Ashden welcomes the Mayor’s publication of a comprehensive draft London Environment Strategy. As the draft strategy acknowledges, the quality of London’s environment affects all aspects of life, from air quality, warmth in homes, energy choices and green infrastructure. In this response, we focus on the aspects of the draft strategy where Ashden or our alumni network of award winners can offer expertise in the challenges that the strategy aims to address.
Ashden is a charity that champions and supports sustainable energy leaders who are transforming lives and tackling climate change in the UK and across the globe. Our rigorous annual Awards scheme uncovers the best in sustainable energy and showcases their potential to influential audiences, with over 85 UK pioneering organisations receiving awards to date. Uniquely, we continue to work with our winners after they have won to help them scale up their work and share their learning with others.
Is of liveable cities where people want to live and work – unpolluted well-planned cities powered by sustainable energy and clean technologies; with warm energy-efficient homes, workplaces and public buildings; boasting low-carbon transport systems and green infrastructure.
Futureproofing our cities through low-carbon transformation will lead to environmental benefits such as reduced emissions and resilience to climate change. It will also deliver positive socio-economic outcomes including improved health through clean air, green space, healthy buildings and sustainable transport; employment opportunities through locally owned energy, retrofit and renewables; and thriving inclusive neighbourhoods.
Drawing on pioneering sustainable energy organisations like Ashden Award winners, we can show decision makers, policymakers and funders that solutions already exist, and that through collaborative learning, sharing and co-design they can be deployed quickly and at a scale that will allow ambitious targets to be met. This can be delivered on a national, regional or local level.
What Ashden can offer
A diverse expert network: our award winners have invaluable collective expertise in helping people and businesses to use energy more wisely through a range of interventions. They are drawn from a range of sectors including charities, businesses, local authorities and SMEs. Between them, they have expertise in:
- Reducing energy use in new and existing buildings – both through technological solutions and behaviour change;
- Facilitating renewable heat and power generation, with a particular focus on enabling community ownership;
- Realising the potential of smart technologies including energy storage, demand response and making the grid ‘smarter’;
- Reducing pollution in urban areas by making transport more sustainable, while providing social and economic benefits to local residents and businesses.
A bridge between policy and practice: Ashden winners are developing and delivering the innovations that are required to reach a zero carbon world. We highlight their work on the ground to national, city and local decision makers so that policy supports and accelerates their impact and responds to the barriers and opportunities that winners identify. Ashden’s current focus is working with city region leaders and decision makers, such as the London Mayor and metro mayors around the country. As we mention throughout the response below, London’s leadership on low carbon is essential in supporting more ambition in cities around the UK.
Supporting change – connections and interventions: in the case of the draft environment strategy, Ashden’s strength is facilitating connections between the GLA and organisations which offer solutions to issues it identifies. Inevitably we cannot convey all of the relevant examples that lie within our diverse network in a single document, but we are happy to help develop relationships where useful. This can include hosting events, roundtables and other interventions to encourage learning transfer. We are also happy to work in partnership with the GLA.
Seeing is believing: There is also power in seeing solutions in action, which could be replicated or scaled up to deliver significant carbon savings to London. We have a history of running engaging and eye opening ‘seeing is believing’ tours that bring decision-makers and Ashden Award winners together. We are already in discussion to put one of these tours together for GLA decision makers, and look forward to ensuring that it focuses on key aspects of the environment strategy and offers new insights for participants.
Wider Ashden networks
Fit for the Future network: Ashden also has access to a wider networks of organisation through our Fit for the Future Network, run in partnership with the National Trust. It is a solutions-based network for organisations that have a large property portfolio and want to reduce energy bills and better manage environmental impacts. More than 100 members have joined the network in the past three years, many of them third sector organisations, but also including TATE Modern, The Crown Estate, and Somerset House. Collectively they have saved 14,657 tonnes of CO2 in 2015 alone, over 40,000 buildings. Due to the growth of the network it may begin to operate in regional clusters, one of which would be London based. We would be keen to ensure that the cluster was connected with and able to contribute to the delivery of London’s environmental goals. See here for an infographic of their impact so far.
LESS CO2: Finally, Ashden also runs the LESS CO2 sustainable schools programme, which is a free energy efficiency programme available to any UK school, regardless if they are council run, an academy or independent. Through a series of half day workshops spread through the year, peer mentoring, expert advice and resources, staff are empowered and equipped to make changes and improvements to their school to reduce their energy usage, save money on bills and lower their CO2 emissions.
Chapter 2 – Transforming London’s environment
1. Do you agree with the overall vision and principles of this draft London Environment Strategy?
Breaking the aims of the strategy into three overarching headings of greener, cleaner and ready for the future is a useful approach. Much of Ashden’s expertise relates to the issues that sit under the ‘cleaner’ objective.
It is valuable to see the strategy frequently acknowledge and aim to better understand the health impacts of environmental challenges, and the significant cross-cutting benefits of taking action. This will be an important means of strengthening the investment case for action on issues like fuel poverty.
The recognition of the important role that smart technology will play in meeting the strategy’s goals, especially those related to energy and air quality, is also welcome and is an area where Ashden winners have a lot of expertise to offer (see p.18-19, 21, 26, 32-34). As we state in the relevant section below (p.35), more concrete action on realising the benefits of smart technology for environmental goals would be welcome.
2. To achieve the policies and proposals in this strategy, which organisations should the Mayor call upon to do more (for example central and local government and business) and what should the priorities be?
National government: The draft strategy is clear in setting out the degree to which lack of clarity or ambition in national policy hinders London’s ability to address certain challenges. It notes the Mayor’s intention to lobby national government on a number of points and we welcome all of them. It is important for the Mayor to use his position to advocate for change at the national level and, in doing so, provide an example to more recently elected metro mayors of the leadership role that mayors can take on low carbon.
Local authorities: The draft strategy is more hesitant about what it will expect of local authorities, i.e. the London boroughs. The focus throughout tends to be on highlighting the options local authorities have available to them, with some increased support available on issues like energy efficiency referral services. However, the scale of the change needed in London in the coming decades is huge and the strategy does not shy away from stating this. In which case, it would benefit from a stronger focus throughout on expecting more of local authorities and, in turn, doing more to proactively reward, showcase and explore the replicability of local authority success stories. The Mayor’s powers over local authorities are understandably limited, but the strategy would benefit from being positioned as more of a shared endeavour between the local authorities in London and the Mayoral office, with high mutual expectations of progress set. Without a stronger sense of shared endeavour and commitment to the ambitions set, it will be very challenging to meet the strategy’s goals.
Business: a number of measures in the strategy use policies like the planning regime to create incentives or disincentives for businesses on environmental issues. We welcome the intention to engage the sector to reduce emissions, as well as the intention set out in chapter 10 to support clean tech businesses to flourish in London. However, there is always more that businesses can do. Throughout the response below, we often refer to solutions which business could apply, e.g. smarter energy management, which would offer very significant carbon savings if widely applied (see p.18-19 below).
London’s third sector: the draft strategy addresses the need to reduce emissions and energy use in the city’s commercial sector. Given the size of the sector this is essential, but London’s third sector organisations can also make improvements and the draft strategy should acknowledge that and the Mayor’s intention to support third sector action. Engaging with energy use and climate change impacts can be challenging in third sector organisations, which are mission focused and work on tight budgets. Ashden and the National Trust’s Fit for the Future network helps to overcome some of these barriers. It aims to demonstrate the clear benefits of taking action on climate change for a wide range of organisations, and uses a network approach to encourage collaboration, share learning and replicate success. This makes it easier for organisations coming to the issue for the first time to see where to start.
Partnership with academia: Leeds City Council and the University of Leeds established the Leeds Climate Change Commission in 2017. Based on the model of the UK Committee on Climate Change, the Commission aims to provide authoritative advice on steps towards a low carbon, climate resilient future to inform policy and the actions of local stakeholders and decision makers. It will monitor progress towards meeting the city’s carbon reduction targets and recommend actions to keep the city on track, identify opportunities and foster collaboration on projects that result in measurable contributions towards meeting the city’s climate goals. The Commission aims to be a model that is easy to replicate in other cities and is documenting the process of its set up to make it easy for interested cities to do so. They see significant value in the city working together with its resident academics. Although London already has a useful London Sustainable Development Commission in place, we recommend that it explores opportunities to connect with the world-class academics resident in London’s universities, who can strengthen and inform efforts to meet the city’s climate change goals.
3. Do you agree that this draft London Environment Strategy covers all the major environmental issues facing London?
4. There are a number of targets and milestones in this draft London Environment Strategy, what do you think are the main key performance indicators that would demonstrate progress against this integrated strategy?
We have focused our response on highlighting the organisations already demonstrating solutions to many of the challenges identified in the draft strategy rather than the detail of performance indicators. But, as the draft strategy suggests, ambitious targets will require progress monitoring, and 5 year carbon budgets for London would be a good way of clarifying direction, ambitious and the focus of each 5 year period.
5. What are the most important changes Londoners may need to make to achieve the outcomes and ambition for this strategy? What are the best ways to support them to do this?
Meeting the ambitions set in the draft strategy will require a lot of individual behaviour change on the part of Londoners, from transport and car purchasing choices, to energy efficiency retrofit, home improvement and energy choices, as well as waste management ones. The strategy does not explore that challenge, the scale of the changes required or the barriers to them in any depth. Although they are well understood and are perhaps accounted for in the draft strategy’s proposals, It would still be valuable to strengthen that aspect. A number of organisations have valuable expertise in environmental behaviour change and how to account for it in policy design and delivery. Ensuring that the proposals in the draft strategy are likely to be effective, even when the barriers which routinely inhibit environmental behaviour change are considered, will be essential to their success.
In particular, Ashden winners Global Action Plan, the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Marches Energy Agency have extensive experience of supporting behaviour change on energy and air quality in workplaces, hospitals, communities and among young people. Ashden could facilitate connections with these organisations if desired in order to ensure that proposals will be deliverable once behaviour change is taken into account.
Chapter 4: Air quality
We have not responded to all questions in this chapter, as some of them are outside our expertise.
1. Do you agree that the policies and proposals outlined will meet the Mayor’s ambitions for air quality in London and zero emission transport by 2050? Is the proposed approach and pace realistic and achievable, and what further powers might be required?
Ashden welcomes the Mayor’s recognition of the air quality crisis facing London and the intention to take ambitious action to address it. We are supportive of the overall policy programme set out and the willingness to take full advantage of Mayoral powers to deliver it. London will be an important exemplar in the UK, demonstrating the need to take tough choices in order to improve air quality and tackle its significant health impacts. We make comments on specific aspects of the proposals in response to question 5 below.
2. Do you agree with the Mayor’s policies and proposals to raise Londoners’ awareness of the impacts of poor air quality?
There is a great deal more to be done in engaging Londoner’s with the air quality challenge, helping them understand why certain actions are necessary and the risks to their health. Ashden winner Global Action Plan is well placed to advise on this, as the convenors of National Clean Air day each year.
3. Do you agree with the Mayor’s policies and proposals to safeguard the most vulnerable from poor air quality?
There is a welcome focus on working with schools to address air quality, as children are the most vulnerable to its impact. As mentioned elsewhere in this response (p. 4 and Annex 1) Ashden has a programme of engaging schools on energy use called LESS CO2. As London develops its schools audit programme on air quality, we are open to working in partnership or contributing our expertise in schools engagement to any programme in development.
4. Would you support emergency measures, such as short-term road closures or vehicle restriction, during the periods of worst air pollution (normally once or twice a year)?
Yes. These help with communicating the public health impacts of air quality and the need to tackle it.
5. Do you agree with the proposed approach to reducing emissions from non-transport sources (including new buildings, construction equipment, rail and river vehicles and solid fuel burning)?
Proposal 4.2.3d: the Mayor will work with government to seek reductions in emissions from large scale generators producing power for commercial buildings in London
This proposals seeks to address the fact that backup diesel generators in commercial buildings are increasingly being used to meet peak electricity demand because the grid struggles to match supply with demand. This is inefficient from an energy point of view and also contributes to poor air quality.
The Mayor’s proposal focuses on how to discourage their use, but it would be more effective to render them unnecessary by supporting commercial buildings in better managing their energy use.
Ashden winners Demand Logic and Open Energi are both well placed to support this. Their potential is covered in detail below (see p.18-19).