Yesterday I was proud to support a successful motion calling on the Mayor to seek an urgent meeting with Government Ministers to discuss ways of mitigating the worst effects of the Government’s summer budget and to lobby for stronger national policies that will facilitate a cleaner, greener London.
I seconded this motion because I’m appalled by the Government’s reversal of the good progress we’ve made. Some of what is proposed would be funny if it wasn’t so destructive – like charging a carbon tax on renewable electricity.
As chair of the Planning Committee, I’m particularly alarmed by the decision to abandon Zero Carbon Homes.
For the past ten years there has been a deadline that by 2016 all new homes would emit no carbon. Or, where they did, the developer would offset that carbon elsewhere.
The policy received broad support. The coalition Government moved ahead with it, as did the GLA under a Tory Mayor.
But just as it’s about to flower and blossom, it’s been mowed down.
For Londoners, this means weaker standards for our future homes, offices, schools and factories. Future residents and building users will be locked into higher energy bills for decades to come. It also means we are building new structures at standards below what we should be, which will require expensive retrofitting in future.
It is also a blow to the businesses who have spent many millions of pounds investing in innovative new techniques and technologies. Those businesses did not react kindly to the policy; nearly 250, including some of the UK’s largest construction and property firms, wrote to Chancellor George Osborne urging him to reconsider the government’s decision to axe the standard. They warned:
“This sudden U-turn has undermined industry confidence in Government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low carbon products and services.”
I can’t really say it better than that.
We all know that green goods and services is a key growth sector. But in just one Budget, this Government has undermined that growth, hurting not only the environment but the economy as well.
The full text of the amendment is:
The Summer Budget and the Environment
This Assembly calls on the Mayor to seek an urgent meeting with Government Ministers to discuss ways of mitigating the worst effects of the Government’s summer budget and to lobby for stronger national policies that will facilitate a cleaner, greener London. Looking ahead to the Paris Conference in a few months’ time, this Assembly believes the budget was a historic missed opportunity to set out an agenda for a change and show real leadership amongst the world’s leading economies.
It is increasingly cities around the world that are leading the charge against the biggest environmental challenges of our age. However, London, like other global cities, can only act in the parameters of the policies set down by national governments. This budget is the latest in a long list of retrograde steps since reports appeared in the press of the Prime Minister calling for an end to “all this green crap”.
The decision to abandon the commitment to zero carbon homes, which was due to come in next year, will severely limit the ability of the Mayor to meet his carbon reduction targets and deliver sustainable homes in the capital. London already has an uphill battle in making its existing housing stock energy efficient, following this announcement it is likely that many new homes being built today will require retro-fits in the near future.
This Assembly also notes with concern the changes to Vehicle Excise Duty, which will dis-incentivise consumers buying low emission vehicles. These changes will create policy uncertainty at the very time when London needs to up its game in tackling poor air quality. Given that it is low emission vehicles that is driving growth in the UK new car market, this policy change will damage business and consumer confidence.
The attacks on renewables outlined in the Budget, such as the changes to the Climate Change Levy, will result in renewable electricity effectively paying a carbon tax, a measure described as “totally bizarre” by Friends of the Earth. It is deeply disappointing that London’s domestic solar power generating capacity is the lowest of any region in the country and these changes will do sustained damage to industry confidence.