Investment in Climate Change

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

In light of COP26 and the most recent budget from the Chancellor, are you satisfied with the level of investment from the Government into tackling the climate crisis in London and the rest of the country?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

COP26 has underlined that we must do much more to tackle the climate emergency and we need to act now. The Climate Change Committee said that the UK must scale up investment to £50 billion every year from 2030 to deliver net zero. Despite the CSR claiming to deliver £30 billion in public investments for net zero, commitments to date fall well short of what is needed, not even meeting the Government’s manifesto commitment of £9.2 billion.

Focusing investment on the energy efficiency of buildings reduces emissions and tackles fuel poverty, and so I have prioritised securing significant energy efficiency funding for London. This includes £8.5 million for my Warmer Homes programme, an additional £29 million from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and, working with London boroughs, over £120 million through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. I also expect to receive funding from the Government’s Sustainable Warmth funding, but the long-term trend of London losing out on the energy company obligation continues, with London only receiving 4.7% of the fund while contributing 13%.

It is not a good story for transport, either. TfL’s medium-term capital plan asked for up to £1.5 billion of additional funding per year to support decarbonisation including by encouraging public transport over current car journeys. We did not receive any of that funding, and neither will London receive any of the national £1.2 billion bus fund announced in the CSR.

Funding for climate change adaptation is also out of sync with the impacts we are already experiencing. Funding for local adaptation of close to £1 million a year was withdrawn in 2016 and there is currently no Government support for local authorities, businesses or communities. This means there is very limited capacity to include adaptation in development plans, enforce building regulations or require enhanced building standards.

In short, we do not yet have the funding that we need for long-term planning or resourcing we need from the Government to get to net zero or adapt London to a changing climate. That being said, I will continue to do what I can to mobilise funding and finance in London to tackle the climate emergency through the Green New Deal mission, my Energy Efficiency Fund and the development of a finance facility for London.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. I am worried that COP26 should have been a critical moment for the UK to really show climate leadership. I agree with you that [the Rt Hon] Alok Sharma [MP, President for COP26] did a very good job, but I am very concerned that the Chancellor’s Budget has not shown the same ambition that Alok Sharma clearly wanted the summit to deliver.

One of the areas that I am really concerned about is getting business on the page for that transformation. I know that a lot of people in the public sector and councils and obviously the GLA are completely on the page for trying to move on, but there are a lot of businesses that need support from the Government and need clearer guidance. Would you agree with me that we need to be doing more to support businesses moving forward?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Look, let us be frank. We are not going to get to zero carbon and we are not going to address the climate emergency without the private sector playing its role. There is a huge appetite amongst the private sector, but they need support. The Chancellor’s announcement with Mark Carney [former Governor of the Bank of England] during COP26 was welcome. I want London to be the green capital of the world in relation to green finance, in relation to what the FTSE does, the London Stock Exchange and so forth, but they need support from the Government.

I will give you one example where the Government could support businesses. Businesses want to be moving towards futureproof sectors and futureproof jobs. One of the ways is for them to have certainty of work. If the Government wants to say we are going to have retrofitting of buildings, businesses will invest in insulation, triple-glazing, solar panels, training up their staff and so forth. The Government has to give them that. The same goes with electric buses, electric taxis, charging points and infrastructure.

That is why it is really important the Government realises this is an opportunity. There is an awful crisis. We can turn that into an opportunity. If we do not by the way, Germany and France and the others will. We have to make sure we are ahead of the game, particularly post Brexit. What is our role? It is high-skilled, well-paid green jobs.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

Yes, it is about getting that framework so that business is very clear going forward for small and medium enterprises, exactly the opposite of what happened with the feed-in tariff, which was introduced by Ed Miliband [MP] when he was the Secretary of State [for Energy and Climate Change] and was then suddenly destroyed about three years later and hundreds of little companies went under. That is exactly what we do not need.

I just wanted to turn to one other area as well. Biodiversity is often not considered an absolutely critical part of moving forward, but in London we have tried to start moving towards your net zero 2030 target. We need to be thinking about what more biodiversity can do to help us with the carbon sequestration that we clearly need. Is that something that you can work on alone or, again, is that something where we need the Government to be giving clearer signals about how we should move forward?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Of course we want the Government’s support but we can do stuff and we are doing stuff ourselves. Look at the London Plan, which protects our green spaces and protects the Green Belt, but also protects biodiversity and encourages new biodiversity. I was both pleased and slightly concerned to see, because of our policies and other policies from other people, the River Thames is now welcoming back biodiversity. My concern was that apparently sharks have been spotted in the River Thames. That makes me a bit nervous, but it is great news that we are encouraging dolphins, sharks and other wildlife back. We have to be thinking about that. The London Plan and some of the investment announced for green infrastructure supports our biodiversity, but it is crucial.

There is a meeting my Deputy Mayor [for Environment and Energy] Shirley Rodrigues and I are having next week with a leading expert on nature and biodiversity, which will help us think about what really bold pioneering plans we can have in London.

Photo of Leonie Cooper Leonie Cooper Labour

I am very pleased to say that the peregrine falcons that live near Battersea Power Station are alive and well and have actually been fledging quite a number of ‑‑ I do not know whether they are chicks, but they have been having quite large families over the last few years. There is quite a lot of biodiversity in London. Thank you very much, Chair.