Net Zero | Sustainability | Renewable Energy

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London - the Leading Sustainable Metropolis in the World

London, England
View of London's Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from across Westminster Bridge

Hyde Park, London, England


Is London a Green City?

Hyde Park, London

How does a city with the busiest airplane traffic in the entire world and a population of over 12 million (for the entire metro area), become exceptionally sustainable? London has maintained over 35,000 acres of public green spaces (around 40% of the city's entire area). The city boasts one of the greatest sustainable mass transportation networks in the world.

Sustainability measures such as London's C-charge zone and ULEZ work to encourage EVs, public transit, and cycling; and dissuade driving high-emitting fossil fuels cars. With measures like these, London hopes to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 68% by 2030 based on 1990 levels. Looking at long-term climate goals, London is striving to reach net zero GHGs for the entire metro city area by 2050.

“London’s positive climate leadership ranking recognises the Mayor’s commitments to take action on the climate emergency we are facing. London was one of the first global cities to publish a 1.5 degree compatible plan, in line with the Paris Agreement, to put us on a pathway to zero-carbon..." - Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor of environment and energy at the Greater London Authority.


The Benefits of London's C-charge and ULEZ

In order to encourage alternative cleaner forms of transit and discourage excessive polluting fossil-fuel-based car use, there is a levy imposed on cars entering Central London on weekdays (implemented citywide in 2003). The levy, London's congestion charge (C-charge), applies to automobiles entering central London for 11 hours starting at 7 am on weekdays. The levy starts at around £12 and can be paid online, or the driver may face a fine of over £100.

Vehicles tested and certified to have much lower polluting tailpipe emissions qualify for a different congestion levy or exemption to the C-charge, and use London's Ultra-low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). London's ULEZ operates within the congestion charge zone; for example, electric vehicles, and some plug-in hybrid EVs (cars emitting less than 75g/km CO2), qualify for an exemption from C-charge levies and are permitted to use the ULEZ.

Results of London's C-charge and ULEZ

As a result of London's C-charge and ULEZ, there have been daily reports of over 70,000 fewer automobiles in Central London, over 6% more bus journeys, and over 5% more travel by cycling; as well as an increase in transit via simply walking. Such a mandate does come with its skeptics, however the ratio of Londoners in support of the congestion charge to the skeptics has consistently been around 1-to-1. London's C-charge and ULEZ are examples of the kind of solutions that will produce the paradigm shift needed to reduce our global dependence on fossil fuels.

The revenue from London's congestion charge goes to fund the city's public transit, road improvements, and related transit infrastructure. Between 2003-2019, London's C-charge has raised over £2 billion (up to £4 million/ week) for road maintenance, sustainable mass transit projects, and alternative transit street improvements (like widening bike lanes and creating car-free central pedestrian/ market zones).

Taking a more strict environmental stance than the ULEZ represents, at least one major street in London is banning fossil fuel cars (as seen in this article from World Economic Forum):

  • A street in the heart of London’s financial district has banned petrol and diesel vehicles
  • The aim is to bring nitrogen dioxide levels within guideline limits.
  • The 18-month trial will be used to consider similar plans for other streets.
  • Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, according to Public Health England.

One London street is taking extreme action against air pollution by banning all petrol and diesel cars. Beech Street, in the heart of London’s financial district, will be restricted to zero-emission vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians by spring 2020, with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, access to car parks and for refuse collection and deliveries. The road, much of which runs underneath a housing estate, will participate in an initial trial for 18 months, while air quality and traffic are monitored.   

FROM - weforum.org//britain-london-air-quality-zero-emissions-street-ban-petrol-diesel-cars-electric


Mass transit in London

London's Ultra low emission ZONE
Double-decker bus in London

London boasts one of the largest bus systems in Europe, with over 8,000 buses, running 24 hours a day, and serving over 6 million passengers on weekdays. London has invested in diesel-electric hybrid buses, which deliver around 40% CO2 reduction; along with a few other types of alternative fuel buses now serving London. Already, almost half of buses in London run on biofuel, or are hybrid diesel-electric, or are simply electric. Most biofuel buses in London run on biodiesel, specifically, as opposed to bioethenol-petrol blended fuels.

"Cleaner buses

Since last year, all new double-deck buses will be hybrid, electric or hydrogen to focus on only buying the greenest, cleanest buses. In central London, all double-deck buses will be hybrid as of 2019 and all single-deck buses will emit zero exhaust emissions by 2020. By 2037 at the latest, all 9,200 buses across London will be zero emission."   FROM -    london.gov.uk/pollution-and-air-quality/cleaner-buses

The London Underground Railway (known as The Tube) features over 250 miles of tracks and is one of the most used subway systems in all of Europe. London has large suburban rail services, connecting many of the city's areas. In addition, there are high-speed trains linking London to Paris and Brussels, as well as a high-speed domestic rail line, connecting London to Kent.


London's renewable energy and energy efficiency goals

The City of London recognizes the importance of new clean energy and energy efficiency technology in contributing towards its carbon emission reduction goals, and has set a target of supplying 25% of London’s energy from decentralized energy by 2025. Currently, London sets many of its clean energy goals through its London Sustainable Development Commission. Greater London Authority planning policies require energy developments to consider: 1) connecting to local district heating networks, or 2) installing their own combined heat and power (CHP), and 3) meeting 20% of the relevant site's energy demand from renewable energy sources.

The City of London has issued a set of public policies to minimize and reduce GHGs from buildings in the city, which must all take measures to become more energy efficient, including:

  • Major development [in London] should be net zero-carbon. This means reducing carbon dioxide emissions from construction and operation.
  • Boroughs [in London] must establish and administer a carbon offset fund. Offset fund payments must be ring-fenced to implement projects that deliver greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Boroughs [in London] should ensure that all developments maximize opportunities for on-site electricity and heat production from solar technologies (photovoltaic and thermal) and use innovative building materials and smart technologies.   FROM - london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/dsustainable-infrastructure


The London Olympics were a perfect example of sustainability...

Sustainability at the 2012 London Summer Olympics



Other, novel ways to reduce GHG emissions from fossil-fuel based vehicles by imposing mandates for levies on polluting vehicles, while encouraging the use of low-emitting, clean vehicles, can be found in several other world cities to date, including:

Oslo, Norway, which is considering mandating a complete ban on fossil-fuel cars in the city, and also has a congestion charge

and Crit'Air in Paris, now in cities throughout France



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