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London unveils £1.5bn green infrastructure package to kick-start economy post-lockdown

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the London Recovery Board have jointly launched a £1.5bn infrastructure investment package, designed to reduce the city’s emissions and water footprint while kick-starting the local economy as lockdown eases.

The specifics of how the funding will be spent are subject to consultation and yet to be revealed

The specifics of how the funding will be spent are subject to consultation and yet to be revealed

The money will be spent upgrading Greater London’s gas network, to improve the security of supplies and prepare for higher proportions of hydrogen; improving water infrastructure, in a bid to reduce leakage by 20% and pollution incidents by 30%; and readying electricity infrastructure for the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.

City Hall is yet to publish details explaining exactly how the funding pot will be allocated across projects driving progress towards each of these aims. The London Recovery Board is conducting a mass public engagement exercise to inform the next phase of its recovery programme, asking 50,000 Londoners to have their say using an online forum.  

However, the authority has revealed the organisations it will be working with to deliver against them: Cadent, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), SGN, UK Power Networks and Thames Water.

“Once the specific projects have been identified and agreed, they will be delivered with the support of the Mayor’s recently established Infrastructure Coordination Service, to promote collaboration and minimise costly road network disruption, particularly at a time when Sadiq is encouraging more Londoners to walk and cycle,” City Hall said in a statement.

On the latter point, Khan has welcomed the UK Government’s decision to spend £2bn on initiatives designed to incentivise walking and cycling. The package, announced on Tuesday (28 July), includes a bike repair voucher scheme, e-bike rental scheme, measures to help doctors prescribe cycling and funding for local authorities seeking to improve bike infrastructure.

“It is essential that infrastructure initiatives are utilised to serve all Londoners as we work to recover from this pandemic and to build back better with a fairer and greener economy,” Khan said.

Road so far

Under the London Environment Strategy, launched in May 2018, the capital is striving to become the “greenest” city in the world by mid-century.

The plan sets out ambitious targets of increasing London’s current solar PV capacity by 20 times by 2050, reducing CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 against a 1990 baseline, and introducing zero-emission zones in some town centres by the end of 2020, five years ahead of the previous target, to assist businesses with the uptake of electric vehicles.

It originally contained a 2050 net-zero deadline, but this was subsequently brought forward to 2030. Khan has allocated £50m to the creation and delivery of a Green New Deal strategy, aligned with this new deadline.

Regarding the green recovery from Covid-19 specifically, London has joined calls for the creation of a national green reskilling strategy, which would funnel the 650,000+ people to have been stuck off payrolls since March into sectors such as retrofits and clean power generation. Chancellor Rishi Sunak was reportedly set to launch a dedicated fund for reskilling Brits for ‘green-collar’ jobs as part of the Summer Economic Update, but this did not happen.

With the Conservative Party targeting two million “green-collar” jobs in the UK by 2030 as part of the nation’s 2050 net-zero target, there are hopes that Sunak will launch such a scheme at the Autumn Statement or in the 2021 Budget.  Even pre-pandemic, employment in the UK’s energy sector was lower than in 2014.

Sarah George

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