London Environment Strategy
Sadiq Khan Publishes London Environment Strategy
How Will Your Organisation Meet the Targets Set Out in The London Environment Strategy?
On 11 August Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, published his draft London Environment Strategy. The Mayor is taking a range of actions to improve the environment now, setting London on the path to create a better future.
Today London is facing a host of environmental challenges. Toxic air, noise pollution, the threat to our green spaces, and the adverse effects of climate change, all pose major risks to the health and well being of Londoners.
London’s environment and the quality of our air has come a long way since our city was blighted by the Great Stink of the Victorian era or the 1952 Great Smog. Innovations in urban design and the introduction of stronger environmental regulations have helped to drastically reduce industrial pollution and make our city a cleaner, greener, more pleasant place to live. But while recent decades have seen significant improvements, today London is still confronted by a host of environmental challenges that are as serious and pressing as these previous crises.
Real progress to improve our air, clean up our natural environment and decarbonise our energy sources will take time. And it will require a concerted long-term effort and co-operation between a wide range of partners. While necessary, however, being honest about the size and scale of the challenge ahead must never serve as an excuse for inaction.
Bigger problems simply demand more ambitious responses. And I’m confident that by taking practical steps – informed by evidence-based policy – we can find solutions that make a positive and lasting difference to our environment and to the lives of all Londoners.
I’m also passionate about taking the lead and using the powers at my disposal to boost London’s green economy and deliver sustainable growth. We have already embedded the latest green thinking at the heart of our new transport strategy, set ourselves a target of making London a zero waste city and started work on establishing Energy for Londoners, which will soon be helping London generate more of its own low carbon energy, make its buildings even more energy efficient and help Londoners get a better deal on their energy bills. Our action in London can be the template for the most ambitious action at the national level too.
London is already the greatest city in the world – now I want it to become the greenest city in the world. The measures outlined in this strategy show that I’m determined to take meaningful action to tackle the most urgent environmental challenges facing our city immediately. But they also illustrate that I’m prepared to do what’s necessary to safeguard London’s environment over the longer term. And this is vital because not only do we owe it to today’s Londoners to create a clean healthy environment, where everyone can fulfil their potential, but we also owe it to the next generation of Londoners.
London Environment Strategy – Londoners & Their Environment
London’s environment connects every aspect of life in the city. It is the air Londoners breathe, the water they drink and the parks where they meet and spend time. The state of London’s environment affects everyone who lives in and visits the city – it helps Londoners to stay healthy, allows businesses to thrive and keeps London functioning from day to day.
Proper care for the environment can help London to operate well every day, now and into the future. It can ensure the city produces enough energy in the right way, reduce waste so the city has the resources it needs and keep London’s infrastructure operating smoothly.
London Environment Strategy – Challenges
In many ways, London’s environment is improving. The city’s air and water have recovered from the worst impacts of industrial pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, are reducing. The city is well-defended against the worst forms of flooding. But London also faces a range of environmental challenges that threaten the future of the city.
London Environment Strategy – Air quality
The quality of London’s air is dangerously – and illegally – poor. High levels of damaging pollutants harm human health and quality of life, limiting lung development in childhood and reducing life expectancy. Over 9,000 Londoners’ lives end sooner than they should each year because of air pollution, and around a quarter of primary schools are located in parts of London that breach legal air pollution limits. Air quality is the most pressing environmental threat to the future health of London.
London Environment Strategy – Green space
As development encroaches on open space and gardens have increasingly been paved over, there has been a gradual loss of green space across London in recent years. Some parts of London have more green spaces than others, but almost half of Londoners have poor access to parks. Councils now have less money to spend on maintaining parks, so their quality has declined in some places. Access to good quality green space and living in greener neighbourhoods can have a big impact on people’s health and quality of life, and on how attractive a place London is to live, visit and do business.
London Environment Strategy – Biodiversity
As green space has been lost and what remains has in some cases reduced in quality, the range of plants and animals that live in London has decreased. With careful attention, London can be home to a wide range of animal and plant species, but without it, the number and diversity of bird, wildflower and bee species will continue to decline.
London Environment Strategy – Greenhouse gas emissions
Although London’s greenhouse gas emissions are falling, the city remains over-reliant on the fossil fuels that are a major contributor to global warming and climate change. London is not yet on track to reduce its emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, or to meet national and international climate aims.
London Environment Strategy – Energy use
Nearly three quarters of the energy used in London’s homes is for heating and hot water, and the overwhelming majority of this demand is met using gas-fired boilers. Already one in ten electricity substations are approaching full capacity and the redevelopment of large parts of the city will increase demand for energy and the infrastructure required to distribute it. One in ten households in the city currently lives in fuel poverty, sometimes meaning they have to choose between heating their home or eating.
London Environment Strategy – Waste
Waste has a big impact on the environment both locally and globally. Only half of the 7m tonnes of waste London’s homes and businesses produce each year is currently recycled, and landfill capacity is set to run out by 2026. Plastic packaging not only litters London streets, but often finds its way into waterways and oceans, releasing toxic chemicals before breaking down –a process that can take centuries. London needs to reduce, reuse and recycle more, to see waste as the valuable resource that it is and to reduce London’s increasing waste bill as the city grows.
London Environment Strategy – Flood risk
The loss of green space, the expansion of impermeable surfaces used for roads, roofs and pavements and a Victorian drainage system that wasn’t designed to cope with the demands of the current and future population leave London exposed to the risk of flooding. As climate change brings a rise in sea level and more intense rainfall, flooding will become increasingly likely.
London Environment Strategy – Heat risk
Climate change is set to lead to heatwave conditions every summer by the middle of the century, and the Urban Heat Island effect makes the centre of London up to 10°C warmer than the rural areas around the city. Increasing heat risk could make homes, workplaces and public transport uncomfortable for all and dangerous for the most vulnerable. Increasing demand for cooling may put stress on power supply networks, threatening London’s sustainability and increasing emissions.
London Environment Strategy – Water scarcity
London’s water supply is under pressure – by 2025, demand is expected to outstrip supply by ten per cent, and by 2040 the gap will increase to 21 per cent. London already gets a large proportion of its water from groundwater and surrounding rivers, which damages the health of rivers and threatens the city’s future water supply.
London Environment Strategy – River water quality
Years of pollution from road runoff and water treatment work, sewer infrastructure problems, and poorly managed river maintenance and modification work have left London’s rivers in a poor state. Under an EU framework, only two of London’s 47 river water bodies are classed as ‘good’ – 31 are ‘moderate’, nine are ‘poor’ and the rest are ‘bad’.
London Environment Strategy – Ambient noise
Noise is part of a vibrant city, but excessive noise can damage people’s health. Noise can contribute towards a range of physical and mental health problems, disturb sleep and affect people’s hearing, communication and learning. Almost 2.4 million people in London are already exposed to noise levels that exceed international guidelines, and the proposed expansion of Heathrow would expose an additional 200,000 people to significant aircraft noise.Many of these problems are interconnected, and together they pose a threat to the future of the city. With the effects of climate change likely to exacerbate environmental challenges in a growing city, London must act now to avoid further problems in the future. Making London a better city to live in must involve a holistic approach to the city’s environment that addresses all these pressing issues.
London Environment Strategy – New Approaches
To make this vision a reality, London needs to approach how it thinks and acts on its environment in new ways. New solutions are required, making the most of all that London’s environment has to offer, and seeing the opportunities that change can bring.
London Environment Strategy – Strategic Approaches
This document uses four strategic approaches to make the most of environmental opportunities now and in the future. They inform every aspect of the strategy, providing links between each of them to reinforce the holistic approach that must be taken to tackle London’s environmental challenges. They also provide links between this and the Mayor’s other strategies, to ensure that environmental concerns are factored into decision making across London. They are:
- Low Carbon Circular Economy
- Smart Digital City
- Green Infrastructure and Natural Capital Accounting
- Healthy Streets Approach
London Environment Strategy – The low carbon circular economy
The prevailing economic model has delivered huge growth and opportunity in the areas of wealth, education and life expectancy over the last century. But there has been an environmental and social cost to pay. The pursuit of growth without a deeper consideration of the range of benefits it can bring has led to many of the environmental issues London faces today. Reliance on cars to transport ever increasing numbers of people, industrial growth that has relied on fossil fuels and a disposable economy have all led to pollution, increasing emissions and the inefficient use of resources. An uneven distribution of the benefits of growth has exacerbated the effect of environmental problems on the groups of people who are likely to be the worst affected by fuel poverty, poor air quality and the effects of climate change.
London is already reversing many of these negative trends, but to do more, a continuously-evolving approach to economic development is required. This approach will help London to thrive by adopting more sustainable and inclusive business models that value and reward low carbon initiatives and environmental sustainability, and create wider social benefits.
A low carbon circular economy is one in which as much value as possible is extracted from resources, through their use and reuse, before they become waste. As London grows, it must invest in low carbon infrastructure and services to achieve a healthier, zero emission, resource efficient growth. This can be achieved by manufacturing goods that are made to last, rather than be disposed of, and by creating systems that allow existing goods to be reused and recycled.
This new model is not only an environmental imperative, required to preserve the planet’s scarce resources and limit the impacts of climate change and over consumption – it is also a huge opportunity for London’s businesses. In 2014/15, London’s low carbon and environmental goods and services sector generated around £30.4bn in sales and its 10,900 businesses employed around 192,000 people. Between now and 2020, this sector is expected to grow by over six per cent a year.
London Environment Strategy – Waste
AIM – London will be a zero-waste city. By 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030, 65 per cent of London’s municipal waste will be recycled.
Our linear economy (take, make and dispose) is unsustainable. It produces too much waste, with around 7m tonnes coming from London’s homes, public buildings and businesses each year, too much of which goes to landfill and incineration. Of this, only 52 per cent is currently recycled and performance has stagnated. Landfill and incineration are undesirable, costly and an inefficient use of resources. The capacity of landfills accepting London’s waste is expected to run out by 2026 and London’s waste bill is now in in excess of £2bn a year and rising.
Through increasingly clever design of goods and services we are beginning to treat our waste as the valuable resource it is. In order to maximise this we need to reduce waste in the first place and then reuse or recycle as much as possible. What’s left over can then be used to generate low carbon energy, minimising the amount going to landfill.
Cutting waste and recovering value from more of it can provide a number of benefits including jobs, apprenticeships, secondary materials, and affordable low carbon energy. Effective waste management delivering high quality materials to market can give local authorities a reliable high value income stream. This can help to offset costs associated with service improvements.
More of London’s reusable items like furniture, fittings and electrical appliances need to be kept in use. Redistributing them to where they are needed can create local work, keep resource costs down and help reduce poverty.
The Mayor will take a circular approach to London’s use of resources that designs out waste, keeps materials in use at their highest value for as long as possible and minimises environmental impact. The actions required to deliver this are:
- Firstly, significantly cutting waste and encouraging reuse to minimise the use of virgin resources. Efforts will be focused on reducing food waste and single use packaging as they offer the biggest opportunity for change
- Once waste reduction and reuse opportunities have been exhausted there must be a focus on maximising the recycling of materials that are left
- Generating low carbon energy from truly residual waste leaving very little waste going to landfill
- Ensuring that there is sufficient infrastructure to support these actions within London helping to create opportunities for businesses developing reuse, repair and remanufacturing services
London Environment Strategy – Roles and legal duties
The Mayor is required under the GLA Act to produce a municipal waste management strategy. However, the Mayor is not a waste authority and it is ultimately the waste collection and disposal authorities, businesses and the commercial waste industry that will implement the waste policies in this strategy in collaboration with the Mayor.
The Mayor’s role is a combination of exercising regulatory functions (ensuring local authority waste plans, services, strategies and contracts are in general conformity with his waste policies and proposals) and non-regulatory functions (funding, research, technical assistance, providing guidance, campaigns and facilitating and supporting good practice). There are 33 waste collection authorities (boroughs and City of London), 12 authorities that are “unitary” waste authorities (combined collection and disposal), four statutory waste disposal authorities and one voluntary waste partnership. The waste collection authorities and the waste disposal authorities are referred to as ‘waste authorities’ in this strategy.
London Environment Strategy – Waste Authority Expectations
The Mayor expects waste authorities to do the following in order to show they are acting in general conformity with this strategy’s municipal waste management policies and proposals.
- Produce a waste management strategy or plan setting out how their waste activities will:
- Help move waste up the waste hierarchy
- Provide local economic, social and environmental benefits from improved waste management
- Make a meaningful contribution to meeting the Mayor’s targets
- Offer the Mayor’s minimum level of household recycling service provision
- Make best use of local waste sites identified in local waste plans
- Support the phase out of fossil fuel waste transport and boost uptake of low or zero emission alternatives
- Use Recycle for London messaging in local awareness raising activities to ensure a consistent reduce, reuse, recycle message is delivered across London
- Demonstrate how they will, or have put in place positive changes to improve recycling performance identified through Resource London’s borough support programme
- Publicly notify its intention to tender a waste contract at the same time as notifying the Mayor. This would be a chance for waste authorities considering new services to consider joint procurement options. These can provide better value for money on ‘like for like’ services and achieve service harmonisation across borough boundaries
- Procure waste and recycling services that maximise local economic, environmental and social benefits through demonstrating how they will deliver the Mayor’s Responsible Procurement Policy
- Carry out any other relevant activity supporting the Mayor’s policies and targets