Environment Committee thrashes out capital’s sustainability priorities

London businesses must be encouraged to reduce water consumption and switch to greener energy sources in a bid to boost the green economy and create a better quality environment in which to work.

That is according to London’s Environment Committee, which met in City Hall last week to discuss the future environmental priorities for London under three key themes; land and water, air quality and the green economy.

Kicking off the session was Environment Agency (EA) regional director Howard Davidson, who discussed the importance of reducing flood risk, protecting and improving the quality of rivers and ensuring there is enough water for businesses in the capital.

He said that such issues are currently topical as the UK is in a drought as a result of having 20% less rainfall over the last six months than the norm, this he argues, increases the need for “prudent planning to reduction water consumption and flood risk management to ensure there is enough water for the environment, rivers and businesses”.

Meanwhile, Thames Water’s sustainability director Richard Aylard warned that it is “very likely” that it would have to introduce water restrictions this summer. He said: “It is not looking good at the moment. We are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best”.

He admitted that Olympic preparations are restricting Thames Water’s on-going water works and will limit how it deals with emergencies, such as ground water flooding.

As a result, he called for a national standard for sustainable drainage (SUDs), saying that the Thames Tunnel project has to go “hand-in-hand” with sustainable drainage and that supermarkets and large retailers need to be “forced to drain water more efficiently”. He also welcomed London mayor Boris Johnson’s suggestion of creating a water commissioner for London to help improve the capital’s water management.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) public affairs manager David Hodges called for more government support to help SMEs reduce their water and energy consumption, saying that “sustainability and environment is something to take very seriously”.

He said: “It is important we help SMEs understand this and support them in reducing their energy bills using technologies such as voltage optimisation”, adding that it is important to look at the opportunities as well as the challenges of doing so.

Finally, practical sustainability solutions consultancy BioRegional director Sue Riddlestone said that carbon emissions need to be reduced in the capital in order to tackle poor air quality issues, which she described as off-putting for business investors.

This was a view echoed by ex-Biffa director and waste expert Peter Jones, who said that London should invest in new technology to tackle emissions and needs to be “looking at a holistic set of priorities from the big users of carbon”, suggesting a “collaborative, integrated framework on water resources, energy and carbon” is implemented.

The meeting concluded by mooting the idea of renaming the committee the ‘Environment and Sustainability Committee’ and called for a green guide to be produced which looks at water, energy and carbon issues in the capital.

Carys Matthews

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