We need to remove all motor vehicles, including buses, from the core of London

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Transport for London says there are too many buses in Central London. I agree. With Crossrail opening up fully accessible new routes, it is time to review how to make best use of limited road space with a rapidly increasing population.

The Routemaster is

  • 12.65 tons
  • 11.3 metre long
  • 2.52 metre wide
  • with jutting wing mirrors

This is a mammoth motor vehicle to fit into contested and congested Central  London streets. Bus on bus congestion is also a problem.

It squeezes and marginalises pedestrians and cyclists into narrow, crowded corners where blind spots exist. We know from Darren Johnson research in 2014 that buses are just as dangerous for cyclists as HGVs. We know that Oxford Street is the most dangerous road in the UK for pedestrians.

Oxford Street and central London have a wealth of underground stations. Making it one of the most connected districts in the UK.  Crossrail will build on this accessibility. when it opens next year, However we must extend the job centre plus travel discount to the Underground, Overground and Crossrail as well as bus and trams.

We need to make the core of London traffic free to accommodate a growing pedestrian and cycling community. Walking and cycling are the most space efficient modes. I have recently visited Copenhagen and Brussels where motor vehicles have been completely removed from their central core. These areas are so successful that they are being expanded, largely led by the community.

And with new pedicabs, rickshaws or apps like pedalmeapp emerging we have a growing space efficient and accessible taxi options .

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Yes we need to update  the Congestion charge, making it 24/7, removing exemptions and making Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles like Uber pay the full cost of their use of our prime road space. This will help restore a more efficient bus system where it is most needed.

But we also need to update the core of our city. Protecting our most vulnerable citizens from the impact of 12 ton motor vehicles.

My New Manifesto

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Key policies 2018-20

Policy that will prepare us for the best quality of life in a fossil fuel free world.

We are told that we have a ‘carbon budget’. I believe that is a false narrative. We already have a dangerously warming world, caused by man-made emissions. We have frittered away any ‘carbon budget’ on the false dawn of ‘transition’ gas, ‘clean diesel’ and ‘hybrids’

The reality is we are now surrounded with fossil fuel stranded assets. All the fossil fuel cars that line our streets, petrol, diesel, hybrid (there are very few pure electric cars). And everyone that is holding onto a fossil fuel car, for that ‘occasional’ trip, is also part of the problem.

Dinosaur fossil fuel cars are clogging up public space that could be for safe walking and cycling. These redundant cars, wasting valuable space, are slowing the move to walking, cycling for the 68% of UK car journeys that are under 5 miles. Car parking on public land could also be re-purposed for local food growing, biodiversity, sustainable urban drainage and carbon absorbing trees.

And then we have all the ‘transition’ gas boilers and gas cookers.

Imagine if tomorrow was the first day we could no longer burn fossil fuels. We would wake up to a world where most of us couldn’t have a hot shower, heat our home or cook breakfast. We have invested an enormous amount of embedded carbon in ‘transition’ gas central heating. It will take enormous energy, jobs, cash and embedded carbon to extricate us from this strategic failure. We must be more focused. And get the strategy right this time.

Meanwhile a large part of our electricity is fossil fuel (Gas and Coal) generated.

Current energy demand is far outpacing our ability to produce renewables, meaning we continue to burn fossil fuel to meet that demand. So radically cutting energy use to meet renewables is also absolutely vital. This is where energy allowances play a vital role.

We are no longer in ‘transition’ we are in countdown to a zero net carbon world ASAP.

The IPCC report makes that abundantly clear:

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN

“There is nothing opaque about this new data. The illustrations of mounting impacts, the fast-approaching and irreversible tipping points are visceral versions of a future that no policy-maker could wish to usher in or be responsible for.” – Christiana Figueres

So lets call what we have now, what it really is, a ‘damage limitation carbon budget’.

And lets start establishing a hierarchy of carbon investment for the common good.

For instance why are we investing heavily in electric car infrastructure when there are viable alternatives such as walking and cycling that can replace the majority of short car journeys? And why haven’t we even begun to de-carbonise heating?

Data now has the same carbon footprint as aviation. A rapid rise in data processing has increased our energy use substantially. How can we use data more efficiently? And how can we stop getting sucked into pyramid schemes, invented by tech companies to maximise their profit, where there is no running product but just the ‘hope of the company’.

The reality is that automation of logic has been impossible. Complexity boundaries were reached. And Driverless ‘innovation’ is nothing more than a pyramid of wobbly cards.

Here are my key policies:

  1. Regular car-free, fly-free and work-free days to cut emissions (Direct, immediate action)
  2. World fossil fuel free days (we need many trials to experience what this looks like and where we need to be better prepared)
  3. Free cycles for everyone and free secure cycle parking (This must be the mainstream go-to for personal journeys under 5 miles)
  4. A hierarchy of energy use for the common good. (Where cooking, heating and hot showers are higher priorities for renewables than low occupancy, inefficient  electric cars and data proliferation)
  5. De-carbonise heating, hot water and cooking ASAP (Millions of green jobs urgently needed with appropriate training)
  6. Free trees for every garden  (on private land in the UK as well as mass planting on public land. Trees absorb carbon and are a critical part of climate action) Every tree and woodland in the UK must be listed and protected.
  7. Resident allotment permits for food growing on current wasteful resident parking spaces. Perishable greens are high carbon because of the quantity that is degraded in transport. Food security is important. As is locally sourced produce needed to reduce road /air miles
  8. A ban on advertising for planet destroying consumerables (car adverts, meat and long distance flights /holidays).
  9. Concern about high energy use of tech promoted for per the mile road pricing. (Telematics is a high energy user of data Not appropriate for  a low carbon, low energy future. Energy use allowances would be far more effective at reducing car use. We need to address  the cause not the symptom).
  10. Ban automation in motor vehicles (Not safe or proven technology. No algorithmic transparency of accountability. It is a very high energy user (there are 100 computers on one Automated Vehicle, equivalent to boiling 3 electric kettles continuously) plus radar, sensors and cameras. Mostly designed for data harvesting and surveillance.
  11. Carbon, energy and data allowances for everyone (Energy allowances will allow people to choose between a hot shower, downloading a Netflix boxset or using a car to drive a few miles down the road)
  12. Switch investment and jobs away from the car industry and road building to pinning solar to every roof possible ASAP (The car industry is stranded assets and jobs whilst solar is an urgent imperative for a low energy low carbon future)
  13. Transparent, easily accessible carbon accounting at all levels of Government and Business (With indirect carbon from energy use recorded as well as direct carbon).
  14. Extend job centre plus travel discount to all public transport
  15. Basic income (that is nothing to do with Artificial Intelligence but about reducing the working week to 3-4 days to cut energy use and for quality community and family life).
  16. Education on how to use  ICT (Information and communications technology) that is not wasteful of energy. For instance don’t travel via google maps. Plan your journey ahead or use a map. Borrow CDs and DVDs from libraries rather than Netflix and streaming.
  17. Producing software that is efficient means energy allowances must be applied. Current wasteful and lazy software is burning energy needlessly
  18. Stopping data proliferation that is used for mass surveillance, data harvesting and selling us stuff we don’t need.
  19. No forced personal data on the Electoral Register (democracy must be free of outside interference)
  20. Algorithmic transparency and accountability.
  21. Tax under-occupation of dwellings. We could house the entire UK population again in the current unoccupied bedrooms. Make more efficient use of current housing stock through taxation. Cutting cement and steel emissions means a radical transformation in the way we build and maintain housing
  22. Treat plastic as toxic waste Stop producing the stuff. And man-made toxic plastic derivative textiles too. Acrylics nylon spandex. Fleeces are one of the worst. No more lycra cycling gear!
  23. Cycle only streets and hire bikes at all train stations and bus interchanges. 
  24. Licence pedicabs and apps like pedalmeapp and move to last mile delivery by cargo bike. 
  25. Give every citizen the choice to live a carfree lifestyle with suitable infrastructure and financial incentives
  26. Mass rewilding of roads to restore nature, biodiversity, carbon absorbing tree cover and flood mitigation.
  27. EU directive draft proposal
  • Every village, town and city in the European Union must have a walking and cycling network.
  • Everyone must have the opportunity to walk and cycle safely going about their daily life.
  • This must be backed up by an integrated, accessible  and joined up Public Transport Network
  • Ban motor traffic from the core of every town, city and village

This manifesto appears in this Lloyd Alter article on treehugger.com

https://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/ipcc-says-we-have-12-years-cut-carbon-45-what-does-look.html

KEY POLICIES 2016-20

  • Ban diesel (Petrol and Hybrids ) all fossil fuel generated transport in London starting in the central inner city boroughs, roughly zones 1 & 2 and then progressively encompassing the outer boroughs. Setting out a clear and focused plan to switch public transport and commercial from diesel at the earliest possible date.
  •  Ban all private cars from Central London starting with non-residential and moving quickly to a full ban.
  • Prioritise walking and cycling with proportionate representation on TFL board, road space allocation and budget.
  •  Create a Car-free Cycling network across Greater London Meanwhile continue installing protected cycle lanes on the main arteries.
  • Reclaim car parks as brownfield sites to house key workers, at reasonable rents and linked to their jobs in the vicinity.
  • Rationalise commercial vehicles by capping PHVs, Taxis and Car Club hire vehicles. Encourage and incentivise cargo bike light delivery. Create transit permits per journey, based on size and environmental impact in central London for delivery, freight and contractor vehicles.
  •  Plant one million trees throughout London Trees absorb pollution, rainfall (to reduce flooding) increase mental well being as well as other health benefits. They also help ameliorate damaging effects of Climate Change.
  •  Make solar power an integral part of new builds

 

These policies will

Save time More reliable journey times for commercial transport as well as commuting and leisure quicker emergency times

School children walking and cycling to school safely reduces congestion at rush hour

Unlock space – On public highway for protected cycle lanes, bus lanes, pedestrianisation For housing from car parks, garages On crowded public transport

Save money – Costs of road building / maintenance NHS costs from inactivity, air pollution, urban diabetes, noise pollution, road casualties Economic costs of congestion

Improve quality of life More liveable environment, safer streets, cutting noise pollution, air pollution, severance, quicker waiting times for NHS

Create social cohesion Walking and cycling the great equalisers

Increase self-empowerment – To literally self-power (walking, cycling, solar energy) is liberating in a world where democratic rights have been subsumed to corporations

Reduce inequality – The congestion charge and road pricing advantages wealthy car drivers, at the expense of low income Londoners. A ban is much fairer. Creating space for everyone, no matter income level, to cycle and walk is far more democratic use of space. Solar energy given to low income families would reduce fuel poverty.

The European Charter of Pedestrian’s Rights

European Charter of Pedestrians’ Rights (1988)

What follows is the full text of legislation adopted by The European Parliament in 1988.  ensuring the health, dignity and freedom of all road users including vulnerable ‘walkers and wheelers’ (e.g. pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users).

It includes

  • Pedestrians have a right to not have parking ruin their walking experience.
  •  The provision of bicycle lanes throughout the urban areas
  • Universal access to public transport is a basic human right

Many member states have failed to enshrine this charter with legislation putting these rights into practice. 


I.  The pedestrian has the right to live in a healthy environment and freely to enjoy the amenities offered by public areas under conditions that adequately safeguard his physical and psychological well-being.

II.  The pedestrian has the right to live in urban or village centres tailored to the needs of human beings and not to the needs of the motor car and to have amenities within walking or cycling distance.

III.  Children, the elderly and the disabled have the right to expect towns to be places of easy social contact and not places that aggravate their inherent weakness.

IV.  The disabled have the right to specify measures to maximise mobility, such as the elimination of architectural obstacles and the adequate equipping of public means of transport.

V.  The pedestrian has the right to urban areas which are intended exclusively for his use, are as extensive as possible and are not mere ‘pedestrian precincts’ but in harmony with the overall organisation of the town.

VI.  The pedestrian has a particular right to expect;

(a)  compliance with chemical and noise emission standards for motor vehicles which scientists consider to be tolerable;

(b)  the introduction into all public transport systems of vehicles that are not a source of either air or noise pollution;

(c)  the creation of ‘green lungs’, including the planting of trees in urban areas;

(d)  the control of speed limits by modifying the layout of roads and junctions (e.g. by incorporating safety islands etc.), so that motorists adjust their speed, as a way of effectively safeguarding pedestrian and bicycle traffic;

(e)  the banning of advertising which encourages an improper and dangerous use of the motor car;

(f)  an effective system of road signs whose design also takes into account the needs of the blind and the deaf;

(g)  the adoption of specific measures to ensure that vehicular and pedestrian traffic has ease of access to, and freedom of movement and the possibility of stopping on, roads and pavements respectively (for example: anti-slip pavement surfaces, ramps at kerbs to compensate for the difference in the levels of pavement and roadway, roads made wide enough for the traffic they have to carry, special arrangements while building work is in progress, adaptation of the urban street infrastructure to protect motor car traffic, provision of parking and rest areas and subways and footbridges);

(h)  the introduction of the system of risk liability so that the person creating the risk bears the financial consequences thereof (as has been the case in France, for example, since 1985).

VII.  The pedestrian has the right to complete and unimpeded mobility, which can be achieved through the integrated use of the means of transport. In particular, he has the right to expect;

(a)  an extensive and well-equipped public transport service which will meet the needs of all citizens, from the physically fit to the disabled;

(b)  the provision of bicycle lanes throughout the urban areas;

(c)  the creation of parking lots which affect neither the mobility of pedestrians nor their ability to enjoy areas of architectural distinction.

VIII.  Each Member State must ensure that comprehensive information on the rights of pedestrians is disseminated through the most appropriate channels and is made available to children from the beginning of their school career.

Thank you to Tom Dhollander of FEPA Federation of European Pedestrians for alerting me to this charter.

A public health campaign to educate and inform the public on the dangers of car culture

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Severed from the community,  divided by dangerous roads

Firstly we must establish that the public does not understand the true cost of the current car culture. Cars are a sledgehammer to crack the nut of personal transport when viable alternatives such as active travel are possible for the majority of short car journeys. (In 2014, in Great Britain 6% of car driver trips were under one mile. The proportion under 5 miles was 56%).

If the public understood the harm that cars have to human health and the environment, they may understand better the case for active travel. There has been no Government public health campaign to educate the public on this subject.

Car advertising has been brainwashing the public into a fantasy of freedom and ‘safety’ for the last 50 years. Well funded and organised car lobbyists have ensured that Government and the public purse pays for the externalities of driving and the expensive infrastructure that facilitates it.

The cost of cars are well established and span a whole range of departments from Health to the Environment to the Treasury to the Climate Change act.

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A14 destroys nature Up to a kilometre each side

Conversely the public has little understanding of how active travel can be cheaper, quicker, more convenient, better for their health and the environment and good for social cohesion and equality.

Solution

Ban car advertising as was done with tobacco.

Every car must have a sticker saying it is dangerous to human health and the environment.

A public health campaign explaining the dangers and cost of cars.

A public health campaign explaining the advantages of active travel and the risks of everyday inactivity.

Making the case for investment in walking and cycling infrastructure that is physically separated from motor traffic will make it feel and be safe for everyone, of all ages and abilities.

Informing the public on how paying people to walk and cycle is good for public health and the environment.

Creating the buzz with a free cycle for every UK citizen

 

Cars: a sledgehammer to crack the nut of personal transport

 

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Destruction to humans:

  • Air pollution
  • Road danger
  • Water pollution
  • Carbon emissions
  • Obesity and inactivity

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Destruction to nature:

Virtually all of western Europe, the eastern US and Japan have no areas at all that are unaffected by roads. The scientists considered that land up to a kilometre on each side of a road was affected, which they believe is a conservative estimate. Loss of biodiversity threatens the natural systems of nature that we all depend on. Germany has seen a massive collapse in insects. France has seen a coillapse in its bird population. Bees are in rapid decline.

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Destruction to our lived environment:

Severance means risking your life just to pick up a pint of milk. I met this family of a mother and three children trying to cross a dangerous street where there is no safe crossing. She does this journey nearly every day.

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The Embedded Carbon of the Elizabeth Line

This is the answer to my Freedom of Information question to Transport for London on the embedded carbon in construction of the Elizabeth Line. My question was:

Please can I  have the entire embodied carbon of the Elizabeth Line, including stations, tunnels and signalling equipment etc?

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Our Ref: FOI-0851-1819

Thank you for your request received on 2 July 2018 asking for information about the embodied carbon of the Elizabeth Line.

Total emissions of carbon dioxide from the construction phase of the Crossrail project are estimated to be in the order of 1.7 million tonnes of CO2. More information & supporting documents can be found on Crossrail’s learning legacy website:

https://learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk/learning-legacy-themes/environment/energy-efficiency-and-carbon/

Once the railway is operational, there will be annual savings in the order of 70,000 to 225,000 tonnes of CO2, largely due to the displacement of car journeys and replacement of diesel trains on the existing network. The ‘payback’ period is therefore between 7 and 26 years after opening, with the most likely range being 9 to 13 years after opening, beyond which there will be net savings in CO2. The variation in the figures also factor in possible differences in service operating patterns and specification of rolling stock.

Crossrail’s carbon footprint development and measurement provides a benchmark for future rail projects. A spreadsheet based tool was developed to measure the overall carbon footprint through Scope 1, 2, 3 in construction and also over 120 years of operation. A further tool, described herein, was developed to forecast and monitor the ongoing construction carbon footprint (Scopes 1 & 2) to enable the project to determine if it was on target to achieve its target reduction. The Manual and Excel based models for both are included as supporting documents. You can access the manual & excel based models & supporting documents here:

https://learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk/documents/crossrail-construction-energy-model/

My further questions would be:

  1. Does this include cement emissions produced outside the UK?
  2.  I need to ask a few people to put 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 into context
  3. I would also like to know the carbon footprint of running the Elizabeth Line.
  4. How does embedded carbon of the East /West cycle superhighway compare?

Why we need to prioritise electric heating infrastructure over electric vehicle infrastructure

When I visited Copenhagen in March this year, I saw something that troubled me and I have been digesting it for the last 4 months.

I was in the city to look at the cycling  and walking bridges and on my first day I visited the new ‘Kissing bridge’ at Nyhavn and saw this.

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So I asked a man walking across the bridge if he spoke English and could tell me what the plumes of smoke were? By serendipity he spoke English AND he worked in Energy. So  he explained to me the chimneys were coal, new Biomass and waste incineration for district heating.

It was very cold in Copenhagen on that day. It had been snowing and there was a wind chill by the harbour. It smelt strongly of air pollution.

The next day I was taken on a guided cycle ride of both the cycling bridges and some of the tourist spots. I snapped this alternative view of the Little Mermaid.

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The narrative on the world stage is that Denmark is a world leader in renewable wind energy and is sometimes hitting more than 100% of its energy use with renewables. But for me the polluting plumes of smoke jarred with this image.

In another conversation with an employee in  local government, I was told that they rely on our waste being shipped from UK for waste incineration to heat homes because they have gotten too good with their recycling!

I had very personal reasons for being interested in how an advanced country like Denmark was managing heating energy. In 2015 our communal boiler was decommissioned and it was decided to install individual boilers in the 4 flats in our block.

Two of my neighbours decided to go for gas boilers and one for electric. And meanwhile I waited for two years without heating, conflicted as to which was the right investment,  gas or electric central heating? My instinct told me electric but all the experts were saying gas boilers were x 3 more efficient.

The first winter without heating was very mild and short and it was not a big sacrifice but the second one was harsh and long and  all the warming bowls of  porridge and layers of woolly jumpers were not working. On very cold winter evenings I was sitting shivering in my coat and I eventually got the flu. So I finally plumped for an efficient gas boiler which was installed in November 2017.

There are still plenty of reasons I don’t like burning ‘transition’ gas. Political (over reliance on dodgy regimes), energy security and environmental. It pollutes and it fries the planet. I think it is a false dawn.

Investing in Electric Vehicle infrastructure before electric heating infrastructure is leaving us with messed up priorities, where a car is more important than heating or cooking. We are about to hit zero net carbon quicker than anticipated. And we are woefully unprepared for renewable generated essential energy for cooking and heating.

 

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There seems to have been a skewed logic at play here. Inefficient electric cars have been sold to the Climate community as good and desirable.( Even though in a city like London we should be able to provide alternatives for nearly all personal journeys by walking, cycling and public transport) But inefficient electric boilers and infrastructure are bad and we must keep burning gas? also remembering that gas boilers are a source of air pollution.

Electric rapid chargers are popping up on pavements in London, with added pavement obstruction and trip hazard…I am told that rapid chargers are less likely to run off renewable energy because of the speed of the electricity demand at the wrong times of day.

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On twitter last week I was in a conversation with someone, based in India, who initially disagreed with my position. He seemed intelligent so I persisted with the discussion. We got on the subject of bitcoin.

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He also told me that he recently learnt that the Danish government will be using public subsidised windmills to power the upcoming data centres of private tech corporations such as google and Microsoft. As he said ‘Messed up priorities’ using public resources for private companies. And no sign of heating and cooking becoming 100% renewable? It will be the citizens of Bangladesh and Africa who first become victims of ‘messed up priorities’ when Climate Meltdown causes unbearable heat or flooding. But citizens of UK may find themselves unable to source clean energy diverted to electric cars and data centres.

The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry

I can foresee a city where electric cars for a small elite and mass surveillance and data harvesting are possible to access from renewables but gas is unburnable for essential cooking and heating. Unless we prioritise electric heating infrastructure NOW we are following in the wrong carbon footprints. We are no longer in transition, we are on countdown to zero net carbon.

At a recent meeting on Climate Change, I was lucky to have a long conversation about the hierarchy of energy use with an expert on wind energy. He sent me this this report, prepared jointly by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). It identifies key barriers and highlights policy options to boost renewable energy deployment.

Among the key findings:

  • Renewable energy policies must focus on end-use sectors, not just power generation;
  • The use of renewables for heating and cooling requires greater policy attention, including dedicated targets, technology mandates, financial incentives, generation-based incentives, and carbon or energy taxes;
  • Policies in the transport sector require further development, including integrated policies to decarbonise energy carriers and fuels, vehicles and infrastructure;
  • Policies in the power sector must also evolve further to address new challenges.
  • Measures are needed to support the integration of variable renewable energy, taking into account the specific characteristics of solar and wind power
  • Achieving the energy transition requires holistic policies that consider factors beyond the energy sector itself.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of policy measures available to address such challenges.

The first and second  point is most relevant to my position that we need a hierarchy of energy use for he common good where essential cooking and heating are prioritised.  These represent end-use sectors that are prioritised for quality of life of all citizens, not a selected few.

  • Renewable energy policies must focus on end-use sectors, not just power generation;
  • The use of renewables for heating and cooling requires greater policy attention, including dedicated targets, technology mandates, financial incentives, generation-based incentives, and carbon or energy taxes;

Low occupancy cars must be way down the hierarchy for the common good in London. As must data harvesting, mass surveillance and automation.

  1. We need a hierarchy of energy use for the common good prioritising renewables for essential use like water, food production , cooking and heating and public transport
  2. Rationing of energy use and introducing allowances.
  3. Decarbonisation of heating and cooking. Electrifying boilers and electric cooking appliances

 

 

Road Pricing in London

Road pricing is one tool (within London Mayoral powers) to address the externalities of motor traffic. Cars are a major polluter of the air and water in London. Whether from  particulates generated by brake, tyre and road wear or emissions from the tailpipe.

Motor traffic dominates and consumes large parts of  public space in the city, impeding safe sustainable active travel.  Congestion creates an inefficient and stagnant environment, delaying buses, essential commercial and emergency services. Cars are now the fastest growing contributor to Climate Meltdown. These are but a few of the externalities.

Recent research shows  Air pollution spikes are directly linked to hospitalisation. There have so far been nine high air pollution alerts in London under Sadiq Khan’s Mayoralty.

I have been told it is within Mayoral powers to raise the Congestion Charge on high air pollution days to reduce motor traffic pollution. One wonders why this has not been done immediately, given the serious correlation between air pollution spikes and hospitalisation? Surely that is a moral imperative?

This article describes how children are being hospitalised this Summer because of illegal air pollution. It makes the most visceral case for employing  road charging to save lives and improve public health.

Guddi Singh, a paediatric doctor in London, writes:

‘The cocktail of pollution and pollen in London kills people. Politicians should spend a night on the wards to see the harm.

I sat by (children’s) beds as they writhed, struggling for air, their small bodies wracked with coughs. It is a kind of torture, to fear for your next breath. You can see the sheer terror in the children’s eyes.’

The toxicity charge, introduced by the Mayor in 2017,  has cut the number of polluting vehicles entering Central London by about 1000 per day (Mon-Fri 7am-6pm) but this is simply tinkering in the context of an escalating public health crisis.

At its most basic the Congestion Charge helps make space for desirable road transport. In the Mayor’s Transport strategy 2018 the target of 80% of personal journeys by walking , cycling and public transport requires prioritisation of space for pedestrianisation, wider footways, segregated cycling lanes and priority bus lanes. Janette Sadik Khan has said that road pricing IS a priority bus measure.

Ken LIvingstone understood the strategic importance of the Congestion Charge for thevbuses. When it was introduced in 2003 it was very successful in improving reliability.

Failure by the Mayor to update the Congestion Charge, has not only delayed bus reliability but has made it more difficult for councils to introduce safer walking and cycling schemes. It is imortant to prepare the ground so there is less motor traffic when walking and cycling schemes go in. This makes the transition easier. .

Quick wins would see the current congestion charge hours extended from a third of the week (7am -6pm Mon-Fri) to 24/7. I have written more about this in my blog Private car problem solved in London? Not according to 24/7 data.

Additionally current exemptions could be removed. TFL are currently consulting on removing exemptions for non zero emission capable private hire vehicles like Uber. However this does not address the externalities of congestion from inefficient use of prime road space or particulate air and water pollution from brake tyre and road wear. And Taxis and other polluting motor vehicles are not included in the consultation.

Meanwhile the price of the Congestion Charge could simply be raised to meet a quantified, most desirable and efficient number of motor vehicles on central London streets.

The newly approved Silvertown Tunnel has been sold as a source of road pricing for TFL but a quick look at the  Silvertown Mole blog Silvertown: Another Road To Nowhere? shows that this is fundementally flawed.

The plan is that TfL will toll both the Blackwall and the Silvertown Tunnel but ‘The project expects (at best) to maintain provision for existing levels of heavy motor traffic, and existing levels of pollution. At worst, it’ll enable much more traffic & pollution. And then there’s the pollution & carbon cost of building it.’ And in theory a future Mayor could remove the Silvertown and Blackwall tolls entirely. They’d need to consult the public on the proposal, but it’s an executive decision for the Mayor.’

This begs the question what IS the Mayor of London’s strategy on road pricing? Does he really want to save lives by cutting congestion and air pollution? Does he really want to make walking , cycling and public transport the most accessible options for all Londoners? Does he want to cut greenhouse emissions to mitigate against Climate Meltdown? The Silvertown Tunnel is a road pricing  infrastructure project that has no ambition to cut pollution, emissions and road danger in an already highly polluted part of London.

The Mayor is banking on an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ),  to be introduced in central London from  8 April 2019, to improve air quality. It will replace the current T-Charge. and will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year within the same area as the current Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ). The extension of the hours to 24/7 is good news. However there are  still many exemptions for Taxis, Residents, Private Hire Vehicles and more.

It is worth noting that  the Sivertown Tunnel falls outside this area.

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And then the  promise is that from 25 October 2021, should Sadiq Khan be re-elected, the area will be expanded to the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.

Will this be enough to stop the Mayor’s exposure to litigation from families whose loved ones have lost their lives and their health from illegal air pollution in London? We will have to wait and see?

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Climate Action: Stepping up to the next level

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This week I attended the Under Her Eye summit, a two-day festival of Women and Climate change at the British Library, curated by Invisible Dust.

Unusually, for a summit, all the speakers were women. The title Under Her Eye reverses the ‘under his eye’ big brother approach of The Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s Climate change dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale.

It was impossible not to be alarmed by the urgent message on climate breakdown and mass extinction in the natural world from the key speakers.

Christiana Figueres (who helped deliver the ground-breaking Paris climate change deal in 2015) said ‘We have exceeded planetary boundaries… ( on climate) … we must swallow an alarm clock…We all now either win or lose together’

Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green party said ‘we have a 2 second window to address climate change’

Meanwhile Margaret Atwood conjured a desperate image of a citizen burying tins of baked beans and sardines in their back garden and then trying to defend that position.

In the world of a rapidly warming climate, caused by human activity, this image conjures up the desperation that might come if we fail to step it up to the next level. Scarcity of food and water would inevitably lead to resource wars. With the poorest or most vulnerable at the bottom of the food chain.

Darkest of all, was Lisa Autogena’s art work, Untitled (superorganism) which creates a planetary version of the phenomenon of ants commiting suicide by going into a slow ‘spiral of death’.

’There’s a price for blindly following those in front of you. Army ants have a dangerous tendency to commit mass suicide because they are following the leader’.

Christiana Figueres says giving up is ‘irresponsible’. And Caroline Lucas commented that ‘if things don’t change we will go down in history as the species working on its own extinction’.

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Lisa Autogena – Untitled (superorganism)

The speakers at the summit were from a broad range of backgrounds, including scientists, leaders, activists, artists, writers and economists, some offering incredibly inspiring and positive framing of a very dire situation,

However sometimes I felt frustrated with lazy thinking or an almost fairytale belief in technological redemption. Facing a cliff edge IS edgy but we must keep our feet on the ground.

As Margaret Atwood commented ‘Every techno solution has a good side, a bad side and a stupid side we haven’t tbought about yet’.

Declaring a state of emergency

There are rumours that the International Policy Programme on Climate Change (IPCC) will announce in October that we have a decade less to achieve net zero carbon. This means a sharp readjustment of the current trajectory from 2050 down to 2040.

Christiana Figueres’ Mission 2020 has already set a tight peak emission by 2020. However China has seen an unexpected sharp rise in its carbon emissions of 4% in the first 3 months of 2018, compared to 2017. Scaling up renewables is not a panacea if you don’t conserve energy use.

Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a historic high of 32.5 gigatons last year, after three years of being flat, due to higher energy demand and the slowing of energy efficiency improvements – International Energy Agency (IEA)

The evidence is clear, global warming is speeding up…and we are in overshoot. If this further announcement is made by the IPCC, the UK Climate Change Act will need to be reviewed and updated accordingly. We are already not on the right track to meet the 4th climate budget for 2023-27. So stepping up to the next level is inevitable.

I asked Jane Rumble, head of the Polar Regions Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, if there was a ready-to-go State of Emergency contingency for runaway Climate Change? We both agreed that there have already been serious climate related floods, droughts and hurricanes. so I wanted to know was what is the tipping point for emergency measures to come into play? She answered cautiously, that it is a political decision.

A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be permitted. A government can declare such state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict.

States of emergency can also be used as a rationale or pretext for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under a country’s constitution or basic law. The procedure for and legality of doing so vary by country. So bearing that in mind we need to look carefully and cautiously at what a state of emergency might look like, for the common good?

In World war 2 The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 was emergency legislation passed just prior to the outbreak of World War II by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to enable the British Government to take up emergency powers to prosecute the war effectively

1. (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, His Majesty may by Order in Council make such Regulations (in this Act referred to as “Defence Regulations”) as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred by the preceding subsection, Defence Regulations may, so far as appears to His Majesty in Council to be necessary or expedient for any of the purposes mentioned in that subsection:-

(a) Make provision for the apprehension, trial, and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations and for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm;

(b) authorize –

(i) the taking of possession or control, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property or undertaking;
(ii) the acquisition, on behalf of His Majesty, or any property other than land;

(c) authorize the entering and searching of any premises; and

(d) provide for amending any enactment, for suspending the operation of any enactment, and for apply any enactment with or without modification.

I want to make it clear at this point that I do not believe World War 2 is a template for the Environmental disaster we are facing today. This is an unprecedented global disaster and we cannot easily categorise it historically.

However securing public safety and maintaining supplies and services, essential to the life of the community, is an important starting point.

And especially since it was emphasised again and again at the summit that women, children, people on lower incomes and other vulnerable citizens would be most affected by Climate Change.

So I will dig a bit deeper into what a state of emergency might look like, for the common good?

Clean Energy for the common good

There are two sides of the equation when it comes to de-carbonising energy quickly. We need to scale up renewables whilst at the same time rapidly reducing energy use.

We must address both sides of the equation, otherwise its just giving unscrupulous tech corporations like and a licence to burn ‘green’ energy which jeopardises progress on reducing overall greenhouse emissions. Blockchain alone is currently on track to use up all the energy supplied by global solar by 2019.

‘That’s a troubling trajectory, especially for a world that should be working overtime to root out energy waste and fight climate change. By late next year, bitcoin could be consuming more electricity than all the world’s solar panels currently produce—about 1.8 percent of global electricity, according to a simple extrapolation of the study’s predictions. That would effectively erase decades of progress on renewable energy.’

Automation is a high energy user too, when we need to rapidly cut energy use, This waste of precious energy is undermining the ability to de-carbonise essentials like heating, lighting and cooking. This is why we would need a clear hierarchy of desirable uses for renewables, safeguarding clean energy for the common good.

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When we are prioritising energy usage for the common good, it is important to work from the base upwards. Here are my suggestions, (this is the beginning of a conversation rather than a definitive hierarchy) :

  • Pumping drinking water to citizens
  • Transportation of food
  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Emergency services

 

Investment priorities For the common good

Transport

So 2.5 metres is the standard width of a parking place. And a minimum cycle track of 2.3 metres will move 5.900 people per hour. Where drivers see public space as somewhere to dump their car, when not used for an average 95% of the time, I see a 24/7 cycle track people mover

  • Are roads conduits for safe travel for the many or storage of private property for the few?
  • A tight financial and carbon budget should focus on cycling and walking infrastructure ditching expensive and high carbon road building, HS2, expansion of airports and other high carbon high financial cost projects.
  • Using public space for the benefit of the whole community.
  • Ban petrol and diesel cars, starting with cities and only invest Electric Vehicles for essential vehicles and public transport.
  • Will we see the end of the private car in cities? Yes
  • Will high energy automated electric vehicles replace private cars. No
  • Bicycles, cycles,  cargo bikes for everyone
  • Safe and accessible walking and cycling infrastructure
  • Electric buses and essential vehicles (blue badge, delivery of heavy goods, emergency services)
  • We have a Limited carbon budget. Don’t lock us in to dead-end transport strategy
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Housing

  • Insulation of all homes and buildings
  • Scale up renewables and ensure public localised renewable security for the common good for lighting, heating and cooking
  • Solar lights for everyone
  • Solar cookers for everyone or slow cookers which can run on the energy of a light bulb.
  •  Requisition of empty homes
  • Addressing under-occupation of private dwellings (‘hobby rooms’) The current UK population could be entirely rehoused in empty bedrooms

Jobs transition for the common good

We see Poland struggling to ditch coal, Germany to address dieselgate car manufacturers And even more shockingly the supposedly ‘progressive’ Justin Trudeau has just become the leader of an oil company in Canada

‘Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Tuesday that it would nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia. It will fork over at least $4.5bn in Canadian taxpayers’ money for the right to own a 60-year-old pipe that springs leaks regularly, and for the right to push through a second pipeline on the same route – a proposal that has provoked strong opposition’

Some of this may be pure greed but for some politicians the job losses that go with the de-carbonising of the economy need to be tied up with green job transition, retraining and/ or in some cases Basic Income or what I prefer to call Sustainable Income.

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Clean water and air for the common good

  • Plastic ban.
  • 62% of our oxygen is from life in the sea. Kill sea life with and we will not be able to breathe

Food growing for the common good

Requisition of private land for food growing and food security.

Create parklet permits for urban food growing on public land in cities as well as some urban growing on public green spaces

Rationing of consumer goods, services, data, flights etc

Requisitioning private land and using public land for reforestation