The Thick of It


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

London Labour - leading the march to a sustainable future

Ever since working at Defra after graduation a few years ago I've taken a keen interest in London's environmental sustainability. My focus then was waste management and London's problem then was, and remains, how to look after it's own problems. Traditionally London has used Kent and Essex to dump most waste in landfills. Since becoming Mayor Ken Livingstone has proactively sought to tackle this problem, publishing his London Waste Strategy in 2003. since we have seen a Green Procurement Code rolled out to local authorities and many companies while recycling has increased greatly.

However, yesterday's announcement of the Climate Change Action Plan for London took Mayor Livingstone's commitment to a sustainable future for London a way ahead of anything suggested by anyone else in the UK to date, including cuddly Dave.

Central to the Plan is the thesis that using fewer resources can be economically beneficial rather than damaging. This makes sense, use less to be more efficient and lower your bills. The Mayor has set out plans for reducing carbon emissions for all key sectors excepting aviation, which is another special and hard to tackle case needing international action. The plan aims to cut CO2 emissions to 60% of 1990 levels by 2025, way ahead of Kyoto targets.

It is also encouraging that Ken is supported by both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. I know from my time at Defra that government environmental claims were often slammed by campaign groups as being insufficient or wrong. If they support the London plan it must be robust.

What this plan also says to me is that Labour can be at the vanguard of tackling climate change, far ahead of the Tories and Lib Dems. Nationally actual progress might be slower than the promising rhetoric from David Milliband, but in London Livingstone has shown that Labour has answers tour generations’ biggest challenge.

The only similar commitment that springs to mind is Sweden’s aim for an oil free economy by 2020.
I find City Mayors a great resource for tracking what other cities are up to and what London can learn from elsewhere. At the moment I think everyone else can learn from London's lead on sustaianbility if Ken's plan is implemented. However, he will need to be re-elected for at least a third term to see this through. I see that Richard M Daley has won a fifth term as Chicago's Mayor having ruled the Windy City since 1989 - this following his father Richard J Daley's mayorship of the same city from 1955 to 1976. If Ken can't make it that far himself, I think Labour needs to.

1 comment:

Colm said...

Great intentions obviously. The Green Homes Programme bit is a bit old hat and weak though. Far more will need to be done to existing housing stock energy efficient than throw out some loft insulation for free (which has pretty much been done to death anyway). We're either talking (at present) very expensive technologies, or radical and unpopular solutions such as demolishing much of the late 19th/early 20th century housing stock (might be funny in Tory areas though).

The energy bit about 25% locally generated is good, but again, it will be interesting to see how people react to having these put up near them. I suppose that's exactly why you need a regional figure like Ken above local authority level to force it through.