London set for ‘clean energy revolution’ as Sadiq Khan wins mayoral election

Labour's London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan - the contender proposing to become the "greenest Mayor ever" - is poised to be swept into City Hall after defeating the Conservative Party's Zac Goldsmith by a clear majority.

Boris Johnson’s successor Khan has previously outlined his ambition to ignite a “clean energy revolution” in the capital, with the ultimate aim of running London on 100% green energy by 2050.

This bold statement will now be tested during Khan’s tenure along with his list of green manifesto pledges including banning fracking in London, planting two millions trees, providing more electric buses, and expanding the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) – as well as attempts to divest the London Pension Fund Authority of its remaining investments in fossil fuel industries.

Speaking about his environmental policies during his campaign, the British-Pakistani MP for Tooting said: “London has the potential to be at the leading edge of the fight against climate change. It’s the right thing to do for our planet, for our health, and for the long-term future of our economy.

“Green issues aren’t just some add-on to the things we do as a city – they must run through the way we manage our transport system, build new homes and generate the city’s energy. I want London eventually to be a zero-carbon city. We need a mayor with the vision and ambition to make that happen.”

Air quality action

Top of Khan’s green policy priority list: air quality. The former Tooting MP will need to act swiftly to appease a London electorate that has grown increasingly concerned about a bleak air quality outlook of the capital, which took just one week to breach its annual pollution limit for 2016.

In a recent YouGov survey asking Londoners which green policies the new Mayor should implement to improve London’s air quality, the general public called for a rapid phasing out of diesel buses and taxis. There was also a high demand for encouraging more electric vehicles and charging points, and speeding up the Ultra-Low Emission Zone which will reduce the number of diesel cars in London, due to start in 2020.

Greenpeace air pollution campaigner Areeba Hamid said: “We congratulate Sadiq Khan on winning the election. With victory comes responsibility for the air that eight million people breathe, and right now that air is often poisonous.

“Sadiq’s time in office will be judged on whether London’s kids are breathing much cleaner air in four years’ time. To make sure they do, within his first 100 days, he should launch a consultation on a Clean Air Zone covering most of the city. Air pollution kills ten thousand Londoners a year, but by phasing out the most polluting cars, investing in public transport and getting people walking & cycling the new mayor can save a huge number of lives. This is the one pressing issue in Sadiq’s in-tray that really cannot wait”.

Khan’s green pledges

As the son of an immigrant bus driver, Khan has already vowed 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, in addition to a promise to call upon the Government for an introduction of a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those who wish to change to a greener car.

The new Mayor of London also believes that delivering electric charging infrastructure in partnership with the private sector will be necessary for a major expansion in the use of electric vehicles. He has set a provisional target of only buying clean electric or hydrogen buses from 2020, and suggested that reinvigorated waste reduction efforts to increase the amount London recycles would allegedly get the capital back on track with hitting a 65% recycling target by 2030.

Khan fended off London mayoral opposition from the Conservative Party’s Goldsmith; the Green Party’s Sian Berry; the Liberal Democrats’ Caroline Pigeon; and UKIPs Peter Whittle – who had all made their own series of environmental commitments, had they been elected.

The Green Party’s Berry – who had campaigned to challenge “half-hearted” efforts to tackle air pollution in London – won the largest number of second preference votes in the London Mayoral elections, in a “standout” result for the party. Berry received 468,318 of those votes, making up 21% of the total.

New London Mayor Khan will now face scrutiny from Green Party candidate Berry in her new role as a London Assembly member.

Post-results legacy

Leading UK infrastructure consultancy Temple has analysed how air pollution has managed to secure a strong position during election campaigning which could potentially leave a legacy post-results. The group highlights a number of reasons on why London’s air quality has been established as a priority in the candidates’ agendas.

According to Temple, media publicity from national newspapers and pressure groups such as Clean Air in London and Greenpeace has significantly raised the profile of air quality in the recent decade. Additionally, the capital’s air pollution problems have gained traction thanks to legal challenges, leading to a UK Supreme court ruling in 2015 that the Government must produce a new plan for improving air quality. Temple also indicates that recent compelling evidence has made it virtually impossible for the prospective mayor to ignore major health effects from air pollution. 

London Mayor: What YOU have to say…

Sadiq Khan’s entry to City Hall will inevitably raise questions about the new Mayor’s ability to live up to his own bold expectations to be the “greenest Mayor ever”. What do you think? Will Khan realise his ambition to spark a “clean energy revolution”? Or will he fail to deliver on his bold list of green manifesto pledges?

Cast your vote in our readers’ poll and let us know your thoughts about this in the comments section below.

Luke Nicholls & George Ogleby

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