into the future

Ken Livingstone
outlines his programme for a green revolution in one of the world’s biggest cities, and shows how it is increasingly gaining public transport

London is a wonderful place to live but with 7.4 million people living, working and travelling within a small geographic area, huge strains are placed on our environment. I want Londoners to find out about this and realise that it is easier than they may think to make small changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

So to celebrate this year’s World Environment Day I have organised the first ever žLondon green lifestyles showÓ. This provides an insight into the city of the future, showcasing emerging innovations and exciting new products to give further inspiration to those already involved in protecting the environment and engage a larger section of Londoners who are interested in the latest lifestyle trends and what they can do to make a difference.

Even simple things like switching off a television on standby, only filling up a kettle with the amount of water needed, or recycling more rubbish can make a difference to preserving London and ensuring that future generations can enjoy Britain’s great capital city.

People often struggle with the concept of sustainable development, which is about improving the quality of life for all of us now and in the future. It is important that we do more to live a more sustainable lifestyle Ů and we should all make it our responsibility to do so. But I also want to be known as a Mayor who has taken bold policy decisions to improve London’s environment and to make it a fantastic place to live for generations to come.

In February 2003 I introduced a congestion charge on vehicles entering the centre of the city. Doom-mongers predicted technological failures, gridlock and rat-running, but they have been proved wrong. It has succeeded in cutting traffic delays, and continues to do so. Congestion has been reduced by 30 per cent in the charge zone and emissions of pollution from traffic are down 12 per cent.

The charge has made central London a cleaner, safer and more pleasant place to work, visit and live. Support has grown as residents have seen its tangible benefits and the improvements it has made to their environment. Before it was introduced 39 per cent of Londoners backed the proposal. During its first year this increased to 48 per cent and in the latest survey support had increased to 54 per cent.

London’s air quality is much cleaner now than in the smoke-filled streets of the Victorian city, when every household burned coal. Smoke and sulphur dioxide levels in central London declined sharply following the introduction of smokeless zone legislation in the 1960s, and this downward trend has broadly continued. But London still has the worst air quality in the UK and air pollution is estimated to cause 1,600 premature deaths among Londoners each year. This is unacceptable.

Low-emission zones
I am committed to introducing a low-emission Zone to ban the most polluting coaches and lorries from Greater London, making it the only major city in the world to have taken such a radical step to tackle air pollution. This move is justified by recent statistics from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory which show that levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particles (PM10) in the city are still at high levels, damaging to health.

As a first step, the city’s 20,000 taxis – which are currently responsible for 24 per cent of fine particles and 12 per cent of NOx emissions from road transport in central London – will have to meet strict emissions standards. The cost of converting them to reach the new standards will be met by a flat rate fare increase of 20 pence per journey from April 2005. All London buses will be fitted with particulate traps by December 2005 – reducing emissions of PM10 (and other pollutants) by over 90 per cent and making our fleet one of the cleanest in the country. These measures should reduce emissions, improve health and go a long way towards meeting the Government’s air quality objectives for the capital.

Since the Greater London Council was abolished in 1986 there has been no single body responsible for strategic waste management across London and London is facing several challenges in dealing with its waste – meeting the requirements of the European Union’s Landfill Directive, becoming self-sufficient and managing waste close to its production point.

Currently, over two thirds of London’s municipal waste are exported out of the capital to the surrounding regions. I have set a target for 80 per cent of municipal waste to be managed in London by 2020. This is a necessary but ambitious target in a city with increasing and competing demands on land use and with a forecast growth in population of 800,000 by 2016. To achieve this level of self-sufficiency, London as a city has to dramatically increase its levels of recycling and develop new technology recovery capacity. But the delivery of a strategic approach to waste management is hampered by London’s existing governance arrangements.

Huge contribution
London also makes a huge contribution to climate change, one of the biggest issues now facing humanity. As a world city, it needs to take a lead in tackling it and act as an example to the rest of the country. I am bringing the best experts together to implement a radical new programme for renewable energy. The new London Climate Change Agency will help make the city more energy efficient and increase the amount of energy we use from renewable sources.

Our target is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 23 per cent by 2016. Much of our work will focus on improving energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings. It is important that new buildings are designed from the outset with sustainability in mind: I have produced a toolkit to encourage planners and developers to embrace the new technology.

I want to see a London with more accessible green spaces and cleaner air, which is actively working to tackle climate change. We must be prepared for London to grow and for the population to increase over the next 20 years. This makes the quest for sustainable solutions all the more pressing

Ken Livingstone is Mayor of London.

PHOTOGRAPH: Carlos Guarita/ Still Pictures

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?

Complementary issues:
Issue on Transport and Communications 2001
Issue on Global Waste Challenge 2004