Is London moving its carbon neutrality goal forward by 20 years?

Big Ben photo
CC BY 1.0 Yiannis Theologos Michellis

A growing number of cities are getting serious about tackling the climate emergency.

Recently, my hometown of Bristol, England declared its intention to go carbon neutral by 2030. (Manchester is aiming to do the same by 2038.) Now the Guardian reports that the London Assembly has also passed a motion to move up the city's carbon neutrality ambitions some 20 years—from the far distant date of 2050, to the just-around-the-corner goal of 2030 instead.

As with Bristol, I remain somewhat confused how a city—by itself—can ever really achieve carbon neutrality. After all, so many of our emissions are decided at the national and international level. That said, when a world-class city like London starts talking about carbon neutrality in the very near future (alongside its efforts on fossil fuel divestment), it's likely to significantly move the needle toward a greener economy overall.

Indeed, mayor Sadiq Khan was quick to move on the London Assembly's motion, revealing plans to tackle the climate emergency. In order to move up the city's goal to 2030, however, the mayor argued for a significant increase in investment from both central government and the private sector alike that would be used to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and offices, decarbonize the energy grid, install low-carbon heating systems, and electrify transportation.

I guess this proves my original point: There's no way that any city, alone, can achieve carbon neutrality without bringing the society around it along for the ride too. But that's precisely the point. By throwing their hats in the ring in an unequivocal, principled and ambitious fashion, cities like London, Bristol and Manchester are helping to shape the national and international conversation. That said, Green Party activists were quick to point out that the mayor can and should be doing more—including canceling new roads and curtailing aviation expansion.

But still, this is an important and positive sign. It's just one more example of a growing ambition in terms of climate mobilization. I look forward to seeing where this goes next.

Is London moving its carbon neutrality goal forward by 20 years?
A growing number of cities are getting serious about tackling the climate emergency.

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