and developed city, this is simply not acceptable.
Johnson did finally introduce a low emissions zone but it came a little too late and questions can be asked how efficient it would be. We have still not managed to introduce a green public transport system, something that should have happened years ago. Johnson will herald his Barclays bike hire scheme. While that idea in theory is great, it’s too costly and has mainly been rolled out in the City and the richer areas of London. It’s not coming out to the areas that really need it.
In terms of saving carbon emissions it’s questionable how useful it really is as every night, several lorries drive around the city transporting bikes to make sure there is an equal number at each station. There simply must be a better way of doing this.
Ken recognises the benefits of the scheme but also thinks the current setup is unsustainable.
On the subject of cycling, conditions in London really are appalling. It’s easily one of the most dangerous places I have ever cycled. Despite our so-called super highways, things do not seem to have improved. Some of the most notorious junctions in London, Kings Cross, Elephant and Castle and Blackfriars Bridge, are as dangerous as ever despite massive investments and rebuilding of the junctions and guarantees that cycling safety will be considered. These pledges have simply been ignored.
London’s green spaces
We have to do everything we can to suck pollution out of the air. This involves everything from promoting green spaces to an aggressive tree planting scheme. Boris has pledged to plant another 20,000 trees, but this is just not enough – we will have to be far more ambitious. This will also have an adverse effect on hot London summer days as the trees will shield the sun from the tarmac, thus reducing the amount of heat that reaches the London streets. To be fair this is Johnson’s strongest environmental point and he does recognise this, but he does not go far enough.
London continues to have some of the most deprived areas of the country and, needless to say, these are also some of the most fuel inefficient. We will have to deal with efficiency, which again will have two benefits; reduced London pollution and reduced bills for Londoners who are financially squeezed.
London as a community
This is both a global and national issue, but nowhere is it more evident that in London. As society gets more and more globalised, we are increasingly reliant on global brands. We neglect our local community and its benefits, in anything from locally grown food to local energy co-operatives.
On a positive move we have seen a small movement in this sector with the transition town movement. But it needs more government support and I firmly believe that Ken will throw his weight behind such initiatives. It will bring benefits such as greener lives, more happiness, and education among our younger generation.
Why Ken and not Jenny?
In a utopian scenario there is no doubt that Jenny Jones as London mayor would be the ideal choice, but we all know that is not going to happen.
Ken is incredibly green, almost too green to be Labour. The Green Party recognises this and has even recommended its voters choose Ken as their second choice. Ken has in turn recognised that Jenny is stronger on cycling than him and will appoint her as cycling advisor if he is elected.
A greener London
The bottom line is that London needs a mayor that recognises we will have to start building a greener London. That goal should be recognised in every single industry in the capital to deal with the impending crisis of climate change.
We need to urgently make sure that building regulations reflect the need to reduce emissions in the construction industry. Buildings and houses should be made carbon neutral wherever possible and we need to recognize and work with pioneering companies who are leading this revolution. Groundbreaking innovations like the Heron Tower need to be a blueprint for the future and should be minimum requirements for all new buildings.
In Boris Johnson we have a former climate change skeptic and he would never lead on addressing green issues for London. He is far too worried about upsetting the City. In Ken Livingstone we have a former mayor who was one of the first to warn Londoners about climate change and the need for reducing our emissions.
This was first published on the Huffington Post 1st of May.