By Ryan McGreal
Published February 27, 2007
Ken Livingstone has thrown down the gauntlet.
London's outspoken left-leaning but independent Mayor, who made global headlines after he pushed through a congestion pricing program for automobile commuters that stabilized the city's road traffic CO2 emissions, has now unveiled a comprehensive climate change action plan to get Britain's capital city out in front of its counterparts throughout the industrialized countries.
According to the executive summary:
The problem is that existing taxation and regulation policies do not ensure that the costs of carbon emissions are taken into account in setting the price of most products and services. As a result, there are insufficient financial incentives for businesses and individuals to take the kinds of action necessary to cut carbon emissions on the scale that is necessary.
Compared to Canadian cities (more about this in an upcoming blog post), London's regional government has broader powers to influence the city and the financial means to enact reforms.
In this case, the plan is ambitious: whereas Britain plans to reduce GHG emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, Londons hopes to achieve this goal by 2025.
Potential London CO2 trajectories (excluding aviation)
The report also notes that these changes will save money, improve efficiency, and allow Londoners to continue enjoying a high quality of life, albeit a different one. This is similar to Victoria Transport Policy Institute director Todd Litman's conclusions in his report Win-Win Emission Reduction Strategies; though Litman's report focuses more on transport improvements.
Interestingly, most of London's GHG reductions won't come from improving its transportation system, which is already highly efficient:
London is unusual compared with many large cities around the world in that its emissions from transport (excluding aviation) are relatively small - about 22 per cent of the total. Unlike other sectors, transport emissions in London have stayed flat since 1990 despite the rapid growth of London's population and economy.
Instead, most of the savings will come from improvements in the residential, commercial/industrial, and as-yet unconstructed building stock. The report emphasizes the following strategies:
and so on.
Unfortunately, the plan excludes aviation, which the report notes is particularly troublesome:
Aviation is one of the most environmentally damaging modes of transport. Per passenger kilometre, air travel is the most CO2-intensive form of travel, and trips by air tend to cover the largest distances. This impact on the climate is exacerbated by the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases high in the atmosphere, where the negative effect of these emissions is more than doubled.
However, its administration is federal and constrained by international treaties that prevent efforts to reduce air transport. Toward this end, London will attempt to influence British and EU aviation policy, work with the aviation industry to try and implement improvements, and work to block further runway expansions.
More to come as the details of the plan shake out and start to encounter the howls of outrage and pernicous interference of the usual raft of climate change deniers. However, with Livingstone's congestion pricing plan already in place and showing signs of success, he may have a stronger foundation from which to take the next step.
If nothing else, it raises the stakes as other municipalities can no longer continue to claim that they're just doing the same as (nearly) everyone else.
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