This week global climate activists, investors and governments descended on Dubai for COP28, with a central aim to tackle the climate crisis and bring global temperatures under control.
At the City Corporation we’ve been taking a number of actions to contribute to that goal.
Just this month we published a report showing that we are on course to meet our target to become operationally net zero by 2027, as part of our Climate Action Strategy, ahead of becoming an entirely net zero City by 2040.
One area, for instance, where I hope local residents have seen positive change is in our transportation policy.
And this year, the Campaign to Protect Rural England recognised the City of London Corporation as the overall winner on their ‘Healthy Streets Scorecard’ for 2023.
It means we are leading the way in delivering schemes that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport, while reducing car usage.
Aside from the safety benefits of falling vehicle collisions and cleaner air to breathe, this approach is a huge contributor to our net zero goals.
One key area where there remains a lot of work to do, however, is within the built environment sector which accounts for around 42% of the City’s carbon emissions.
This obviously presents a huge challenge for us, with both job growth and demand for office space in the Square Mile surging, despite working from home arrangements between businesses and their employees apparently here to stay.
To start addressing this challenge, we have set out a clear approach for developers, which is that planning applications should ensure carbon emissions resulting from building projects are reduced as much as possible.
This approach promotes retrofitting of existing buildings, instead of the demolition and redevelopment of sites.
Furthermore, carbon emissions should be minimised, not just in construction, but also in how completed projects will operate, such as with energy efficiency and transport accessibility.
As a planning authority, we are now moving towards a ‘retrofit first’ approach, where developers must demonstrate they have given serious consideration to this in any planning application.
Reassuringly, it already seems to be working. Of the 34 retrofit projects delivered across London this year, half of them were delivered here and retrofit planning applications in the Square Mile are increasing year on year.
These encouraging numbers are emerging because the retrofit approach was developed in consultation with the industry and you – our local community.
That means bespoke solutions for each site, more preservation of our buildings’ heritage, less local disruption, noise, and air pollution during construction.
These projects will also amount to tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions saved and we will be seeking to enshrine this retrofit-first approach into the City Plan which, after consultation with residents earlier this year, we hope to formally adopt in 2024.