London’s green recovery

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2020.

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Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

How will you ensure that London’s recovery from COVID-19 has environmental sustainability and fairness at its heart?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

A strong economic recovery and a green recovery are not mutually exclusive. As part of our plans for London’s recovery, I am committed to a Green New Deal for Londoners. This has the potential to combat the challenges of the climate emergency, ecological emergency and our pollution crisis, but it also boosts the economy whilst tackling inequalities. Social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand. Our London Recovery Board has set guiding principles to support a sustainable and fair recovery. These include promoting a fairer London that supports the most vulnerable and delivering sustainability, mitigating climate change and improving London’s resilience, but Government too must also play a part in supporting London, along with the rest of country, with a far-reaching and sustained programme that tackles the climate emergency, improves air quality and improves our green spaces, stimulates economic activity and delivers green jobs. This should involve running economic development packages through a green lens and attaching green strings to bids, channelling public spending into green energy projects, infrastructure and job creation schemes and devolving greater powers to enable cities to implement targeted local green recovery packages.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. I just want to focus in on the green stimulus package. France has implemented a £13 billion package and Germany a £36 billion package. Unfortunately, I think the Government’s £3 billion green stimulus package is going to put us a long way behind our neighbours in terms of decarbonisation and we are going to miss out on crucial economic opportunities in the green sectors. I am particularly concerned about the fact that we have got the leakiest buildings in Europe in this country. The £2 billion Green Homes Fund is a start, but it is really small compared to other countries’ investment in retrofitting. Will you be looking at the potential for carbon savings and long-term savings on bills for Londoners if all our homes were taken up to scratch? How can we lobby the Government for this? It is absolutely crucial that we move forward, because the savings are going to outweigh the costs of such a programme, are they not?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely, and retrofit is central to delivering a green recovery. Also this is a great way to create jobs at a time when unemployment is going to go through the roof. In answer to a question raised by Joanne McCartney [AM], we talked about the importance of devolving skills to cities and regions. If we were in charge in skills, the skills agenda, we could be saying to the Government, “There are potentially a large number of people who are going to be unemployed. They want to be skilled up. There is an opportunity here to create jobs in the future. Give us the budget and the powers and resources” and we can create this green army which, as you said, will not just help with climate change and air quality issues, but also economic prosperity could be a green recovery. It is an opportunity missed. By the way, our partners and competitors, France and Germany, are investing huge amounts to this and in a few years’ time we will be asking the question why they are so ahead and this is the reason why.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

I could not agree more, Mr Mayor, because the kind of jobs that we would be talking about would range, would they not, from the more professional jobs, managing building sites, architects, surveyors, through to the more manual roles that we really need to be investing in, because we have an absolute lack of people who can do the sparkie and brickie roles on the building site, do we not?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely. It is also about diversifying this industry. You think of the sort of modular stuff you can be doing offsite, I think of the stuff we can do in relation to the built environment, so there are huge opportunities here, but also to a better quality of life for Londoners. That is why the Government should have some imagination, but also not be scared to copy ideas that colleagues across Europe are doing, which I think is the way forward.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. It is great that we are addressing this agenda and I really hope that you are able to press the Government to allow both City Hall but also housing associations to have proper access to the pots of funding that are available, because if we can only get access to the £50 million pot, that is just really not going to help the 12% of Londoners who live in fuel poverty right now.