According to the Guardian, Mayor Livingstone intends to “slash London’s carbon emissions by 60% within 20 years and place the city at the forefront of the battle against climate change.”
The target is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 4% a year to 18m tonnes by 2025. The focus will be on marketing and “awareness-raising” public relations to encourage reduced energy by the public and businesses. A budget of £47m will be set aside next year for initiatives such as “green gurus” helping people to make their lifestyles “more environmentally friendly”, alongside other strategies. Those behind the new plan claim:
half the required carbon savings can be made through simple changes in behaviour.
Needless to say, Livingstone can’t resist the stereotype of a “gas-guzzling 4×4 vehicle” as part of this behaviour change, aiming that this “individual choice” should “be no more socially acceptable than to claim the right to dump rubbish in the street“. The plan includes charging drivers of “the most polluting cars” £25 to enter the ever-increasing congestion zone.
But of course, the mayor is unable to address emissions from aviation and the Guardian reports increase in flights will equate to half the emissions (13 m tonnes) that the individual Londoners are being ordered to save.
There is a genuine focus here to draw together a number of ideas to address environmental impact of pollution on London. Many of these involve communications – such as promotion and recognition of those “doing the most” and “green consultants” to encourage cycling and use of public transport and encouragement of combined heat and power schemes.
I don’t want to decry those with genuine intentions, but why does this all seem to be directed at people, telling them how to lead their lives, enforcing behaviour change? I would like to see a lot more “putting their house in order”, with the public sector itself leading rather than just preaching to others about going green.
I also question whether it really is the job of local government to make us go green – rather than providing services that demonstrate, encourage and support positive environmental action. Who made them the “green” team leader?
The focus on enforcing a personal commitment to take action also feels somewhat futile if aspects that are outside the control of an individual or local authority, such as aviation and international development, are not tackled.