Chris Hayward: City must lead the way on climate change

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As I begin my term as Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, the City, like the country as a whole, faces many pressing challenges.

The impact of Brexit, a cost of living crisis which has left City residents and businesses grappling with soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills and, most recently, the global impact of the war in Ukraine.

But while political attention is rightly focused on bolstering the economy and supporting struggling families, we must not lose sight of the biggest issue facing all of us.

Recently, global political and business leaders gathered at The Mansion House – the Lord Mayor’s official residence – for the Net Zero Delivery Summit.

It gave us a chance to catch up on progress towards goals for the financial and professional services sector identified at last year’s COP 26 climate change conference in Glasgow, and look ahead to this year’s COP 27 in Egypt. The journey towards global carbon net zero doesn’t come cheap.

Measures such as transitioning to clean energy – an even more pressing concern given the impact of the war on Russian fuel sources – will cost trillions of dollars. Such a mammoth undertaking can’t be funded by governments alone.

The financial sector must come together and take urgent action to ensure money is available for carbon-cutting projects in the UK and around the world.

Here in the Square Mile, through our Climate Action Strategy, the City Corporation has committed to achieving net zero in our own operations by 2027, and supporting net zero for the Square Mile as a whole by 2040.

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We recently launched the next phase of our ‘Cool Streets and Greening’ programme, introducing measures such as climate-resilient planting, sustainable drainage and tree-planting in our streets and open spaces.

Already, the 11,000 acres of green spaces in and around London which we protect remove around 16,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year – equivalent to 44% of our annual carbon footprint.

We’ve helped cut emissions and improve air quality for residents by leading a London-wide crackdown on drivers who leave their engines idling, and bringing in emissions-based charges for parking in the Square Mile, rewarding drivers of lower emission vehicles with lower tariffs.

We launched our Air Quality Strategy, which will ensure the Square Mile meets World Health Organisation limits on nitrogen oxide by 2030 and, alongside the Government, set up the Green Finance Institute, the principal forum for public and private sector collaboration in green finance.

Further action being taken includes a switch to renewable-only energy, more energy efficient buildings and becoming the first UK authority to run a fully zero-emission fleet of refuse vehicles.

Although it might not always dominate the headlines as much as it should, climate change is the great issue of our times and one which requires urgent, wide-ranging action.

As the voice of the UK’s financial and professional services sector and the governing body for the Square Mile; through strategic, sector-wide initiatives as well as smaller scale local schemes benefitting City residents, I’m determined that the City Corporation will lead the way.

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