London and the Environment - Ken Livingstone's Legacy and the Work of Boris Johnson

Since the role of Mayor of London was created at the turn of the millennium, Ken Livingston has been synonymous the position; he won the first two elections, in 2000 as an independent candidate, and then as a representative of New Labour in 2004. Of the last decade, then, it has been through his policy that Greater London has experienced its relationship with the environment.

Perhaps the most environmentally minded of Livingstone's policies is also seen by many as his most controversial, and that was the introduction of the London congestion charge, which came into force in 2003. Though it continues to divide opinion on Livingstone's political credentials, it is generally deemed praiseworthy by environmentalists, who highlight the 21% drop in traffic and the 83% increase in cycling across the congestion zone. With experts estimating that 20% of the U.K's annual carbon emissions are being released by cars, the environmental impact of the congestion charge policy cannot be criticised.

Indeed London is now reported to be the first major city in the world to affect a genuine shift from public to private transport; a shift that Livingstone is always keen to promote:

"The congestion charge and the biggest investment programme since the second world war has enabled London to become the first major city in the world to achieve a shift away from the private car to public transport. The charge is also reducing pollution and I am building on this by altering the charge to penalise the big vehicles which contribute most to climate change and exempting the cleanest cars. Nationally and internationally cities are following London's example and considering introducing a similar charge. The congestion charge has made London a world leader in doing something about traffic congestion and pollution rather than just talking about it."

During his eight years of leadership, Livingstone also passed policies that have resulted in an 83% increase in recycling, and a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions from construction projects. But his commitment to environmental policy is perhaps best characterised by the London Climate Change Action Plan, which set a CO2 emissions reduction target of 60% by 2025.

On the back of these policies, the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth named Livingston the most genuinely eco-friendly candidate for the mayoral elections in 2008, though he lost to Conservative candidate Boris Johnson.

Now, following Johnson's first 100 days as the Mayor of London, the same orginsation have published a scathing report on his recent environmental policies. It details the Mayor's plans to increase flights from London terminals by 50%, and proposals to scrap any legislation that would include congestion charges based on climate change concerns.

With estimates showing that Britain is the European nation with the most CO2 emissions from air trips, and some experts suggesting that the emissions rate for the sector could raise by as much as 10% per year, many environmental orginisations are seconding the criticisms of Friends of the Earth.

In defence of Mr. Johnson, he has just accepted the position of chairman in the newly formed The London Waste and Recycling Board, which he granted a

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Chris Woolfrey is an expert on politics and the environment. He writes for

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