Let’s make London the world’s greenest capital city

16 Jun 2015
This weekend I was pleased to make the shortlist for Labour’s candidate for London Mayor. Major challenges face London and a crucial one of those is cleaning up our city’s environment.

With air pollution in London currently at the highest levels of any European capital, action must be taken to make London cleaner, greener, and ready to meet the challenges of the future.
I believe that with the right political will there is no reason why London cannot become the world’s greenest capital city. If I become Mayor I will introduce big changes in the way in which London tackles its environmental challenges.

No longer will environmental policy be in a silo, we must ensure that ideas around sustainability permeate throughout all sectors of planning; from transport, to housing, to education, and business.

While a wholesale shift in environmental culture is necessary to secure London’s future, there are a number of severe problems that must be tackled with absolute urgency. A critical priority must be to tackle the crisis of London’s air pollution. Year on year thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely as a result of deadly levels of toxic fumes in present in the air they breathe. It affects every single Londoner, every single day. None more so than in children and adolescents growing up in close proximity to London’s busy roads who have been clinically proven to develop a myriad of health issues. These are chronically debilitating and will follow them throughout the rest of their lives.

In London, improving the living environment is literally a life or death matter. With his executive powers over transport in the capital, the Tory Mayor Boris Johnson’s failure to get a handle on the air pollution crisis is an abject dereliction of duty. His repeated backward steps on the introduction of an Ultra-Low Emission Zone are costing lives. We must demand a stronger and larger ultra-low zone by 2018 or face the deathly consequences.

Linked to this, serious questions must be asked about whether any potential airport expansion is compatible with the goal of improving public health in London and providing clean, breathable air.
An incoming Mayor must take the initiative and drive London towards this more sustainable future.
In the long term, the use of solar power, wind, and electric technologies must replace an utterly unsustainable reliance upon carbon based fuel sources and this is definitely possible through a number of measures, starting with public transport.

So far, not enough progress has been made to increase the amount of hybrid buses within TFL’s fleet and rectifying this should be treated as a priority. The number of cyclists in London is rising which in itself is cause for celebration. Yet as a city we are lagging behind many of our European counterparts when it comes to incorporating cyclists and pedestrians into the fabric of the city. Not a week goes by without another tragic death on our roads and this is totally unacceptable, safe cycling and walking must form the core of London’s long term planning strategy.

The last Labour government led the world with the introduction of the Climate Change Act and an incoming Labour Mayor has a vital opportunity to continue this legacy for future generations. The environmental challenges facing our world are immense, but not insurmountable. We must seize the opportunity to make London a global leader in this fight.

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