Early this month, the Northern Ireland Assembly published a policy to promote renewable energy, to tackle climate change, reduce acid rain and create jobs. This week, the Scottish government, together with energy companies, published a route map for marine renewables off the coast of Scotland. And yesterday came a report on building a high speed rail link to get trains from London to Glasgow in about two hours.
The rail link will have to be funded by the UK government. However, the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly have significant climate and energy powers (see Climate powers, policy and performance in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and London). The Welsh Assembly has fewer powers, although it is being given powers to set building regulations for new buildings and major refurbishments (which the Scots and Northern Irish already have). Scotland is doing well on renewables, but further progress is almost wholly dependent on upgrading the electricity grid in the Beauly-Denny extension (a new power line). The SNP government must allow this to be constructed, without further delay.
The London Mayor and Assembly have no powers to set building regulations, even though 80% of London’s emissions come from buildings. However, the Congestion Charge – Ken Livingstone’s greatest legacy – has helped control London’s emissions. Mayor Boris Johnson has accepted Livingstone’s target that London’s greenhouse emissions should reduce by 60% by 2025, which is welcome, but presumably he does not expect to be mayor then! Unfortunately, he has abandoned the extension of the congestion charge zone into west London and also the increased rate that 4×4 ‘Chelsea tractors’ would have paid. Yet, Johnson is active in the C40 programme to reduce climate damage in 40 large cities across the world – a programme supported by the Clinton Foundation. He is also opposed to a new runway at Heathrow and the Conservative Party is now strong on climate issues at a national level. Therefore, Johnson has a chance to show the UK that the Tories can deliver on climate control and the world that London can lead on low-carbon transformation.