A capital new Environment Strategy for London?

Good news as the latest draft of London’s Environment Strategy ticks most of the boxes in our Greener London manifesto.

View over London from Fenton House and Garden, London. ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Last week Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, presented his Environment Strategy to the London Assembly for consideration before final publication in the coming weeks. The strategy sets out a vision for London’s environment in 2050, focusing on cleaning up its toxic air, greening its streets, reducing waste and tackling climate change.

It’s clear that the Mayor and his office are passionate about their ambition to turn London into a world-leading ‘green’ city. With a population expected to grow to almost ten million by 2030, and more than 9,000 Londoners dying prematurely every year as a direct consequence of the capital’s dirty air – the task is both a big and vital one.

Six months ago research we supported with the Mayor of London, Heritage Lottery Fund and Vivid Economics revealed – for the first time – the economic value of health benefits that Londoners get from the city’s public parks and green spaces. The stats are pretty compelling (overall for every £1 spent by local authorities and their partners on public green space, Londoners enjoy at least £27 in value), making a good case for their protection and enhancement. But those benefits are not spread equally across or within London boroughs, underlining the need for collaborative working and addressing fairness and equality in future investment.

The 2016 Greener London manifesto (which we worked on with Green Alliance and other environmental and conservation charities) set out the bold ideas and practical actions needed by the new Mayor to turn London’s woeful green fortunes around and make the city a greener, fairer and better place to live and work. And it looks like he and his team have delivered the right ambition on many of them.

Here’s how what was revealed last week stacks up against our asks:

Low carbon

We asked for Announced
A 60% reduction of carbon emissions by 2025 (London isn’t currently meeting its targets). Net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
A pioneering solar city with a tenfold increase in solar power by 2025. Twenty times increase of solar capacity by 2050 with 1GW solar installed by 2030 and 2GW by 2050.

Green spaces

We asked for Announced
A greener city through better protection of current sites and more green spaces for at least 100 social housing estates by 2020.  Aim for London to be declared a National Park City in summer 2019. The Mayor has defined that as a city that’s rich with wildlife where every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors; where all can enjoy high-quality green spaces, clean air, clean waterways and where more people choose to walk and cycle; and which protects the core network of parks and green spaces. 
Rivers and wetlands to be made a priority for protection and restoration. A new definition of green infrastructure to ensure rivers and wetlands are recognised as critical components of the green infrastructure network.

Air quality

We asked for Announced
Expansion of ultra-low emission zones and a start to phasing out diesel taxis and private hire vehicles by 2017. Air quality concentration maps and zero-emission zones in some town centres by 2020.

Waste

We asked for Announced
One recycling system city-wide. Jury’s out on this one so far, although the Mayor is asking for more powers and money to address this, and a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030 was announced.

So, what next?

The Mayor has taken a consultative approach so far in developing the strategy, and knows that delivery will heavily rely on a collaborative approach with London Boroughs, Government and the public. He’s also been clear that he needs Government to help deliver his vision for London, and has requested extra powers to help him achieve his goals, such as early legal compliance on air quality.

We’ll expect publication of the Strategy soon, following consideration by the London Assembly, and look forward to seeing the detail in the final document. But for now, dare we say that things are looking up?

Louise Sampson, Advocacy Officer.

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