Darren Johnson AM represents the Green Party in the London Assembly
As a salesman for environmental projects you couldn’t fault Boris Johnson during his time as Mayor of London. Every few months he talks up the potential for the green economy and energy saving initiatives. But over four years he has consistently failed to deliver his on his promises.
In November 2008, six months after he was elected, the Mayor told an audience at the Environment Agency he would spend more than £100 million over the next four years “on helping households – the households who produce 38 per cent of London’s CO2 – to install insulation”.
In January 2009 he clarified this promise in his budget (pdf) for the coming year, promising a “budget commitment of over £100m on environment and climate change programmes over his four year term” to be delivered through the London Development Agency (LDA).
But figures I have obtained show he will only have spent £40m on those programmes, having delayed, cut back and even scrapped key programmes. As Table 1 shows, every year he set out a budget in LDA board papers, and then failed to spend the money.
The consequences for the lives of Londoners, and for the future of our planet, are severe.
More than a million households collectively wasted at least £216m on unnecessary energy bills last year and a quarter suffered in fuel poverty. The Mayor’s home insulation programme, RE:NEW, is meant to deal with this while cutting household carbon emissions by 60% by 2025.
RE:NEW involves advisors going door-to-door offering people advice, installing ten easy measures such as efficient shower heads and draught excluders, and helping the householder arrange for their home to be insulated.
It follows the model developed in Kirklees that has seen the council top the national league table insulating 29% of homes over just four years, and was set-up following recommendations from the London Assembly’s environment committee. The early trials were a resounding success.
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The Mayor promised to roll RE:NEW out on an “unprecedented scale”, reaching 200,000 homes by the end of this year and 1.2 million by 2015. He has repeatedly talked up the potential to save people at least £180 on their energy bills while cutting carbon emissions. But he will only have reached 55,000 homes by May, and has only allocated enough money to reach a further 20,000 by the end of the year.
Those extra 20,000 are funded, incidentally, out of the Decent Homes budget that is meant to improve social housing, robbing Peter to pay Paul.
In his four years in office, official statistics show London stayed at the bottom of the national insulation league table with only 5% of homes taking up the CERT subsidy, half the rate of the next worst region, the South East. This is the problem RE:NEW could have fixed it if had been rolled out on time and at scale.
His programme to refurbish offices is even further off the mark. RE:FIT is a brilliant programme for public sector buildings, but it will have refurbished just 100 in his four-year term. There are no funded programmes for the private sector, in a city with some 400,000 employers. The Mayor’s planned collaboration with the Carbon Trust to help small and medium sized businesses was cancelled after the Comprehensive Spending Review cut most of his LDA funding.
Delays and cuts have cost businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds in unnecessary energy and water bills.
Decentralised energy used to be central to London’s future, giving us a secure and low carbon energy source. But only two new energy systems were delivered with close LDA involvement, one on the Olympic Park and one in Crystal Palace Park.
Instead of getting behind promising schemes and removing commercial risks to get them moving, as public agencies have successfully done in cities across the rest of Europe, the Mayor pulled back and has only offered planning and technical advice.
Earlier this year a pioneering “multi utility” scheme in Elephant & Castle that won backing from the Clinton Foundation was dropped by the council and developers, a sign of the underwhelming leadership the Mayor has provided on this front.
London needs dozens of new waste facilities to become self-sufficient, making sure that if you put your recycling and food waste out it is processed in a sustainable way within London. But only four facilities have secured any financial support from the Mayor; we need at least eight just to deal with domestic food waste.
The Mayor has made a great deal of noise about electric vehicles, but what of this revolution? Only 400 charging points have been installed, leaving him with another 7,100 to meet his 2013 target, and another 24,100 to meet his 2015 target. Of the 1,000 vehicles he promised to introduce into the TfL, police and fire brigade fleets, only 45 have been delivered.
The only real success story is the £100m London Green Fund, now finally set-up to invest in energy and waste projects.
If the Mayor had delivered all of these programmes at the scale he promised he could have directly created at least 14,000 jobs, saved hundreds of thousands of households and businesses hundreds of pounds on their energy and water bills, and kept London on track to tackle climate change. It’s not good enough to deliver a little here and there; keep missing targets and the climate change strategy is derailed.
The Mayor recently set out his vision for the future potential of environmental programmes. It is the same list of bold ideas he has promised for four years, but has consistently failed to deliver.