People in Glass houses


It’s an often repeated mantra that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. So it came as a something of surprise that, during what is usually the quiet summer season in politics, London Mayor Boris Johnson has twice popped up making interventions in the debate on the capital’s energy market.

Over the weekend the Sunday Times ran typically bullish comments from the Mayor, with Boris making a “veiled attack on David Cameron’s energy policy, warning that the lights in London could be dimmed or go out because of a failure to invest in Britain’s energy infrastructure”. Then on Wednesday Boris launched his £1.3tn vision for London in 2050, which – predicting a 20 per cent increase in overall energy demand in the city by 2050 – made a number of significant pronouncements, including suggesting reforms to the regulatory system the roll out of a detailed Energy Infrastructure Plan to ascertain London’s future energy needs.

While it is obviously welcome that the Mayor is lobbying central government for greater action on energy capacity, and taking steps to plan ahead for future decades, I was left with an abiding feeling – that this is all a bit rich coming from Boris. So while the Mayor criticises his peers down the river at Westminster, let’s quickly look at the Mayor’s own record against some of the key targets he is trying to meet.

At the core of the Mayor’s Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy is the 60 per cent target reduction in carbon emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2025. This is a clear goal that applies across key sectors spanning London’s economy, energy supply, transport and buildings, with particular emphasis on programmes like home and workplace retrofitting. Yet the recent assessment of London’s carbon emissions by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee, which I chair, found that the Mayor is missing his own milestones and “could do better” on CO2 cuts. Emissions data for 2011 showed a reduction of 11 per cent compared to 1990, missing the overall milestone for that year of 13.5 per cent.

This is not surprising when you consider that targets have been missed in key programmes like home energy efficiency and decentralised energy. On home energy efficiency, Boris is aiming retrofit 1.2m homes, but figures show that he had only retrofitted 100,000 by 2012 (against a target of double that). Similarly, Boris has set himself an end goal of 25 per cent of energy use in London’s buildings coming from decentralised sources by 2025, but expects to miss his 2015 target on this count. The Mayor’s record on workplace retrofitting was only marginally better, while the only bright spot on the horizon was better in buildings and transport, with energy efficiency of new buildings ahead of target and traffic being reduced by 11 per cent since 2000. Even here though, greater numbers of low-emission vehicles would have helped, and neither the 100,000 electric vehicles nor the 25,000 promised plug in-points have materialised.

Admittedly, the national picture hasn’t helped – with Green Deal take up proving paltry and an environment conducive to low carbon provision not being delivered either. But while the Mayor can express his concerns about black-outs to the Prime Minister, he clearly could have done more to make sure that alternative sources of energy in London had come to fruition. The old adage states that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and I find it a bit rich for Boris to take pot shots at the Prime Minister on energy policy when he is missing his own crucial targets in this area.

This has been published in Business Green today on their website.

One thought on “People in Glass houses

  1. Suzanna Harris

    I quite agree with you. There is a huge amount of building, both residential and
    business, in Hammersmith and very few visible photo-voltaic panels. Many
    buildings are high-rise so need air-conditioning, requiring extra energy.
    And surely part of energy-saving is the re-use of washing water to flush
    loos: are systems for waer recycling a statutory requirement for new buildings ?
    There needs to be a holistic approach to energy-saving which includes borough
    planning departments.
    And a great deal more bottom-up policy making. At the moment it seems to be
    all top-down: ideas are being imposed from above, ie Boris, and rarely encouraged
    or shared meaningfully from below, ie the public, GLA members and local councils.

    Suzanna Harris.


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