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, laying out their plans for a Greener London.
Today’s post is from Green Party candidate Sian Berry.
I’ve been a campaigner on the environment for more than 15 years and have supported, worked for, or worked with, all the organisations that produced Greener London. At the Greener London hustings I was, therefore, pleased to see all the candidates backing the agenda and speaking warmly about making London cleaner and greener.
I do worry, however, whether these words will translate to action. Too often in London we’ve seen mayors making grand promises and then falling short, whether in reducing traffic and waste or making progress on renewable energy. I stood for mayor in 2008 and warned then that the promises made by the prospective mayors needed long term commitment and action, and it’s a real shame that again, this year, I’m looking at statistics showing us lagging behind the rest of the country on solar, recycling and home insulation and that air pollution is still at such high levels.
Transport and air quality
With nearly 10,000 people a year dying early from filthy air, I promise real urgency in dealing with this public health crisis to ensure that London complies with legal limits by 2020 at the absolute latest. To do this, we need to get rid of older polluting vehicles and diesel vehicles throughout all the polluted areas of London. Black cabs, mini cabs and ordinary drivers need to be given incentives and support to make the switch to cleaner or zero emission vehicles, along with a network of at least 25,000 electric charging points.
For City Hall’s own vehicles, I will have converted the entire bus fleet to hybrids or electric vehicles by 2020, with all single decker buses becoming electric by 2018.
It is crucial to remember that action in central London will not be enough and it is essential that the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone is overhauled to cover all of London and starts sooner than 2020, with stronger requirements for cleaner vehicles. There needs to be a carrot as well as a stick to phase out diesel in London. I will ensure that we use both.
Importantly, London needs fewer cars, not just cleaner cars. Any mayor who builds new roads, generating more traffic and more pollution, will fail to clean London’s air. That is why I will cancel all new road building projects, and why I oppose all airport expansion.
And we need to invest much more in cleaner, healthier ways of getting around. As well as cutting fares on public transport and putting new trams, trains and buses back into the infrastructure plan, I will also guarantee full continued cycling investment in major schemes to create segregated space on main roads, which is currently set to reduce next year, and I will expand investment in people-friendly streets projects to every borough at the level of the current ‘mini-Hollands’.
As a Green mayor I also want to make London a world leader in tackling climate change and will strengthen the London Plan to deliver the Paris Climate Agreement goal to keep global temperature rises below 1.5oC.
I am strongly committed to London being powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. London is at the bottom of the regional league table for solar installations in England and Wales. I can and will change this, starting with an energy company for London, which alone will generate enough new solar energy to power Crossrail and also help support community renewable energy projects.
My new energy company for London will also help Londoners in poorly insulated homes and eradicate fuel poverty with a new Green Deal scheme for the city. I will make sure the next London Plan introduces very strong requirements on energy performance of new buildings, in spite of the government’s recent watering down of national standards.
It isn’t enough for mayor to take positive steps, they also have to stop taking backward steps. Elected Greens on the London Assembly have already pressed the current mayor to stop funding climate changing fossil fuels via the London Pension Fund Authority. A Green Party motion was passed by the London Assembly calling for divestment from fossil fuels and as mayor I would oppose all fracking in London. I strongly oppose all airport expansion in the London area, including at Gatwick and Stansted, as I don’t believe that it is compatible with our commitments to reduce global warming.
With me as mayor, the Green Belt and all London’s green spaces will be protected, and I will support the campaign for a National Park City. London will plant two million new trees and I will appoint a deputy mayor for the environment to make sure it happens. Their job will be to raise the profile of planning for green and blue infrastructure, support nature reserves and wildlife corridors and link up green spaces and protected sites throughout London. This will also include making links beyond the M25, working with Highways England to build green bridges and reduce the feeling of severance this motorway ring creates, dividing London from the surrounding countryside.
Finally, I love the ambition of the New York million trees campaign, but it is the community and business involvement which I find really inspiring. The mayor of New York is making it easy for people to donate, plant, make decisions and get involved in greening their city. As mayor I want to inspire that bottom up involvement from Londoners. I not only want us to plant two million trees in London, I want to sort out a host of other environmental and social issues by making it easy for people to get involved in doing good things.