Sadiq Khan was elected as the new Mayor of London last week. Mr. Khan’s manifesto has claimed he will be “the greenest mayor ever”, which is ironically reminiscent of Mr. Cameron’s speech to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2010 when he promised to bring the “greenest government ever”. Nevertheless, such prejudice would be disingenuous to Mr. Khan, even if public confidence towards political manifestos remains meagre. In addition, one may argue that the integrity intrinsically essential to practicing as a human rights lawyer may distinguish him from many of his peers in this respect.
It has been an inspiring first week of Mr. Khan’s new office. London’s air quality, the issue that has dominated media for the early months of this year, has been the initial target. His bilateral approach to the matter has included, firstly, the support and recognition of the ClientEarth lawsuit against the government for breaching EU levels for air pollution, whereby he is assisting in a review of DEFRA’s policies. The second means of addressing this issue is through the extension of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The ULEZ was initially a plan put together by the former mayor, Boris Johnson, and was due to be implemented in 2020. Mr. Khan has built upon these plans, bringing the date forward by one year and extending the zone to the North and South Circular roads.
Khan stated: “I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge.”
Whilst not under his jurisdiction, it could be critiqued to be insufficient with regard to the health and safety of Londoners. Under the plan, the ‘dirtiest’ vehicles would still be allowed on the road, merely with an additional fee to the congestion charge. Liberal Democrat and Green Party schemes to further increase the congestion charge would be a beneficial step to adopt in constructing the pedestrian and cycle friendly city that many Londoners wish for. The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street will give Londoners a taste of what this vision might look like.
The discussion of air pollution would be incomplete without a mention of the seemingly impending decision on a future runway. Mr. Khan has supported an additional runway at Gatwick as an alternative to Heathrow. Either option is likely to undermine the actions to reduce air pollution, despite pledges and compromises made by Heathrow to combat such issues as they seek to win the bid.
Another of Sadiq Khan’s commitments is to improve the current recycling target to 65% by 2030. Tackling waste is an issue which the UK seems to be lagging behind when compared to other Western countries. The plastic bag tax brought about last year, has been a signal that this may be changing, however at the same time it is hard not to think that it could also be an opportunity missed to completely purge supermarkets of plastic bags completely, in favour of paper or linen bags. Furthermore, the 65% recycling rate seems somewhat quite modest when aligned against a city such as San Francisco, whose target was a 75% waste diversion from landfill by 2020, which it has already surpassed, now at a rate of 80%. Sadiq Khan and other policy makers need to work together in order to formulate a framework that can be rolled out across the UK to reduce our waste footprint and increase recycling rates.
Mr. Khan has made an impressive start to his appointment as mayor, and is well on his way to creating a legacy comparable to that of his predecessor. In particular, his decision to ban fracking within the London area is particularly commendable as well as his pledge to run London on 100% green energy by 2050. We are all backing him to come true on these pledges and move London forward as a truly sustainable city.
Picture credit: uk.businessinsider.com