Green London – one step forward, one step back?

It’s clear that environmental issues have made great strides in recent years. Home recycling is now the norm, organic and sustainable food continues to grow in popularity and low emissions vehicles are becoming a reality.

And so here at Green Abode we’re always on the look out for the green good news, and we’ve noticed a fair bit of press recently on London’s green credentials.

As the UK’s capital, it would be expected that this great city would lead the way in environmental initiatives, but we’ve found mixed messages out there. While European cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam are truly trailblazing with their sustainable living policies, for London, it seems to be a case of one step forwards, and one step back.

Let’s start with the good news.

Source London expands electric car charging

One positive transport initiative is the launch of Source London, the capital’s first city-wide electric charge point network, making it much easier for electric vehicle owners to recharge.

Source London features 150 new charge points, and is the capital’s largest charging network. The scheme plans to expand to some 1,300 charging points by 2013. That’s more than the number of existing petrol stations in London.

Members of Source London pay £100 a year to charge up their electric vehicle as many times as they need. It’s hoped that a UK-wide charging network will eventually be created, following in the footsteps of the London model.

As well as the new Source London charge points there are already around 250 publicly-accessible vehicle charging posts in the city. Electric vehicles are also totally exempt from the London congestion charge.

London also leads the UK in electric vehicle usage, with some 17,000 hybrid and solely electric cars in the capital – around a quarter of the UK’s total.

Eco initiatives for London 2012 Olympics

London is also planning a range of green initiatives in time for the 2012 Olympics. These include low energy lighting for many of the city’s landmark buildings, upgrading homes to be more energy efficient and making the Olympic village as eco friendly as possible. Transport for athletes, coaches and organisers throughout the Olympics will be in electric vehicles where possible.

Other positive developments include London’s Great Outdoors scheme. This has already seen the redevelopment of Brixton town square and the new diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus. Exhibition Row, Pall Mall and Piccadilly will also all see major traffic flow improvements in time for the Olympics.

The re:leaf project is aiming to plant thousands of trees in streets around the capital for 2012. And the entire Olympic Park is being built with the environment in mind, including ambitious recycling and sustainable materials targets.

Tower Bridge is also due an eco makeover, with the installation of special green LED lights to reduce power consumption, and the new hybrid powered Routemaster bus is due to be launched in 2012.

So that’s the good news, but what about some less flattering London environmental stories?

Green & Eco London

Headlines from the past few days suggest that London is going one step forward, one step backward with their eco agenda

London’s green spaces under threat

A new study, ‘London: Garden City?’, made in conjunction with the London Wildlife Trust, has revealed that London’s green spaces are disappearing. Almost a quarter of Greater London is currently made up of green spaces, but this is shrinking at an alarming rate.

And it’s partly homeowners who are to blame, with the recent trend for replacing lawns and borders with decking and paving helping to reduce the capital’s green space by the equivalent of two and a half Hyde Parks a year.

New housing developments are also taking their toll on London’s greenery, with an average of 500 gardens or parts of gardens lost to development each year.

“As established by this report, London’s gardens cover a vast area. But the speed and scale of their loss is alarming,” said Mathew Frith, Deputy Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust. “Collectively these losses detrimentally affect London’s wildlife and impact on our ability to cope with climate change.”

“It’s never been more important that Londoners understand the value of our capital’s gardens. A well managed network of the city’s 3.8 million gardens support essential wildlife habitat and offer important environmental benefits in response to climate change including sustainable urban drainage.”

London air quality targets compromised

In a separate development, London mayor Boris Johnson has been facing pressure from London Assembly members to increase efforts to tackle air pollution. It comes in the wake of a government bid to revise the capital’s EU air quality targets so that it avoids fines for breaching EU pollution limits. London has already exceeded its existing EU pollution limits for 2011.

Now the London Assembly Environment Committee has said that the mayor should go further than the EU targets and create super low emissions zones in London’s most polluted neighbourhoods. It also said that not enough was being done to reduce taxi exhaust emissions. The committee recognised that the mayor was trying to reduce London’s pollution, but was not going far enough.

Olympic flame won’t be eco friendly

And in a story which perhaps best demonstrates that London has a way to go in becoming a top-flight eco city, it’s been revealed that the Olympic flame for the London 2012 Games will not be running on low-carbon fuel.

Olympic organisers Locog admitted that time run out to develop a green Olympic torch, due to ‘operational reasons’. It’s a shame that with all the millions spent on the Olympics, the torch itself, such an important image of the games, couldn’t become an environmental icon itself.

The eco future for London

So it’s clear that while there are plenty of eco projects to applaud in London, we’ve still a way to go to make our capital compete with the leading European green cities. Keep your eyes on Green Abode news for the latest developments in London’s green agenda.

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