The environment – co-ordinated action needed

London deputy mayor Shirley Rodrigues says that businesses have a clear role to play in fighting the climate emergency.

“Our ambition is for London to reach net-zero by 2030. The next few years are critical if we are to address the climate and biodiversity crisis that threatens the safe future of our planet. And businesses have a key role to play.

The net zero 2030 goal is both ambitious and close. We can only achieve it if we all understand what role to play to deliver it. In January we published a report outlining the pathways to take us to net zero by 2030. By bringing forward London’s target we will save an additional 151 million tonnes of carbon by 2050. Delivery could support an average of 41,000 jobs a year over the decade – jobs like installing solar panels and heat pumps and insulating our homes.

With only eight years until 2030, we need to be co-ordinated, to act quickly, and to speak with one voice on what we need from others.

The latest intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) report only re-affirms the importance of acting now to ensure we do not miss “a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”. It also points to the important role that cities will play as a key place for innovation and mobilisation.

 Initiatives

The Mayor’s Green New Deal for London includes key initiatives such as helping unlock more than £500 million of private investment through green bonds; and using his planning powers to go beyond national requirements, securing carbon savings 46 per cent above National Building Regulations in 2020.

The Mayor has also announced a public consultation on the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone to the whole of Greater London. This scheme is needed to strike the right balance between tackling the triple threat of air pollution, the climate emergency, and congestion. using public transport, cycling and walking this has moved us closer to our goal of a cleaner, greener city.

Role of business

Since industrial and commercial emissions make up one third of London’s emissions, London’s businesses have an extremely important role to play. The capital’s unique ecosystem of businesses, which is made up of 85 per cent SMEs, is already a world leader in clean innovation and technology that will provide the solutions to help us get to net zero.

The Mayor and London Councils have joined the London Chamber calling on businesses to commit to reduce their emissions and create a greener, cleaner and more prosperous London. We need you to develop strategies that include bold climate action and set science-based targets to reduce your emissions. We need you to make your buildings net zero carbon, by 2030.

Changes we make now will make it easier for emissions reductions later in the decade. Some of this will be difficult to deliver. It’s not always easy to change the culture of an organisation – and regulations don’t always support or incentivise the best outcomes for the climate.

However, acting to get to net-zero will make London’s businesses more resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green transition. It also brings other benefits such as increased competitiveness, investor confidence and reduced regulatory risk. And with soaring gas prices it is more important than ever for businesses to be looking at how they can reduce their energy demand.

We know that for SMEs, these additional aspirations can be overwhelming when they don’t have the resources of large firms. That’s why we’ve piloted the Mayor’s Business Climate Challenge, working with the Better Bankside Business Improvement District to understand the support that businesses need to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Findings from this pilot show that the average business can reduce their energy consumption by 17 per cent while saving £6,000 on energy costs annually. This programme will be expanded and offered to more BIDs later this year to support them on their pathway to net-zero.

Green jobs

The Green New Deal will not only drive action to make London greener, but will also help strengthen our economy and tackle inequalities. London’s green economy is worth £48 billion in sales and employs 250,000 people. The Mayor’s plans for a green recovery aims to address the economic challenges presented by Covid-19, including increased unemployment, by doubling the size of the green economy by 2030, bringing new investment to London, helping businesses to see long-term growth, and providing diverse, well-paid, skilled, local jobs. As part of the London Recovery Programme, we are strengthening the provision of green skills in the capital through a £44m Mayoral Academies Programme. These are skills linked to occupations and tasks which will see an increase in demand as London moves towards net zero. The programmed funds new coordination hubs which bring together employers and training providers to inform the development and delivery of training and to help more Londoners progress into good and green jobs.

Inaction not an option

Achieving our net zero targets will require fundamental changes to infrastructure, buildings, transport and the way we all live. But inaction is not an option. And we know that the sooner we act, the easier, and cheaper this transition will be in the future. The Mayor and I are doing everything in our power to reach net zero by 2030, including supporting London’s businesses to play their role.“

This is an edited excerpt from an address by Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy to the LCCI in March this year. The event was sponsored by SSE energy solutions.

This article originally featured in the July/August issue of London Business Matters Magazine.