This blog is designed to highlight the diversity of views and news stories on urban energy topics that appear daily in the media. They are intended to provoke discussions on how cultural, geographic, political, and institutional influences shape the way energy markets operate and energy policies are made in cities around the world.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Boris Johnson sets out plans for green London
Mayor seeks to throw off image as climate change sceptic with major speech on environment
Boris Johnson today sought to burnish his green credentials by vowing to make London "greener, cheaper and cleaner at the same time".
The mayor of London announced plans to give all residents in the capital free up-front access to efficiency measures such as loft insulation to help drive down bills by an average of £300 a year, regardless of income.
Johnson also told the Environment Agency's annual conference that the economic downturn presented a "huge opportunity" for the capital by creating new green jobs, offering opportunities to reduce emissions as well as households and companies' energy bills.
"There is a huge opportunity for us to go greener and cleaner and cheaper at the same time," he said.
Simple changes to buildings to make them more energy efficient could save small- and medium-sized businesses £725m a year, declared the mayor.
"That is a considerably more powerful stimulus than a 2.5% cut in VAT," he quipped, referring to the government's pre-budget report statement yesterday.
The Tory mayor, famed for scorning the global warming agenda in the past, sought to throw off his image as the man who used to write caustic articles about "the religion of climate change" by saying that his mind had been changed by the incontrovertible science. "If the climate can change, I don't see why my mind can't," he said.
In an 18-minute speech, which was light on detail, Johnson said that his new environment adviser, Isobel Dedring, was looking at a scheme in Kirklees seeking to convert all households into energy efficient homes.
The council-led project will visit every home to offer free cavity-wall and loft insulation and low-energy light bulbs to everyone, and improvements to heating systems for those in fuel poverty or on benefits.
If implemented, a replication of the scheme across London would cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
Johnson is also considering low carbon zones in 10 areas within Greater London, and is keen to make better use of waste technology.
He said it was "completely crazy" that London spent roughly £12bn on energy while councils were filling landfill sites with waste that could be turned into domestic electricity with the use of the right technology.
Johnson also vowed not to replace his Toyota people carrier until he found an electric or hybrid car to replace it.
"I want to use our influence as powerfully as possible to drive forward an electrification of the motor car," he said.
"The GLA has 8,000 vehicles running around London … I want to use our bulk buying power to electrify or hybridise as much of the fleet as possible."
Johnson, who turned up by bicycle to make a speech from notes for the second of a two-day conference held in Westminster, used his address to espouse the virtues of cycling and express despair at the fact that just 1% of Londoners use two wheels to get around the capital.
This compared with 20% of people living in Copenhagen, and 30% of those in Norwich, he lamented.
Highlighting his plans for a bike hire scheme, which would see between 6,000 and 10,000 bikes available by 2010 to Londoners interested in occasional cycle use, Johnson admitted he faced the headache of dealing with 32 London boroughs who could push against his proposals.
Citing the Parisian Vélib' bike hire scheme, run by a mayor who has complete control over his city's pavements, Johnson said enviously that his own powers were limited in turns of placing cycle stations at regular intervals along London streets.
"We need to work with London boroughs, who are jealous of their parking receipts, who do not want to give valuable space up," said Johnson, adding that he was seeking to foster close collaboration with councils on all fronts.
The mayor looked floored when a member of the audience pointed out to him that he had "cut him up" on his bike by going through a red light.
Johnson seemed obviously relieved when told the incident had taken place before he was elected mayor.
"I now punctiliously obey every red light," he said.