Sian Berry says: “London could be leading the way with our response to the climate and ecological crisis, but no Mayor has yet acted with the urgency needed.
“Too many of our homes are cold and damp, our green spaces – so precious to us now – are being built on.
“And our air, water and habitats are polluted, while we burn too much of our waste and our recycling rates are going in the wrong direction.
“A Green Mayor is the only one you can trust to set the right targets and make the right plans to meet them, working with citizens across the city on this vital mission.
“For our health and our future, we need real Green action on climate, green space, nature, waste, and the resources we use.
“And, crucially, we need to transform our economy and create good green jobs to make, re-use and repair more of our stuff locally. That’s the recovery we want to lead, and we need everyone with us.”
Real action on climate
Action to stop climate chaos isn’t the priority of the Conservative Government, but we can find hope in our cities in 2021.
Across the world, city mayors have often taken the lead when national governments have proved they are not up to the job.
We believe in powering local action and working with communities, and a Green Mayor will start by cancelling all the projects from the current Mayor that would make the climate and ecological emergency worse.
We will invest in green jobs and transforming our economy, using all the resources we can muster to create new green energy, and cut wasted energy and carbon emissions from our homes, transport and businesses.
Our climate and ecological emergency
When the UN’s IPCC special report came out in October 2018, Greens across the country took immediate action. First in Bristol, where Councillor Carla Denyer proposed and passed the first motion in Europe declaring a climate and ecological emergency.
Since then, more than 300 elected bodies in the UK have followed her lead, including Parliament.
The London Assembly passed a climate emergency motion proposed by Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell in December 2018.
We must listen to the people on the streets
When Extinction Rebellion started their protests in April 2019, the current Mayor told them the city should ‘get back to business as usual’ and, ever since failing to ban the protests, the police have tried to extend their powers.
Greens say business as usual is the problem. We support not only the right to peaceful protest across the world, but also policies that will lead to the system change we need to solve the crisis.
We need to set the right targets
The Mayor’s strategies still have climate targets based on becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. All targets in every policy urgently need to be brought forward to 2030 to avoid the risk of going over a 1.5C rise in global temperatures.
Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell has challenged the current Mayor repeatedly about his failure to update his plans and targets to reflect the science.
The carbon in our stuff
The carbon emissions involved in creating the things we use and consume every day are a huge gap in other parties’ policies. We need bold new plans and strategies if we are to become truly carbon neutral in time to avert climate chaos.
Our policies to cut embodied carbon include:
- We will correct the gap in our waste targets by setting a goal to reduce the baseline amount of waste produced, not just set recycling targets in percentage terms.
- A Green Mayor will also expand the embodied carbon policies in planning rules to preference re-using buildings and avoiding demolition as a principle. This is a big gap in London’s carbon policies so far, which is now being picked up by a strong retrofit campaign by architects.
- Reducing the amount of resources we produce and waste means getting business on board with setting targets of their own, and we would aim for 100 of the biggest businesses in London to have set targets to reduce their own ‘stuff turnover’ by the end of our first year in City Hall.
- Our business and high street improvement policies will also focus on promoting and supporting enterprises and community organisations that help people to re-use, re-sell and repair existing goods.
Rethink the London Plan
There is much more that London’s planning policies could do to make London greener, and many of our Green proposals have not been taken up.
A Green Mayor will put this right, review the London Plan and bring in new policies for the climate and communities, including:
- Protection for allotments extended to urban farms and community food growing spaces, something the current Mayor has so far ignored.
- The list of planned transport schemes still includes dangerous, traffic-generating new road crossing schemes in east London, like the Silvertown Tunnel, which will be cancelled and removed
- Aviation policies that oppose all airport expansion in London and the South East, not just Heathrow, and make plans for the area around City Airport to become a Mayoral Development Corporation to develop a new quarter for the city in place of this airport.
- We will expand the embodied carbon policies in planning rules to specifically preference re-use and refurbishment over demolition and set new standards and incentives so that embodied carbon is reduced not just reported.
- Throughout all this we’ve argued for a better process, asking the Mayor to make the plans citizen-led and inclusive, with a formal Statement of Community Involvement, as put forward by the organisation Just Space, which has helped many hundreds of Londoners to engage with the process. In our review of the London Plan, we will make greater citizen involvement a priority from the start.
Preparing for climate risks
Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell commissioned research in 2019 to show the risks to London from climate change.
For the first time, her evidence gave an insight of what life will be like in London if we reach 1.5 degrees warming – even hotter heatwaves than in recent summers, higher chances of flooding for thousands of homes and hundreds of schools, and extreme strain on emergency services.
Key findings from Caroline’s report, Climate change risks for London, include:
- Two thirds of London flats could experience overheating (temperature over 28°C) by 2030.
- For every 1°C increase over 20°C ambulance call outs increase by 1 per cent.
- In the most vulnerable districts in London, the odds of dying from cardiorespiratory causes increased by more than 10 percent for every 1°C increase in temperature.
- 23 stations on the London Underground Network are at significant risk of flooding .The Northern and Central lines have the most stations at risk.
- 643 schools are at risk from a 1 in 30 year flood (this is considered high risk)
- An increase of up to 40 per cent in water supply is needed by 2040 in order to meet the water deficit in London and the south east.
In 2019, London saw several incidents that show these risks are very real and immediate. Caroline found that 137 tube stations suffered flooding-related disruption during just one bout of exceptional rainfall.
Caroline says: “These events are the reality we are living in now, and as our climate emergency continues, they will only become more and more common.
“The current Mayor’s failure to do timely research on the impact of extreme heat to places like schools and workplaces means that we aren’t yet properly prepared.”
- A Green Mayor will plug the gaps in our knowledge about how badly our city will be affected by climate change, and will review and make new plans to protect people from impacts such as extreme heat, flooding and a secure water supply during droughts.
- We will create a standing scientific advisory group for the GLA, which will assist the Assembly in scrutiny independently assess and propose policy to the Mayor to help avoid and deal with climate risks.
- Our planning policies will prioritise water security; focusing to reduce flooding of homes and businesses, protect London’s water supplies and allow the aquifers beneath our soil to recharge whilst preventing the spread of pollution from roads and landfill sites.
The ecological emergency
Greens in City Hall have been working for twenty years to bring the urgent attention needed to the ecological and climate emergency.
From our work to establish the Green Grid and save the Wildlife Crime Unit to our research exposing the loss of front gardens, time and again Greens have stepped in when other parties have failed.
As chair of the Environment Committee for the past three years, Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell has focused new thinking on issues as diverse as unflushable plastics in period products, aircraft noise, tube dust risks, and farming in the Green Belt.
A Green Mayor will protect and link up nature in a true ecological network. We will make sure our citizens, particularly our children, have access to the health and education benefits of nature, and protect all London’s people, plants and animals from chemical, light and noise pollution.
A Green Mayor will set the right environment targets, including an overall waste reduction goal that will underpin new work and policies to reduce resource use in our economy, cut down on demolition in favour of refurbishment, and support new re-use and repair businesses.
Greens are the only ones who truly get this, and our policies for a greener, cleaner London are integrated, comprehensive and long overdue.
Gold plate the Green Belt
Work by Greens on the London Assembly has shown there is a huge potential for London’s Green Belt land to be used for the benefit of London’s people, nature, ecology, flood protection, energy and food production.
Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell has worked on these policies in the the Assembly and says:
“The Green Belt is under threat like never before. It needs a plan for improvement and stronger protections.”
A fifth of London is protected as Green Belt land. It is our ‘city limits’, preventing urban sprawl, providing a home for wildlife, a place to visit and relax, as well as farms that grow food.
Established over 70 years ago, London’s Green Belt is under threat. Only seven per cent of the Metropolitan Green Belt is within the GLA’s area but we believe it is our duty to take a lead from City Hall to improve and protect it.
There is currently no plan for our Green Belt, or to work with surrounding councils to improve and protect it. Only a Green Mayor will have the true leadership and vision to get this right.
- A Green Mayor will bring together councils, farmers, landowners, local residents, wildlife, ecology, land management and flooding experts, water companies, green energy providers and transport providers, including Transport for London, to make a comprehensive new strategy to revitalise London’s Green Belt.
- We will improve access, linking up existing public Rights of Way, creating new footpaths, promoting visits through Transport for London, and improve landscapes and engage with NGOs and community groups to find new ways to enjoy and promote sports and leisure activities.
- Increasing food production close to London, particularly fruit and vegetables would improve food security. There are more than 200 existing farms in the Green Belt, and our strategy will help them diversify, farm more sustainably, improve and conserve the soil and provide more of the food London needs.
- The Green Belt can play a useful part in cutting carbon and providing London with sustainable energy sources. Through our green energy company, we’d work to bring new community energy projects to the Green Belt to support our zero carbon energy goal and our additional target of 1GW of solar power capacity in London by 2030.
- Main roads and motorways are a real barrier to nature, and millions in green road funding lies unspent by Highways England. We will work with Highways England, councils and community groups to find places for green bridges across motorways and roads around London to help link up nature across our boundaries.
- To help meet climate targets, we need to rewild and reforest large areas of land. Only 16 per cent of London’s Green Belt is covered by woodland, and our strategy would aim to create new woods on any land not needed for farms and energy, working in tandem where possible, through agroforestry.
Reducing ‘stuff turnover’
To meet our waste reduction targets and become carbon neutral before it is too late, we need to consider the carbon embodied in the materials we use, and cut down dramatically on the throughput of resources in London.
A change in the whole character of our economy is needed, where every business and public body aims to eliminate unnecessary resource use, helping to cut down on the ‘stuff turnover’ of all that we do in the city, from the buildings we construct to the products we use in our daily lives.
A Green Mayor’s new waste reduction target will underpin a wide range of policies, including:
- A city-wide strategy for re-use and repair
- Eliminating single use plastics
- Cutting down on food waste
- Reducing embodied carbon in buildings and homes
Our recycling postcode lottery
Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell asked every council in London about its services and uncovered London’s confusing recycling postcode lottery.
Her research found that none of the London boroughs was able to consistently recycle a list of seven common household items, and that a lack of London-wide oversight means that Londoners are left confused as recycling rules vary from one borough to the next.
Caroline says: “We know people are desperately concerned about their impact on our environment, from the new awareness around single-use plastics to fast fashion. But it is too hard to know what to do with your rubbish in London.
“When boroughs provide no clarity on what can be recycled, where, and in what condition, it is no wonder that London’s waste mountain keeps growing.”
A Green Mayor will campaign hard to get rid of London’s recycling postcode lottery, working with councils to build more consistency into their services, and demanding the power from Government to take more control of how London’s waste is handled.