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London: Green for Growth

Turning a sprawling, socially and economically diverse city like London into the greenest big city on earth is a tough brief.

Quality of life

Not least given that local authorities across the capital, the very folk needed to deliver such a vision, are reeling from 20% to 40% cuts in their budgets.

Mayor Boris Johnson’s ambitious targets, set out in his draft Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy last year, will see the capital cut its carbon emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2025 while delivering 25% of London’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.

“Improving quality of life is key to delivering a sustainable low carbon future in London,” explains Martin Powell, the man responsible for delivering key capital projects and the full portfolio of climate change projects.

Unlocking the money

The thorny issue of how this vital but hard to pin down vision for a low carbon future in London will be devised will be the subject of a panel session led by Powell at the BASE London conference next month.

Powell, who until recently worked as Johnson’s interim environment advisor, explains that the ambitious targets set out in the draft Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy. It is at the heart of the challenge and rigorously backed by roadmaps for delivering initiatives for energy supply, home energy performance, business performance and transport.

“The key driver is unlocking finance to support these initiatives by demonstrating to the private sector that there is a business case”

Martin Powell, London Development Agency environment director

“The key driver is unlocking finance to support these initiatives by demonstrating to the private sector that there is a business case,” he says.

“We are trying to highlight the business opportunities by creating programmes that can be scaled up (across the capital and the UK) and then taken over by the private sector.”

Winning hearts and minds

Big wins have already been seen, he says, with programmes such as RE:NEW scheme to retrofit and upgrade existing buildings using easy to install low energy devices and monitoring equipment and the RE:FIT scheme to help retrofit and upgrade existing commercial buildings.

Powell accepts that delivering the vision requires real changes in actions and attitudes across a range of stakeholders including the private sector. Powell is clear that buy-in will be driven by an understanding of the financial and social gains, whether it is facilitating the shift towards decentralised power supplies, working with businesses to help reduce their carbon footprint or encouraging 3M home-owners and landlords to install loft insulation.

“We are looking at how to make London a real powerhouse for capturing the benefits of a low carbon economy,” he explains, highlighting the fact that the new £100M London Green Fund should be able
to lever in £500M of private investment.

Knock-on effects

Better public transport should mean fewer cars on the roads leading to better air quality, with knock on health benefits.Better insulation will reduce energy bills. Less waste should boost business efficiency. Implementing low carbon measures should generate employment and drive economic growth.

As Johnson puts it: “If we can secure just 1% of the forecast global market in low carbon goods and services, then London can add a massive £3.7bn a year to the value of our economy over the next 15 years, and London’s climate change mitigation programmes alone could contribute 14,000 jobs per year by 2025.”

Powell also points out that the pressures of an economic downturn, can work to advantage.

And London is not the only major city striving towards this low carbon vision. As a contributor to this week’s C40 summit in São Paulo, Powell says that there is much that London can learn from and share with other cities.

Johnson’s carbon vision

The London Mayor’s CO² emissions reduction targets from 1990 levels.

2015 (interim target) 20%
2020 (interim target) 38%
2025 60%
2050 At least 80%

Energy supply

Decentralised energy supply targets

12.7% by 2015
18.8% by 2020
32.9% by 2025

1,951GWh (major contribution from heat pumps) by 2025
5,113GWh (gas CHP, biomass CHP and biomass boilers) by 2025
6,917 GWh (gas CHP, anaerobic digestion) by 2025


Key policy is the RE:NEW scheme to retrofit and upgrade the efficiency of existing building stock using easy to install low energy devices and monitoring equipment. This will see

200,000 homes retrofitted by 2012
1.2M homes retrofitted by 2015
2.4M homes retrofitted by 2020
2.9M homes retrofitted by 2025


Key policy is the RE:FIT scheme to help to retrofit and upgrade existing commercial building stock. This will see

25,000 SMEs given low carbon support by 2020
50,000 SMEs given low carbon support by 2025
1.6Mm² of public sector floorspace retrofitted by 2015
11Mm² of public sector floorspace retrofitted by 2025
Establishment of private sector RE:FIT programme − 44Mm² of private sector floorspace retrofitted by 2025


Introduction of cycle ways and bike hire scheme will continue
Crossrail to boost public transport usage
Investment in London Underground improvements
All new buses to be low carbon vehicles from 2012
Deliver first phase of the Hydrogen Action Plan by 2012
Introduce 1,000 electric vehicles into the GLA group fleet by 2015
Deliver 25,000 electric vehicle charge points by 2015 and so see 100,000 electric vehicles on London’s roads by 2020

The 2025 vision

London will be a world-leading low carbon capital
London will have a secure supply of low carbon energy
London will have some of the most energy efficient buildings of any large city in the world
London’s transport network will be well on the road to zero emissions

About BASELondon

The BASELondon event will be held on 22 June in the City of London and will bring together key thinking to deliver low carbon development in the capital.

Former transport minister and London mayoral candidate Steven Norris will chair the event. Speakers include climate change minister Greg Barker, London mayor Boris Johnson, Olympic Park Legacy Company chairmanBaroness Ford, London Development Authority environment director Martin Powell and Institute for Sustainability chair and Arup global leader of planning Peter Head. For details visit

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