air pollution

Report argues London should make the move towards being a Global Green City


The launch of IPPR’s London Global Green City report.

By Anders Lorenzen


London Global Green City, is the title of a new report by the think tank, the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR). It sets out how London can transform itself into a leader on sustainability by tackling issues such as air pollution and carbon emissions, and by increasing the deployment of renewable energy.
London’s challenges
The report highlights several issues that the next London mayor should consider in order to move London towards becoming a Global Green City. IPPR launched the report in the historic area, Royal Arsenal Riverside, in the south-eastern London suburb of Woolwich. This region is already going through a series of regeneration projects.
Many of these projects are lead by the construction company, the Berkeley Group, which is one of the funding partners of the report. At the launch, their Managing Director, Rob Perrins, urged politicians to support the report and said the Berkeley Group takes climate change very seriously. In particular, they are designing their homes to withstand extreme weather events. Londoners will go to the polls this week, to elect their new mayor. The report outlines the following environmental and social issues that the next mayor must deal with:
Air pollution
Arguably one of the most pressing issues facing London today is air pollution. This has risen to levels that are both lethal and illegal and is responsible for more premature deaths than alcohol and obesity. In 2010, air pollution claimed the lives of 9,400 people and came with an economic cost of £3.7 billion. The cause of air pollution is primarily due to emissions from transport, and it is mainly lower-income groups and children who are impacted. Nearly 25% of school children are exposed to levels that exceed both EU and WHO legal and health limits.
As the population of London continues to grow, traffic congestion is rising. And without new policies to manage demand, there will be around a 43% increase in passenger vehicle miles between 2013 and 2030. The congestion causes a decrease in average speed, from 21mph today to 16mph by 2030, and in central London even lower. Lower speeds mean greater delays and unpredictable journey times.
Pressure on London’s resources
London’s population is not growing as fast as many of the world’s megacities. UK’s capital is however projected to continue to grow – this is of course in line with global trends, as more and more people locate themselves in cities. The report estimates that by 2031, London will have a population of 10 million, and by 2050, it would be a whopping 13 million. This will, of course, put huge pressure on resources by increasing demand for housing, transport, energy, water and other resources. This will have implications for congestion, economic costs, public health, available space and social cohesion. The report also notes as the thirst for new homes is growing, green space is being lost to development. London is also way behind in recycling, with levels in the capital being the worst in the UK.
CO2 emissions
In line with was agreed at the Paris climate change conference last year, embodied in the Paris Agreement, London must almost be completely decarbonised by the middle of this century. However, London’s CO2 emissions are not currently on track to meet those existing mayoral targets, which are only part of the journey towards full decarbonisation.
London has some of the most energy inefficient housing in the country, meaning that London households have the highest average gas bills in the UK. Because of this, around 10% or around a million Londoners are classified as living in fuel poverty. This means that they do not have sufficient funds to heat their homes, and they often have to decide between heating or buying food. Often this affects the elderly and vulnerable, and it has serious health implications.
A new road pricing scheme
The authors of the report suggest a range of measures to deal with these issues. First, they argue for an expansion of the road-pricing scheme. The new scheme would combine the already existing congestion charge and the ultra-low emissions zones. This one measure would tackle the three issues of air pollution, congestion, and CO2 emissions and the revenue raised would go to boost public transport, cycling, and walking.  It would also encourage the increased use of electric vehicles and car-sharing schemes by expanding the charging network, and introducing on-street parking permits for car-sharing schemes.
A new strategy for energy
To increase deployment of renewable energy in the capital, a London-specific energy company, to be called Energy for London, was also touted as a solution. This company would supply Londoners with electricity and gas and energy efficiency services, as well as increase the investments in solar power and renewable heating. Part of this plan would also be the establishment of an energy manager for the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.
London is the area in the UK that performs worst on installed capacity of solar. The report argues for a dedicated solar strategy that would increase installed solar capacity to at least 750 megawatts (MW) by 2025. An efficiency heat strategy would capture wasted heat and retrofit London’s homes and workplaces.
Environmental objectives at the heart of planning
To achieve environmental standards, the report argues that environmental objectives should be integrated into London’s planning, economic and community development strategies. This would include establishing London as a national park city and require the appointment of a green infrastructure commissioner. The role would be to promote the protection and enhancement of nature, and ensure that the public has easy access to nature. The goal would be to ensure each Londoner lives no further than 1 kilometer away from green and open space.
Promote walking and cycling
In recent years, cycling has really taken off in London as a means of transport. But more needs to be done, the report argues. It calls for extending the so-called Mini-Hollands schemes, which is based on Holland’s successful cycling infrastructure. It also wants to make the city more friendly to pedestrians. So far all London’s mayoral candidates back an idea to pedestrianise Oxford Street, one of the busiest and most polluted streets in the capital.
Finally, the report calls for the promotion of London’s green and low-carbon economic sectors, as well as arguing that steps must be taken to reduce waste, and increase the dismal recycling rates.
One of the report’s authors Laurie Laybourn-Langton, said: “London needs to think of itself as a global green city, a place where all Londoners can enjoy green space with all the health and wellbeing benefits that flow from this. Our vision of the capital is one with a worldwide reputation as a city where the environment enhances quality of life for all.

Time will tell whether the next London mayor takes the steps that the report calls for and moves London towards being a Global Green City. 


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