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  • Rita Begum

Greener City Ten Year Action Plan

I was pleased to have this opportunity to answer a question put to me by the Lord Mayor of Westminster at Westminster's full council meeting on Wednesday 20th January.

Following is my full response:

Lord Mayor, I am pleased to speak on this question.

Covid has let us witness a massive shift in how to govern from a Competitive model (so liked by our Prime Minister) to that of genuine collaboration.

This change affects the UK and our world-wide relations. And it not only affects public policies, it equally hits the private sector.

We now need to be bold and spell out a pathway to stability.

This need for change, Lord Mayor, is why I am pleased to be standing for election to the GLA as a Labour & Co-operative Party candidate. The Co-op Party has an excellent and long standing tradition in collaboration - which may also help in the working relationship between the Mayor and the Assembly.

Lord Mayor, the Government, Labour Party, and our Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have all been working on the Green agenda for future generations.

Westminster Labour set out a series of commitments in our last Manifesto.

The City Council just adopted most of our ideas –

- ‘20 is plenty’ (for safety and cleaner air); green spaces on poorly used land

- Resident engagement on tree planting

- Use of green walls and roof spaces

- Schemes to promote the use of electric cars and the installation of ‘cycle hanger’ storage.

You could also be forgiven for thinking that the rhetorical statement of “we are all in this together” is just another Trumpianism. However, the issue is much more serious-minded. We will all be judged by our children and youth on the choices we make to tackle the global climate emergency.

Greta Thunberg’s message to the UN helped to sum up public opinion:

“My message is that we'll be watching you.

This is all wrong.

I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Lord Mayor, now let’s review the actions /plans already made by the Government, Labour Party, and Sadiq Khan.

The "Boris" Ten Point Plan

The ex-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has set out a 10-point plan which he hopes will help us bond with President Joe Biden, who has environment at the top of his agenda.

Later this year, we will host a meeting of world leaders on climate change in Glasgow.

As the fifth-largest contributor to global greenhouse emissions and unsustainable environmental footprint, the UK has a special responsibility at this time to take bold actions – although this government is not yet delivering the scale of investment needed to lead the world towards a low carbon future.

Boris Johnson is not being helped in his plan – especially by his friend Rishi Sunak – who supports more spending on defence - where, amusingly, one of the proposals seems to be a need to invest in robot soldiers.

Their overall plan is estimated to require £33 billion a year –with only £4 billion being set aside. Government investment amounts to only 12% of what is needed to meet net zero emissions targets.

A minimum of £10.3 billion/year is also needed to improve public transport and to boost cycling and walking.

As we know, Boris has a goal of “levelling up” So, you can expect any growth in green jobs to reflect that priority in the Red Wall areas – not London.

The government promised a “greenest Government ever.” However, their rhetoric has not led to tangible actions. But, as it is, Boris Johnson, I’m sure, he will invent some World beating proposal to take us away from the truth.

Labour Party ‘Green Economic Recovery’

As we know, the United Nations has warned that we have less than 10 years to avert the worst impacts.

Labour has developed a progressive alternative to the government and proposes the formation of a Green Economic Recovery plan. Such a recovery could support a new industrial revolution. The time has come to harness the technologies of the future.

Labour estimates £30 billion of investment is needed to generate 400,000 green jobs to deal with the Covid-19 economic recovery.

From consultations in 2019, over 2000 businesses, trade unions, policy groups, and NGOs contributed to this new strategy, illustrated by a new 3Rs tradition:

- Recover jobs – invest in green jobs.

- Retrain workers - equip them with skills for green technologies

- Rebuild business – using a secure social contract between Government and business to tackle - Climate and ecology

Labour considers that a credible, jobs-rich green strategy requires coordination, harnessing investment and regulation, alongside local government and the private / voluntary sectors to deliver change.

Lord Mayor, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our cities and economy so that they are cleaner, greener, and more sustainable.

Sadiq Khan’s plan

- Establishing a £10million Green Deal investment fund to boost jobs to tackle the climate emergency and address inequalities. The first phase to secure around 1,000 jobs for Londoners and will address inequalities exposed by the pandemic – funding to support those most likely to experience cold, damp homes, poor air quality and limited access to green space.

- Making London a zero-carbon city by 2030, faster than any comparable city.

- Declaring a climate emergency - amongst the first three cities in the world (alongside New York and Paris).

- Introducing a climate action plan compatible with the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement and keeping rising temperatures to below 1.5oC

- Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, retrofitting public buildings and social housing, cycling and walking schemes

- Divesting pension funds from fossil fuels.

- Tackling toxic air pollution and climate change and by making walking and cycling easier and safer.

- Establishing a Green Finance Institute to help maximise private sector investment to achieve zero carbon targets by 2030

Lord Mayor, I am impressed by the progress of the Labour Party, and Sadiq Khan, in developing a framework, and would be pleased to contribute towards the next steps.


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