The coronavirus pandemic has caused both a public health crisis and the sharpest economic shock we have seen in generations. It has – rightly – consumed the attention of national and local government over the past 18 months. But as we gradually recover from the pandemic, it is clear that the climate emergency is without doubt the greatest challenge that we face.
The climate emergency has risen rapidly up the agenda in recent years. Recent polling by Centre for London found that nine in ten Londoners at least occasionally worry about the impact of climate change on their local area, with almost half regularly worrying about this.
This week has been London Climate Emergency Week. The annual event aims to bring together world-leading climate professionals and communities across the capital to find practical solutions to climate change.
Alongside the welcome commitments from both central government and the Mayor of London, local authorities in central London are already taking action to tackle the climate crisis. Every one of the 12 local authorities that make up the Central London Forward sub-region have declared a climate emergency and set out ambitious plans to reach net zero.
These local authorities are already putting their plans into action.
With domestic properties accounting for a significant proportion of emissions, councils such as Camden have been driving up energy efficiency standards in the new council homes they are building, including award-winning passivhaus schemes. Having already planted 1,000 street trees since 2018, Hackney Council has committed to delivering a further 35,000 trees by 2022, including a 6,500 tree edible orchard on Hackney Marshes.
Boroughs have taken action to reduce car journeys and encourage the switch to electric vehicles. Low traffic neighbourhoods have been introduced across central London, helping to reduce car use and encourage active travel. Westminster City Council has installed over 1,000 electric vehicle charging points across the city, and it now has more electric vehicles registered than any other inner London borough. As one of the world’s major financial centres, the City of London is aiming to ensure the capital is the global leader in green finance, helping to fund the drive to net zero worldwide.
The climate emergency is undoubtedly a challenge but responding to it offers the potential to change our city for the better; from greening the capital and cleaning up our toxic air to creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Whether it be installing electric vehicle charging points and retrofitting millions of homes, to jobs in innovation and green finance, there is a great deal of work to be done, and the transition to net zero has the opportunity to transform our labour market.
At Central London Forward, we are working with our member authorities to support the transition to a net zero capital. Working with WPI Economics and Institute of Employment Studies, we are exploring what the transition to net zero means for London’s labour market. We will be developing a shared definition of ‘green jobs’ for central London, exploring the skills that will be required for these jobs, understanding the barriers to accessing them, and mapping future demand for green jobs in the region. This research will support our members to deliver employment and skills provision which enables our residents to access jobs as we move toward a net zero future.
If you want to find out more about this project, please get in touch.
Joe Dromey is Director of Central London Forward – 2nd July 2021