David Symons: London can achieve ‘zero carbon’ by 2050 but it needs to move fast

David Symons: London can achieve ‘zero carbon’ by 2050 but it needs to move fast

Solving air pollution was the most important issue after house prices in the most recent WSP survey of 1,000 Londoners. Yet fast forward 20 years and London’s air will be clean: clean, because London will be travelling electric; clean because London will be heating and cooling much more with electric heat pumps; clean because of the ambitious policies the Mayor has introduced. Moving to the all-electric city means London is both solving air quality and, with renewables, cutting carbon.

On carbon, London has much to be proud of. Per capita direct emissions are the lowest of any UK region. The capital has a quarter of the UK’s electric vehicle charging points, 165 zero emission buses with 88 more on the way, eight million trees which, together, lock up around 2.5 million tonnes of carbon, and new regulations which effectively mean new office buildings have to be heated and cooled using heat pumps.

But there’s still so much to do. 2050 may seem a long way off, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. And while carbon emissions are down a quarter from 1990, going zero carbon by 2050 means upping the pace threefold. London has to work on the harder things – like infrastructure – as well as low carbon power.

London will need a comprehensive and reliable electric vehicle charging network. Three million homes will need to swap their gas cookers and boilers for electric. And all of this must be done in a way that works and is affordable for all, and which starts delivering fast.

Fast action, investment and delivery will be the most important priorities for the Mayor from 2020. This approach will not only create jobs for today’s gas engineers but also opportunities for our next generation of apprentices and school leavers. It will deliver clean air. It will provide world class finance, design and strategy opportunities. And it will make London a city we can be even more proud of. It’s tremendously exciting but we need to act now.

David Symons leads the future Future Ready innovation programme of engineering and professional services consultancy WSP. He recently became a member of the IPPR think tank’s environmental justice commission. This article was originally published on the website of London First.

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