Mayor of London unveils plans for UK capital’s ‘green, clean and healthy future’

If London is to become net-zero by 2030, bold action is urgently required to cut congestion and reduce air pollution, according to a new report. 

The investigation, conducted by Element Energy and commissioned by the Mayor of London, clarifies the scale of change needed in the city to meet government targets. This includes a 27% reduction in car traffic by the end of the decade. 

Currently, more than one-third of car trips made by Londoners could be walked in less than 25 minutes, and two-thirds would take under 20 minutes to cycle. The study explains that failing to switch to carbon neutral modes of transport in the coming years will prove costly to both local and national economies, and the health of residents.

aerial photography of London skyline during daytime

Overall, big steps have been made in recent years to improve air quality in London. Between 2000 and 2018, workplace greenhouse gas emissions fell by 57%, while the same figure for domestic properties saw a 40% reduction. In comparison, though, transport only managed a 7% drop in the same period.

According to City Hall, the Mayor’s office is aware of the need to take more drastic action, but funding and powers lack the levels needed to make further significant improvements. Nevertheless, the situation is urgent.

In 2021, traffic congestion in the capital cost the city £5.1bn as the number of vehicles on roads returned to pre-pandemic levels. And on Friday, a rare warning was issued advising London’s citizens to avoid exercising outside and limit time spent outdoors as air quality reached the maximum 10/10 rating for potential to cause harm. 

Element Energy’s report goes on to highlight that a 27% reduction in London road vehicle mileage will only be possible with the introduction of a new charging system. This could replace the current Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards. Without further action, estimates suggest 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases relating to air pollution in the next 30 years, leading to a cumulative cost to the NHS £10.4billion. 

Think tank Centre for London, which works to develop new solutions to the city’s challenges, issued the following statement following the announcement: ‘The Mayor’s ambitious targets for London to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 are to be applauded but as this report highlights, it is going to take a monumental effort and some very difficult decisions if the target is to be achieved.

The Mayor is right to point to the need for something beyond current initiatives likes ULEZ, and Centre for London has long-called for a fairer system of road user charging so we’re pleased to see that this is up for consideration,’ the response continued. ‘If implemented, pay per mile road user charging has the potential to be a game changer in the shift from polluting cars to public transport, walking and cycling, including schemes.’

In related UK news, the Scottish government has committed to reducing car use by 20% in the next eight years. Meanwhile, in England National Highways has confirmed a new organisational division focused on environmental sustainability with the goal of helping the country’s roads reach net-zero by 2050.

Photo credit:  Benjamin Davies




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