Last month we launched Greener London with eight other environmental organisations, a set of 20 practical actions for the next mayor that together would make London a greener, fairer and better place to live and work.
In the lead up to the London mayoral election, we are publishing blogs from candidates which will lay out their plans for a Greener London.
Today we hear from Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon.
The facts about London’s environment are quite chilling.
Each year around 10,000 Londoners face an early grave due to the capital’s appalling air pollution. London’s roads are far too dangerous, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2014, 432 cyclists were seriously injured or killed. London only recycles 34 per cent of its waste, compared with 43 per cent in the rest of the country. Much of the capital’s housing stock is poorly insulated and one in ten households suffers from fuel poverty. Incredibly, the capital has the smallest amount of installed solar for any English region. And, while the issue of flooding has largely received attention around the rest of the country, we must not forget that 1.25 million Londoners are at direct risk from flooding.
Tackling these issues has never been more important.
Transport and air quality
We need to get real about the challenges of London’s growing population. In just 14 years time, it is expected that London’s population will have grown from its current population of 8.6 million to almost ten million.
One thing that is abundantly clear to me is that while this growth in people can be managed we simply can’t cope with a million more cars on our roads. Road building and tunnelling is not the answer. It is not being ‘anti car’ to simply recognise that serious changes need to take place.
To start with, we need to actively deter daily commuting by car into central London. I advocate a workplace levy of £3,000 per annum for each parking place provided, with the levy covering employers in central London and Canary Wharf (with exemptions for Blue Badge holders and emergency services).
City Hall itself is actually a good role model. Despite being a workplace for hundreds of people it only has four workplace parking spaces, which are largely used for deliveries or by disabled drivers.
Changes are also needed to the Congestion Charge. I advocate the base charge increasing to £14 but with an additional charge of £6 for anyone entering in peak times.
And we shouldn’t wait until the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to start tackling diesel vehicles. One immediate step I advocate is a further additional charge of £2.50 for diesel vehicles entering the Congestion Charge Zone.
I see no case for the Silvertown Tunnel being built. The top priority must instead be improvements in public transport, walking and cycling links across the Thames. I propose a new pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, an extension of the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham and then onto Bromley, and ensuring the London Overground is extended to cross the Thames at Barking Riverside.
The other big change that is needed on London’s roads is a switch to electric vehicles. We need a substantial increase in their use, coupled with the expansion of the trial of electric double decker buses.
Taxis also need to go electric. I advocate TfL driving down the price of electric taxis by bulk purchasing a fleet of electric taxis which are then sold or leased to taxi drivers and garages. This, coupled with a rapid charging infrastructure and a scrappage scheme, will provide the opportunity for a rapid switch to electric taxis.
Making London a far more attractive place for walking and cycling is also vital and I have no hesitation in advocating the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. Cycling investment needs to be stepped up too if London is to reach at least three per cent of TfL’s budget by 2020.
With these policies in place it will also be possible to speed up the introduction of the ULEZ by two years, starting in 2018 rather than 2020.
Of course much more needs to be done to tackle air pollution and to protect London’s environment. I hope you will take a look at my manifesto this week to find out more.