London ranked second for low-emission transport transition

London has been ranked second for cities leading the push to decarbonise its transport sector, making it a "likely candidate" to become the world's first zero-emissions city, according to a new report.

European cities, aided by their advanced economies, occupy eight of the top 10 spots in the ranking of 35 cities on low-carbon mobility by the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). According to the report, released on Tuesday (24 April), only Oslo tops London when it comes to a “firm commitment to the zero emissions agenda”.

“Oslo comes out as the city closest to achieving the status of a city operating a zero-emissions transportation system, followed by London and Amsterdam,” the report notes.

“One trait these top three cities share is that they are in relatively wealthy parts of the world that are also in advanced stages of economic development. This somewhat helps their overall scores as, for example, a higher share of residents can afford to regularly upgrade their cars, which may make them more likely to drive a low emission car or EV.”

Along with Seoul and Tokyo, the economic wealth of European cities has facilitated the shift towards zero-emission transportation. However, Oslo, London and Amsterdam have ranked highly due to financial incentive offers, access to EV charging points and the construction of low-emission zones.

Specifically, the report welcomes Oslo’s plan to ban all cars from the city centre by 2019 and cut emissions from taxis entirely by 2023. London is commended for the acceleration of its Ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) and rollout of hybrid and zero-emission buses.

The report, sponsored by telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm, ranked cities on 20 factors such as air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, and public investment into low-emission transport.

With London’s ongoing trepidations concerning air pollution levels, the report admits that London’s green credentials may not be obvious to “all residents”. However, plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to 1990 levels and projects aimed at stimulating the uptake of electric and driverless vehicles are evident throughout the city, the report claims.

London was highlighted for its current infrastructure landscape, which has seen the capital “swap smoke stacks for skyscrapers” and cover a third of the city with green spaces. In contrast, North American cities, the highest ranked of which is San Francisco at 14th, are suffering from a “reluctance to fully embrace change”.

The report identifies attachments to private, polluting vehicles, low fuel costs and “tangled” legislative frameworks as reasons for a lack of incentives to change to low-emission transport.

Private sector involvement

This reluctance is far less prominent in London, as signified by the private sector’s involvement in city-wide initiatives to reduce air pollution and promote EVs and hybrids. Ford announced on Tuesday that its Transit Custom plug-in hybrid vans are to take part in the “Cleaner Air for London” project later this year.

The project, backed by a £4.7m grant from the UK Government, will explore how hybrid electric vans can support air quality and boost the productivity of operators in and around the city. Ford has confirmed that Transport for London (TfL), the Metropolitan Police and British Gas are among the first wave of organisations to trial the vehicles.

Emergency services are thought to be struggling to comply with the updated ULEZ timeframe, and the Ford trials could alleviate financial pressures for the Metropolitan Police. The organisation’s head of fleet services Jiggs Bharij said: “The Metropolitan police are committed to a sustainable fleet of vehicles. We’re delighted to be working with Ford on this innovative PHEV Transit trial- working towards a cleaner London.”

The CEBR report notes charging infrastructure as one of the 20 factors in its ranking. Source London, a city-wide charging network, aims to have 1,000 charge points in the city by the end of 2017 and private hire firm Uber is rolling-out a network of 50kW rapid chargers in central London.

On top of these developments, the London Taxi Company (LTC) has today (25 April) announced a deal to add 50 fast charge points to the Source London network, to be used by drivers of electric black cabs. From 2018, all new London black cabs will be range-extended EVs, creating a demand for extra charging facilities.

Matt Mace

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