Monday 16 January 2023

How the government and the Mayor are discrediting environmental measures with greedy, moneygrabbing policies

 I've spent all of my adult life campaigning for green issues and trying my hardest to argue the case for sustainability, clean energy and sensible environmental measures. Over the last 25 years, I believe I've been proven right by science and by events. You may think that I'd be celebrating but the truth is that I believe that the Government and The Mayor of London are seriously undermining support for sensible environmental measures by seemingly using eco friendly measures as a way to drum up cash. I've always believed that energy efficiency, good public transport and sensible long term policies are the way forward. What do we have? We have 'green taxes', ULEZ and Congestion charges, scrapping of feed in tariffs that incentivise solar energy, Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes that alienate local residentsand cavalier and pompous statements that alienate all but the staunchest eoc warriors.

Lets look at a few issues.

1. CO2 emissions. To combate these, we need a global effort, centrered on new technologies and new ways of doing things. If the UK had passed stringent laws on insulation and set a target of ensuring every home, factory and business was properly insulated, when we had the first COP summit, we'd have lower energy bills now and would be insulated from the effects global incidents such as the Ukraine war. We have long needed a coherent policy to renewable power sources. Instead, we have had to reopen coal fired power stations this year. Carbon levies are giving the concept of environmentalism a bad name in some quarters. It seems that it is all cash generating sticks, with no carrots at all. 

2. Car emissions. The big schemes in London to deal with car emissions are the ULEZ zone and LTN's (although LTNS have other benefits for residents). For many small businesses, the ULEZ zone will have a massive negative financial impact, with it's implementation coming at a time when many businesses are just starting to recover from the pandemic. Musicians, who need vans to transport equipment and are not flush with money are especially hard hit. The Mayor simply hasn't listened. There has been no reasonable trade in scheme to encourage small businesses to move away from Diesel. It is worth remembering that in the first few years of the century, the government were encouraging people to buy diesel vehicles. Clearly we shouldn't have highly polluting vehicles belching out fumes as kids leave school, but many suspect that the ULEZ and the congestion charge are more about money making than really cleaning up London's air. The main cause of pollution on London's streets is congestion, with cars, vans and lorries stuck in traffic, stopping and starting, belching out fumes. LTN's do nothing to address this. Some residents have to do long detours, just to get home. The best way to reduce this is better, cheaper and more reliable public transport. London's transport prices are ridiculously high and the network is ever more unreliable. Last night (Sunday), I went to a gig at The 100 club. It finished at 11am, but the last Westbound train on the Elizabeth line from Tottenham Court Road was 10.47pm. That is no way to run a transport system in a 24 hour global city.

3. LTN's. In theory, I'd support these, but whenthey cause congestion and long detours, it cannot be argued that they are sensible. They have simply united many residents against them, which makes the case harder to argue. My view is that consultations with residents should be legally binding and subject to local referendums. If locals vote for a scheme there can be no arguments if the scheme is passed.

4. Reopening of closed rail lines. In the 1960's the UK took the axe to it's rail network. All manner of lines that would provide decent public transport were chopped. In the Borough of Barnet, a link between the two branches of the Northern Line, which would provide an interchange with Thameslink at Mill Hill was closed. Had this been retained and developed, Journeys from east to west across the borough on public transport would be far easier, quicker and cheaper. In places like Croydon, Manchester and Sheffield, efficient Tram networks have been installed, many on disused and lightly usesd rail lines. Trams are powered by electricity and have dedicated track beds, so are far quicker and greener than buses. People generally take the form of transport that is most convenient. If the Old Mill Hill East to Edgware line was converted to form the core of a NW London tram network, extending from Edgware to Finsbury Park along the old track bed and sharing track with The Northern Line between FInchley Central and East Finchley, this would give NW London a step change and remove many cars from crowded roads around the A1, Bunns Lane etc.  When we hear arguments about costs, we should think in terms of decades, if not centuries, to recover costs. The Thameslink line in Mill Hill was opened in 1867. If the costs were annualised over 50 years, they'd be miniscule. I'd personally like to see the line reopened using hydrogen powered tram technology, with trams running on roads for the built over sections. As a business owner, I recognise the benefits of borrowing for investments, which produce a return. Such schemes generate economic activity, lower pollution and improve the quality of life of all concerned. It is a win/win.

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