London mayoral election: The green policy showdown

With the race to enter City Hall drawing to a conclusion on Thursday (5 May), edie rounds up the environmental credentials and ambitions of the five main candidates bidding to be the next Mayor of London.

Current incumbent Boris Johnson steps down this week after serving eight years and two terms as the Mayor of London. His successor will have their work cut out to drastically improve the bleak environmental outlook of a capital city which took just one week to breach its annual pollution limit for 2016. 

Thursday’s election showdown will most likely result in a victory for either Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith – the staunch environmentalist whose campaign focus has centred around a resolute opposition to Heathrow expansion; or current frontrunner Sadiq Khan – the Labour candidate pledging to lead London through a ‘clean energy revolution’

QUIZ: London mayoral election – who said what on the envronment?

Along with the main two contenders, edie has analysed the varous green policies and environmental proposals that have been put forward by the Green Party’s Sian Berry, the Liberal Democrat’s Caroline Pidgeon and UKIP’s Peter Whittle in an effort to drive a greener London.

Zac Goldsmith – Conservatives

The Conservative London Mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith recently vowed to kick-start a ‘clean air revolution’ if elected London Mayor through various initiatives, such as creating a point-to-point electric car sharing system in lieu of the Boris Bike cycling scheme and working with the Government to back capital-wide diesel scrappage schemes.

A central pledge would see all new black cabs and minicabs are zero emissions by 2018 and 2020 respectively. As an immediate priority, Goldsmith insists he will work with TfL to provide ‘Clean Bus Corridors’ – ensuring the cleanest buses are put on the dirtiest routes in order to ease air pollution.

The Richmond MP also aims to use a license provided by energy regulator Ofgem to set up ‘Energy for London’ – a new clean energy company which will bulk buy energy from low-carbon generators across the capital and sell it on to businesses and housing estates. 

Other objectives from Goldsmith include a pledge to put a plan in place to supply a quarter of London’s energy needs from low-carbon sources by 2025, to put the city on the pathway towards the ultimate goal of being powered by 100% clean energy by 2050. If elected, Goldsmith would aim to ensure 10% of London’s energy is produced from solar by 2025, which would mean at least 200,000 London homes would be powered by the sun.

Sadiq Khan – Labour

Labour’s London Mayor candidate Sadiq Khan has previously outlined his ambition to ignite a ‘clean energy revolution’ in the capital, pledging to be the ‘greenest mayor ever’

Many environmental policy crossover points exist between the Tooting MP and his Tory competitor, including a target to run London on 100% green energy by 2050 and a bid to introduce a Clean Bus Corridors scheme which would prioritise new, clean buses for those services that run on the most polluted roads in the city. Similarly to his rival candidate, Khan would call upon the Government to introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those who wish to change to a greener car.

However, Khan does possess a number of unique green ideas and proposals for the capital. For instance, he believes that delivering electric charging infrastructure in partnership with the private sector is necessary for a major expansion in the use of electric vehicles. Khan has set a provisional target of only buying clean electric or hydrogen buses from 2020. Plans to reinvigorate waste reduction efforts to increase the amount London recycles would supposedly get the capital back on track with hitting a 65% recycling target by 2030.

Khan also pledges to ban fracking in London, plant two million trees, provide more green buses, expand the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) along major arterial routes or a wider section of central London and attempt to divest the London Pension Fund Authority of its remaining investments in fossil fuel industries.

Sian Berry – Green Party

The Green Party London Mayor candidate Sian Berry insists that the current “half-hearted” efforts to tackle air pollution in London would be replaced with a fully-integrated, zero-emission fleet of public transport vehicles and elevated congestion charges if she is able to realise her capital-wide vision.

If elected, Berry says she would extend plans for the ULEZ, developed alongside the new congestion charging scheme to start in 2019 at the latest. A higher congestion charge would be introduced for all but the cleanest vehicles in central London, to create a Very Low Emission Zone.

Along with plans to clean up the bus and taxi fleet and back calls for a diesel scrappage scheme, Berry would tighten up the standards on the current London-wide Low Emission Zone for vans and make sure they are properly enforced through vehicle checks.

Maintenance and funding would be provided for the electric car charging network which would be expanded to provide 25,000 charging points across London. Berry insists she would ensure Crossrail is powered by 100% renewable energy and go on to work with community groups, the public sector and businesses to install and support clean energy generators across the capital.

Caroline Pidgeon – Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon has made clear a plan to improve air quality and reduce congestion in the city, aiming to clean up the air pollution by phasing out dirty diesel vehicles; work with boroughs to set tough targets for reducing the amount of waste produced and for reuse and recycling; and roll out solar across 200,000 London rooftops by 2025.

Pidgeon has a target for London to become zero-carbon by 2035, which she insists can be achieved through changes to primary fuel sources, cutting wasted energy and substantially reducing consumption. 

Moreover, Pidgeon vows to switch London’s buses and taxis to fully electric and help to switch commercial vans, cut congestion by charging extra for non-essential workplace parking in central London and bring in a new congestion zone around Heathrow.

Peter Whittle – UKIP

Peter Whittle is the London Mayoral candidate with a seemingly distinct lack of environmental policies. In his campaign letter, UKIP’s former culture spokesperson acknowledges that “it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sustain London’s water and energy supplies and our sewage system”, but he fails to provide any viable solutions for the issue.

Think you know your Goldsmiths from your Khans when it comes to green policies? Take edie’s London mayoral election QUIZ.

George Ogleby

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