Londoners want boroughs and Mayor to press on with green recovery, Assembly hears

Londoners want boroughs and Mayor to press on with green recovery, Assembly hears

Londoners are saying “loud and clear” that they want a green recovery for the city. That was the message from Hackney Mayor and chair of London Councils transport and environment committee Phil Glanville, speaking to the London Assembly yesterday.

Polling for the cross-London grouping of borough councils shows city residents “still want to see us taking action on climate change,” Glanville told the Assembly’s environment committee. The survey, conducted in November last year, showed 82% of respondents to be concerned about the environment, with 40% “very concerned”, and 87% motivated to help prevent climate change. 

The committee, holding its final meeting before May’s elections for Mayor and the Assembly, was probing Sadiq Khan’s environment strategy, the impact of the pandemic, and the City Hall “Green New Deal” programme aimed at doubling the size of London’s green economy to £100 million by 2030.

Covid-19 had prompted a “renewed” interest in the environment and the importance of sustainability, Glanville said. The value of the city’s open spaces had been highlighted, and fewer cars on the roads had “shown what our streets could look like with less vehicle traffic”.

But it was a mixed picture too, the committee heard, with more fly-tipping, more plastic waste and more damage to parks. Hackney parks had seen “almost summer levels” of waste, with extra costs of up to £350,000 for cleaning and security in London Fields alone, Glanville said. “We do need Londoners to take their waste home, respect their local green spaces and work with us,” he said.

Glanville also defended the City Hall and Transport for London’s “Streetspace” programme, funnelling government cash to boroughs for measures designed to avert a “car-led” economy, including the sometimes controversial “low traffic neighbourhoods” often introduced ahead of consultation via experimental traffic orders (ETOs).

“We should all reflect on the pace at which we’ve moved, he said. “But I don’t think the ambition was wrong. I don’t think using ETOs was wrong. We should not step back from that ambition.” 

Glanville, echoed by deputy mayor for environment Shirley Rodrigues, also praised improved joint working at all levels of London government, including City Hall’s London Recovery Board overseeing nine recovery “missions”, the Green New Deal programme among them. Rodrigues highlighted £10 million of funding announced by the Mayor in November, plus a further £40 million allocated for the two years from April 2021. 

The November funding covers green energy and green transport initiatives and start-up cash for new green businesses, with projects including energy from waste in north London providing near-zero carbon heat for homes in Enfield, Hackney and Haringey, solar panels for the Old Oak and Park Royal industrial estates, electric vehicle charging points and “zero emission neighbourhood” schemes. 

But mayoral funding would not support the full shift to a green economy in London or ensure the “pace of activity that Londoners are demanding,” Rodrigues (pictured) told AMs. “Frankly, that money is not going to get us what we need in London,” she said. “Our money is really seed money.”

City Hall had previously estimated the cost of upgrading buildings, energy systems and transport in the capital to net zero carbon by the Mayor’s target date of 2030 would cost £61 billion, she said, with Glanville adding that upgrading homes across London could cost £1 billion per borough.

As well as continuing to call for more devolved powers and funding, Rodrigues said City Hall is working with the Green Finance Institute, newly-established by Whitehall and the City of London Corporation, on ways to boost private investment in the green economy. 

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