#GreenerLondon: 7 ways the next Mayor can deliver a sustainable capital

The National Trust, WWF, RSPB and Greenpeace are among a coalition of the UK's most prominent environmental organisations challenging the next London Mayor to transform the capital into a world-leading sustainable city.

As part of Greener London Week, the coalition has today (29 February) laid out a list of key recommendations to create a greener capital – with aspects such as air quality, solar systems and recycling all highlighted as focus for Boris Johnson’s successor (Scroll down for report).

Johnson has himself been critical of Government green policy in the past – most notably over the recent feed-in tariff cuts. Johnson has also taken steps to bring the world’s first Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to London – a much-needed initiative, considering the capital took just one week to breach its annual pollution limit for 2016.

The Labour and Conservative London Mayoral candidates have outlined their commitments to greening the capital, but both stopped short of setting tangible targets.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan recently outlined his ambition to ignite a ‘clean energy revolution’, pledging to be the ‘greenest mayor ever’ – including a pledge to run London on 100% green energy by 2050. Meanwhile, Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith has sculpted his candidacy around his green ambitions – most notably with his opposition of Heathrow’s third runway, for environmental reasons.

Listed below are the big ideas and practical means which would help the next mayor achieve a green revolution in the capital by the end of their first term in 2020.

1) Deliver the Ultra-Low Emission Zone

The coalition has called on mayoral candidates Sian Berry (Green Party), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat), Peter Whittle (UKIP), Goldsmith and Khan to remove all diesel black cabs and public hire vehicles by 2020 and ensure that the entire bus fleet is running on clean fuel by 2025.

Current Mayor Johnson has pledged £65m into the Ultra-Low Emission Zone plan, which will see zero-emission taxis rolled-out across the capital.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph – a member of the Greener London coalition – said: “By expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone and bringing forward the end date for dirty diesel in London’s bus and taxi fleets the next Mayor can make a real difference to the health and life chances of Londoners.”

2) Develop a ‘Clean Lungs Fund’

The Greenr London coalition organisations suggest that a Fund should be implemented to tackle air pollution around London schools to protect children.

The reason is clear: It took London just one week to breach its annual pollution limits, with air pollution responsible from around 9,500 deaths in London each year.

Green Alliance director Matthew Spencer said: “London is a dynamic city, but if it’s to remain a healthy place to live and work it also has to become a greener city. If the next Mayor doesn’t tackle air pollution, London will become a victim of its own success.”

3) Make London a Solar City

Mayoral candidates have been urged to turn London into a world-leading solar city – a move which would require a tenfold capacity increase of around 200,000 solar rooftops.

Greenpeace has already called on the next Mayor to introduce a London-exclusive feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidy scheme and a new solar taskforce. Steps are also in place for Europe’s largest floating solar array to be installed on the river Thames.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “London holds two unenviable records. It has some of the highest air pollution levels and the lowest amount of solar power installed per household in the country. It’s time for the next Mayor to give this cutting edge city the cutting edge power and transport systems it deserves.”

4) Ignite a circular economy

London currently utilises 20 different recycling schemes across the city. The coalition has suggested that these methods be harmonised to increase the quality of recycling and to promote a circular economy.

Research has already suggested that on top of financial incentives an improved circular economy model in London could create 40,000 new jobs by 2030.

WWF UK’s chief executive Glyn Davies said: “London can lead the way in fighting climate change, which is one of the greatest threats we face. All the mayoral candidates should show clear plans for getting emissions down, and capitalise on the wealth creating potential of greener growth for London.”

5) Open more green spaces and rooftops

The coalition argues that any new-build under the new Mayor’s tenure should have a contractual obligation to be fitted with a ‘green’ rooftop. Alongside this, the Greener London coalition is specifically calling for 100 estates across London to be fitted with improved green spaces.

London Wildlife Trust’s Gordon Scorer said: “By making it easier for all Londoners to experience the beauty and wonder of nature in their neighbourhoods, by improving natural green spaces in social housing estates for example, the next Mayor could make London a happier, healthier city for all.”   

6) Focus on energy-efficient homes

The Greener London coalition has called on the next Mayor to push the Government to install new regulatory powers that would ensure that London renters benefit from warmer homes – an especially pressing issue, considering the Government’s controversial decision to scrap the Green Deal last year.

Again, the need for such a policy move is clear: a new report released today from leading consultants Baringa Partners reveals that one in three people see themselves as financially vulnerable to any unexpected heating bills around £300, with many stating that they couldn’t cope with the extra expenditure.

Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) chief executive Shaun Spiers said: “The new Mayor will need to act decisively to address London’s housing crisis. With care and imagination we can build the homes London needs.”

7) Launch a new energy loan scheme

The coalition has suggested that an energy efficiency loans scheme should be introduced to help small businesses with the transition to a low-carbon economy.

London schools already benefit from an interest-free energy efficiency loan, while the Green Investment Bank has previously offered a £2m investment to help SMEs make improvements in energy efficiency.

Greener London: what the next Mayor can do to improve our capital

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie