Blog : blog

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

In 2018, I took charge of the electric vehicle (EV) charging points strategy to promote EV ownership in a bid to reduce our carbon emissions in the borough and prepare for the approaching future of an electrically charged Wandsworth. Fast forward to 2020 and Wandsworth Council has not only announced a climate emergency, but it has a Climate Change Action Plan to back it up with plenty more EV charging points in tow.

Improving air quality was a major theme of the action plan. A key action from the council to meet this challenge is to build on our extensive EV charging network and increase our charging points to nearly 700.

The commitment is a huge step forward in our roadmap to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050 and EV ownership is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from traffic and as a bonus, its effect is immediate.

Already, many of our residents have embraced this new technology.  Up to December 2019 we received more than 1,000 requests from residents for more EV charging points. This level of requests proves that there is a high demand for EVs. According to TFL, EV ownership in London is set to increase seven-fold over the next ten years and Wandsworth is keen to get behind this transition and support the community going green.

Electric cars will be critical to the future of our nation if we want to reach our carbon emissions goals committed to in the Paris agreement. One of the major challenges of switching to an EV is the up-front costs of purchasing. While the costs of EVs are falling as the market responds to consumer demands, governments at all levels still need to find ways to make EVs accessible to residents. One of the ways we can do this is car clubs.

Car clubs are an initiative that the council has invested in heavily, to the tune of £3 million, and as a result Wandsworth has a thriving car club membership of nearly 30,000 – the largest in the country. Car clubs allow owners to hire an EV by the hour, day or week and reduces 13 private cars per club. The popularity of the car clubs is largely because they help people avoid the heavy costs around car ownership and the prevalent issue of space for parking in London. The response from the car clubs has been immensely positive and we’re looking at ways to build on the initiative.

Our Climate Change Action Plan emphasised the need for community engagement and involvement. While the council is dedicated to making changes and future-proofing our borough we acknowledge there needs to be significant collaboration and buy-in from the community to see a real impact.

Among the noteworthy actions from the plan was a pledge to spend £5 million on climate change initiatives that support the council environment and sustainability strategy, significantly increasing our tree planting program, supporting cycling infrastructure and availability of e-bikes as well, of course, increasing the borough’s EV charging network. I’m also delighted to say that council recently announced that it will be committing £20 million overall to the climate change agenda. This will continue to remain a top priority for us.

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

A simple way to help residents take action on climate – and save money

Has your local authority declared a climate emergency and you’re wondering what to do next? Helping your residents make decisions to decarbonise their own lives can be a big challenge. Where do you start?

Here’s where we can help you.

What’s the big idea?

We’ve developed a simple piece of code that allows residents to switch to verified green electricity tariffs directly through your council website. With average household savings of over £230 a year, it’s a great way to cut energy bills and help the environment (switching to a green energy tariff is the carbon equivalent of taking a car off the road for 8 months of the year!)

Better still, every switch will generate around £25 to help fund local environmental projects in your area.

See it action

Try the platform out for yourself on Salford City Council’s website, here: https://www.salford.gov.uk/switchandsave. You can embed the switch service anywhere on your site, but it’s particularly well suited to pages linked to utility payments – from council tax to parking vouchers – where residents may be particularly open to ways to save money.

Why Salford is doing it

Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett says it is an important way to show leadership and help residents:  “In Salford we are absolutely committed to providing clean energy. We have more than 100 photo-voltaic solar panels on the town hall roof to help cut our bills and carbon footprint. Over 20 years the panels will save £286,000 and avoid CO2 emissions of 296 tonnes.

“We want to make it easy for residents to switch to green energy and save money so we have teamed up with the Big Clean Switch. By incorporating switching into things residents are doing anyway on the council website, we can maximise the number of people we support.”

Who is Big Clean Switch?

We’re a B Corp that works with a range of organisations, including businesses, local authorities and NGOs, to take the worry out of switching to low-cost, low-carbon energy.

We vet all the suppliers on our site to ensure that they uphold strict environmental credentials and good customer service. We also offer support over the phone and through our live chat function to help people with any questions that they have during the switching process.

Why it works

Most people think switching supplier is a hassle. Our platform allows you to take switching to them, incorporating it into interactions that are happening anyway on your website. What better time to save £230 on your energy bills than when you’ve just paid your council tax?

So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to help your residents start to tack action on your climate emergency pledge (as well as saving them a bit of money too), contact Jon Fletcher at jon@bigcleanswitch.org.

Camden’s Clean Air Action Plan

Author: Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for Improving Camden’s Environment, London Borough of Camden

 

Last week I was pleased to launch Camden’s new Clean Air Action Plan, which will run from 2019 to 2022 and is our most ambitious to date.

 

When I took on the environment role two years ago and began to grapple with the issue of air quality, it became clear that we should turn the longstanding advice about Particulate Matter — that there is no ‘safe’ level of it for our air — into policy. This would require pledging to aim for the more stringent World Health Organization levels, which mandate lower levels of PM than current standards do.

 

This is no easy goal anywhere, least not in Camden’s highly urban London setting in north-central London. As if to underscore the challenge, our choice of location for launching our new Plan was Friends House on the Euston Road — effectively a six-law motorway cutting right through the city. But the public deserve nothing less. How to get to these tougher levels though? It made simple sense to do the following: identify the sources of pollution, what impact current and future actions would make on them, and find out if these actions are enough to get us there.

 

It also made sense to make a special call out to the community in Camden — if we were to sit on our own devising actions as a council alone, no doubt we would make some impact. But air pollution is by nature a shared problem. For that reason, we set up the Camden Clean Air Partnership, drawing on the citizens’ assembly model to ensure Camden residents have their say, alongside a combination of those who produce air pollution and those who have to put up with it: and, really, we all fall into both categories. Chaired by Professor Muki Haklay, residents were joined by businesses such as logistics firm UPS, institutions like UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and community groups like the Older People’s Advisory Group and dedicated environment groups like Camden Air Action. Together they devised and agreed the actions that now form part of the new Camden Clean Air Action Plan.

 

Meanwhile, King’s College London analysed the ‘input actions’ and found that we could get close to WHO levels by our target date of 2030 — but not quite. While the study is likely fairly conservative in its assessment — we could well end up doing better, especially once the effect of measures like Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ are fully known — we now know what we always suspected: that we need a partnership approach like in Camden but extended nationally and internationally.

 

As a first step, we need stronger action from the government. Defra’s recently published Air Quality Strategy has committed to halving the population living in areas with concentrations of fine PM above the WHO guideline levels, but fails to formally adopt the WHO values. This is something that it should commit to within the new environment bill where stricter pollutant levels can be set. (Camden asked government to do this within our response to Defra on their Air Quality Strategy.) And should the government do this, it ought to follow a similar approach by analysing pollution sources and creating a plan that identifies what needs to be done to meet the WHO values. This is especially important at government level, as the Camden-King’s analysis identified that a large source of particulates were coming from outside of London and some even from continental Europe. This approach would also help to create targeted measures which would achieve the greatest reductions — rather than just having a spread-bet approach that fails to guarantee results.

 

Meanwhile, the actions the Camden Clean Air Partners have committed to are wide-ranging and exciting. UPS is electrifying its fleet operating out of Kentish Town. Great Ormond Street has released its Clean Air Hospital Framework and is looking into consolidating patient transport. John Lewis Partnership has pledged to run Waitrose lorries entirely on biomethane gas generated from food waste. And Camden Council itself is taking new steps to reduce air pollution from building sites, including construction vehicles. Our new Transport Strategy also aims to cut motor traffic on the borough’s roads up by to 25 percent and to help people transition to walking and cycling for short journeys.

 

Our new plan runs for the next three years — but we have a 2030 goal for WHO limits. How can we check up on our own progress, and how can others see what we’re doing? To ensure we have a standard to work to throughout the coming decade, Camden has set specific pollutant interim targets between 2022, 2026, and 2030. These targets have been set to align with our future action plans so that if we are short of meeting a target, there will be justification for implementing more stringent actions. We are also looking forward to continuing to work with our Camden Clean Air Partnership members to support the delivery of the actions they have committed to, and to agreeing additional actions and welcoming new members to the Partnership.

 

Public opinion has lately — rightly — begun to refocus on climate change. That too is a colossal challenge, and in Camden we will be drawing on the lessons of our partnership approach to instate a citizens’ assembly on the climate emergency this summer to advise us on a new carbon plan for the 2020s. Averting climate catastrophe is even harder than bringing the air we breathe up to acceptable levels. The latter is hard and also relies greatly on the actions of others. But it is achievable, if we all set out our roadmaps to get there.

How to accelerate local progress towards carbon neutrality

How to accelerate local progress towards carbon neutrality

From passing a climate emergency motion to a meaningful programme of action

Simon Roberts OBE, Centre for Sustainable Energy, 18 March 2019

The roll-call of local authorities which have passed motions declaring a climate emergency grows day by day. What started in Bristol in November last year has been spreading like a benign virus through council chambers across the land and encouraging councillors of all parties to commit to taking urgent action to cut carbon emissions rapidly to virtually zero.

So what needs to be done locally to turn this fresh political commitment into meaningful programmes of action and participation which genuinely accelerate local progress in cutting emissions?

Beyond a typical response

A typical response would be for a council to commission a swathe of analytical work detailing how the new emissions target embedded in the motion (typically carbon neutral by 2030) might be achieved locally – if at all. The analysts and consultants are called in and everyone waits to find out what the plan is.

This is not a useless exercise; it will tend to produce a list of technological choices (from building retrofit to EV take-up) which details the quantities in which they have to be adopted from now until 2030 to meet the target. But such an exercise misses the point.

The problem is not that we are unfamiliar with the actions which need to be taken to cut emissions such that we must have them spelled out to us (though perhaps some do still want this).

The problem is that the individuals, communities, businesses and organisations that together make up a local area are not yet doing these actions in sufficient quantities to cut emissions fast enough. There are reasons why this is currently the case and it is those ‘reasons’ which must be tackled to accelerate progress.  

So another approach is required if these motions are to generate the meaningful and above all effective programmes of local action which they seek.

Stimulating the great acceleration

This approach involves treating the climate emergency motion as principally a call to accelerate the pace at which we’re collectively making all the changes we already know are required to cut emissions: to scale up, speed up and start up the things we know need to happen and know how to do. And to give up doing things which are incompatible with the local area becoming carbon neutral.

Immediately the focus becomes how to recruit the initiative-takers, enrol the key institutions and businesses, and reach beyond the council to build a partnership of the willing to contribute to the great acceleration in action to cut emissions sought by the motion.

Local authorities differ in the extent to which such wide-ranging and inclusive partnerships are already in place or emerging in their localities. But nurturing one is undoubtedly a necessary condition for success for the society-wide transformation inherent in achieving carbon neutrality.

Within such partnerships and more widely, individual and organisational commitments to contribute need to be concentrated quite specifically on what each individual or organisation is going to do next. Their ‘first next steps’ start from where they find themselves and seek to change something so more can be achieved. The steps must be possible without someone else taking action first (typically ‘national government’). Of course, there’s a need to look at what others with power need to do to make action by everyone easier, cheaper, quicker, better, more inclusive – and lobbying for these changes could be one of the first next steps.

We can’t outsource change

But to leave it there – a list of recommendations for ‘someone else’ to deliver – would be to outsource change. It would be to ignore the role we each have through our own direct actions in our lives and in our work and through the influence we can bring to bear on others. And it would be to underestimate how that role played well can lead to more systemic changes which would re-shape everyone’s actions.

Achieving carbon neutrality needs people and organisations to make huge changes in their own practices and choices and in how they seek to influence others. By doing so they can set new norms of behaviour, drive new initiatives, and secure wider participation. And they help to create the conditions in which others will find it easier to take action themselves and join in – including national politicians and regulators who design market rules and set funding priorities.

That’s why at a recent Bristol Green Capital Partnership event on ‘accelerating progress towards a carbon neutral Bristol’, one of the asks of the 180 attendees from across the city was to make and share their own commitments to ‘next step’ actions ‘at home’, ‘at work’ and ‘in our communities’.

We were putting into action the aphorism ‘If not us then whom? If not now, then when?’, much quoted by proposers of the climate emergency motions in different councils as they closed their debates and moved to a vote. Aside from a resonant rhetorical flourish, the aphorism provides a useful starting point for building the meaningful programme of action and participation required in response to the climate emergency: start with the willing and focus first on what they will commit to do next to accelerate progress.

 

Simon Roberts OBE is Chief Executive of the charity the Centre for Sustainable Energy and a non-executive director of Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC.

Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

The ambition of local leaders to facilitate the transition to clean energy is high. But that ambition is stymied by a lack of capacity and capability when it comes to turning that ambition into reality. UK100 teamed up with policy experts, local leaders, developers and financiers to explore ways to solve this problem. Our answer – develop Clean Energy Action Partnerships, so that national government can build an industrial strategy with local leaders, focussed on place.

 

You can read the full report here:

Financing the Transition

Mapping the UK’s journey to 100% clean energy by 2050 Local Power Map

Mapping the UK’s journey to 100% clean energy by 2050 Local Power Map

All around us people are making smarter, cleaner decisions about how they use and generate energy. From installing electric vehicle charging points to solar arrays on the top of shopping centres, our country is gradually weaning itself of fossil fuels.

But some of this is invisible and many small efforts can be hidden. So UK100 is supporting local leaders

Read More