Climate Emergency and C40 Cities Group

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

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Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

With reference to your newly acquired role as Chair of the C40 Cities group, how will you be using this global platform to address the climate emergency?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I am honoured to have been elected as Chair of the C40 Cities network representing nearly 100 cities from around the globe. That is over 700 million people and a quarter of the global economy. The world is at a crossroads in the fight against climate change. More than half of the world’s population live in cities and this will grow to around 70% by 2050. Cities are at the forefront of climate change and are central to solving it.

I have three key priorities for the role. The first is addressing the twin dangers of air pollution and climate change. Second, I want to ensure that our recovery from the pandemic addresses the inequalities that have been exacerbated in our cities by the pandemic. I have said that two-thirds of C40’s next annual budget will support action in the Global South cities that have contributed least to climate action but are most severely affected by its impacts. Thirdly, I will be calling on national governments to stop delaying and act now or let cities get on with it.

Cities are leading by example. More than 1,000 cities have already pledged to halve their emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Governments around the world must empower their cities to do even more by devolving the necessary powers and funding.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. I know it has been referred to plenty of times in this meeting before but let me congratulate you on your role as the C40 Chair. I know it is an incredibly proud moment probably not only for you, but for all of London to have us on that global platform and that should be rightly recognised by this Chamber.

At the COP26 summit, you led a delegation of city leaders and since then have said that you have been inundated with requests from fellow mayors around the globe about the ULEZ and the expansion of the Zone, and the work that you are doing in London. Looking closer to home, how are you working with other members of the C40 group and with the Government to spread the best practice that we are seeing in London with other cities?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, we should be proud of the progress that we have made the last five years, not only working with the 97 cities on the C40 but working with UK100, which are 100 towns, cities, regions and villages in the UK doing great work in this area.

One of the things I am really proud of is we have in London this thing called Breathe London, the biggest network of air quality monitors of any city in the world, which let us understand in real time how bad the air was. That is going to be rolled out globally to Breathe Global with the generosity of our donors, so that other cities can see in real time how bad the air is and take action. One of the problems we have is you cannot see this stuff, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide. It is not like the smog in the 1950s. That is why it is so important to measure it.

There are other examples of good practice we are sharing from Barcelona to Bogota, from Dundee to Birmingham, and other good things we are doing. This week when I met with Andy Street [CBE], the Mayor of West Midlands we discussed his experiences of the Clean Air Zone and ours with the ULEZ. We need that synergy because national governments are kicking the can down the road to 2035, 2045 and 2060. The point Zack [Polanski AM] made is that I have said that the cities are doers whereas governments are delayers.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Mr Mayor, a lot of the work that you have done in London appears to be in the absence of Government action. What would you like to see the Government take forward immediately to make sure that cities across our country can benefit from clean air?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The first thing they have to do is make sure we have a deal in three weeks’ time for TfL. We are not going to encourage people to use public transport and to walk and cycle when we are having to reduce services. That will lead to a car-led recovery, replacing one health crisis, COVID, with another one, poor air quality.

What the Government has to do is have a plan, though - and Léonie [Cooper AM] referred to this - around the Green New Deal. If the Government invested in electric buses across the country, better quality air, less emissions, and jobs being created around the country building these buses from Ballymena to Falkirk, from Scarborough to Leeds, from Guildford to other parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands. The same goes for electric taxis and so forth. The Government has to realise that this crisis is actually an opportunity and it is a virtuous circle. Particularly post-Brexit we can now be making sure these buses are made in the UK, which is a good example of London helping the rest of the country because 9,000 of these buses are in London, and a good example of why the Government giving us a deal in three weeks’ time benefits jobs around the country. The Piccadilly line trains are made in Goole. The electric buses are made in Falkirk, Ballymena and parts of Yorkshire. It is really important for the Government to understand that unless it gets involved, not only will we not address the twin challenges of climate change and air quality, but it will lead to jobs that are futureproofed and well-paid.

Photo of Krupesh Hirani Krupesh Hirani Labour

Following on from the ULEZ, there was a report recently that showed that Londoners are ditching diesel vehicles six times greater than the rest of the country. With this in mind, are there any other further messages you can send to the Government on pollution from vehicles and how that can boost manufacturing? Will you commit to working with manufacturers to get some of that data on what it actually means to the economy of this country?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, but you raised a really important point about the pivoting from polluting diesels to electric. I am in favour of the West Midlands getting the Gigafactory and I was very disappointed with the Transport Secretary talking against that in favour of Coventry Airport. This is a good example of me being an ally to the Mayor of West Midlands. I wanted them to get the factory because they make the electric batteries. We do not do it in London. I would rather, with respect to my friends in mainland Europe, those jobs go to the West Midlands than other parts of the globe.

We have to think about this particularly in the context of security. There has been a big discussion about energy price increases and the lack of security of energy supply. The same must go for the supply chain generally speaking. Let us try to think about how we can use the crisis of climate change to provide opportunities. That is a really good example of the pivot from diesel to cleaner forms of transport.

Where do we think these electric taxis - more than 4,400 in London, more than any city in the country - are made? They are made in the West Midlands, in Coventry. I visited the factory recently. The same goes for extra buses. We have record numbers of cycle hire bikes. They are not made in London; they are made in the East Midlands and Stoke-on-Trent. It is really important that the Government realises there are opportunities here. I am really proud, by the way, to have fewer diesel vehicles in London, to have fewer diesel buses in London and to have incredibly clean vehicles being used in London. The ideal of course is public transport, walking and cycling and that is why the next three weeks are so important.