Matthew Pencharz

What COP21 means for London

I’ve just come back from the UN’s Climate Change Conference or COP21, in Paris. It was incredible to see leaders from 195 countries get around the table and talk about how, together, the world can tackle climate change.  After two weeks of negotiations, it was great to hear that the leaders had signed the historic agreement on Saturday 12 December.  So what exactly does it mean for the world?

Well the most important part of the agreement is to limit the global average temperature rise to well below two degrees above pre-industrial limits. Ideally, the world should work to try and keep the increase to just 1.5 degrees, but that may not be possible.  A long-term goal was also set for net zero emissions by 2050-2100. EU countries have committed to a binding target cut of 40 per cent based on 1990 levels by 2030.

The UK is already doing well with greenhouse gas emissions 22 per cent lower now than they were in the base year of 1990.  Here in London, CO2 emissions have dropped by 14 per cent since the current Mayor was first elected seven years ago. That figure is particularly impressive when one considers that London’s population has grown by around one million since then and . the capital’s economy has also grown by 20 per cent (10 per cent after inflation).

Several factors have helped London disconnect an increase in carbon emissions from population and economic growth. These include the capital’s booming green economy which is already worth over £30 billion a year employing almost 200,000 people, and is growing at about six per cent annually. With London already a world leader in clean tech the Mayor wants the new regeneration at Old Oak Common to become a centre for low carbon industries and is working on a feasibility study with the London Sustainable Development Commission.

We’re also doing all we can to ensure London’s transport is as clean as it can be. That’s why London has launched a Clean Bus Declaration via the C40 network of major world cities, which has now been signed by 24 cities.  By showing market potential to manufacturers, we’ve secured a 10 per cent cut in the price of new hybrid buses.

We’re encouraging people to switch to ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) too. There are currently 1,400 public charge points on London’s streets. We want that number to increase substantially. That’s why City Hall is bidding for around £50m from the UK government to boost the number of ULEVs in London, including destination charging for vehicles.

London’s building stock is relatively energy inefficient and with 80 per cent still likely to be standing in 50 years’ time it’s vitally important that we retrofit them to become more energy efficient, saving carbon and money and reducing fuel poverty. The Mayor’s buildings’ retrofit programmes, RE:FIT for public sector and RE:NEW for domestic homes, are delivering at scale carbon reduction and saving millions for London’s bill payers.

The Mayor wants to see a quarter of London’s energy demand to be met from local sources by 2025. He recently visited Engie/Climespace’s district cooling facility in Paris which uses river water to cool buildings. We’re now planning a similar project in Greenwich. It will use the Thames and TfL’s power station, with a river source heat pump to heat nearby homes in a cheap, secure and low carbon way.

London has made great advances in reducing emissions while also accommodating an increasing population and growing the economy. We – along with other cities – have shown that we can transition to a low-carbon economy. The Paris agreement goes farther than we had expected; that is good news and we know London can deliver our part.