London a ‘victim of its own success’ as environmental performance wanes

The city of London is at risk of becoming a 'victim of its own success', with aging infrastructure and a lack of investment into renewables doing nothing to ease the burden of a rapidly growing population, a new report has found.

Ranked alongside New York as the best business-connected city in the world, by Dutch design consultants Arcadis, London has been ranked outside the top 10 for environment actions in the design firm’s Sustainable Cities Index.

The index ranks cities on three defining factors of people, profit and planet, before assigning each city an overall ranking. Despite appearing second – driven by business funds and population – behind Frankfurt when all three factors are combined, London is being held back by its poor environmental stature which sits at 12th in the rankings.

“London is a city with a great international profile, widely regarded as one of the top cities in the world as evidenced in the Sustainable Cities Index, yet it is starting to become a victim of its own success,” the report states.

“For years London has suffered from under-investment in its infrastructure and is struggling to meet the demands of the existing population, let alone the impact of growth. Congestion and aging infrastructure are at the heart of current issues, but so too are a chronic shortage of affordable housing, declining air quality, and the more visible impact of climate change and resilience against the elements.”

With London’s population expected to grow by a fifth by 2030, the report claims that the capital will need a political will to cater for change, which includes an increased drive in renewable investment on a scale ‘never before achieved’.

Renewable regrets

While the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – set to stand down once the elections take place 5 May – has been vocal in efforts to make London the ‘best city in the world’, a lack of renewable incentives in the city is starting to take its toll.

Even with the unveiling of Europe’s largest floating solar array on the River Thames, a new renewable energy locator launched today (1 April) by the Green Alliance, revealed that London ranked last out of all the English regions in terms of renewable capacity.

Energy from biomass waste makes up the majority of the capital’s 219.3 MW capacity. In comparison the highest ranked region – the East of England – has a renewables capacity of 3,218 MW.

Mayoral decisions

In response to the slow uptake of renewables, Greenpeace has urged the next London Mayor to ignite a ‘renewables revolution’ in the city. Other campaigners, including the National Trust, WWF, and RSPB have all called on the next Mayor to deliver a more sustainable capital.

Labour candidate Sadiq Khan has pledged to run London on 100% green energy by 2050, while Green Party candidate Sian Berry has targeted zero-emission vehicles to tackle London’s air quality crisis. Yesterday (31 March), the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith launched his Transport Manifesto that promised to deliver a ‘clean air revolution’.

Whoever is elected the new Mayor will have their work cut out tackling London’s air quality crisis. The capital took just one week to breach annual air pollution limits in 2016, with around 9,500 Londoners dying each year due to the poor air quality.

Matt Mace

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