As London prepares to go to the polls to elect its next mayor on Thursday,BusinessGreen caught up with incumbent mayor Boris Johnson via email, who is determined to hold the mayoralty for another four years.
Johnson has faced constant criticism from green businesses and campaigners over his environmental record in recent years, with attacks focusing on the continued failure to bring the capital into line with EU air quality standards, cuts to a number of environmental programmes, and the decision not to extend the city##Q##s congestion charging scheme.
But the mayor insists he has delivered on every one of theenvironmental pledges he set when he entered office in 2008, including boosting the number of hybrid buses in Transport for London##Q##s fleet and initiating work to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2020.
BusinessGreen: If you are re-elected on 3 May, what will you do to support green businesses?
Boris Johnson: Our programmes tackling climate change will not only make London a better place for our children, they are creating jobs for Londoners now. Up to 14,000 jobs could be created every year as part of £721m of low-carbon activity, promoting retrofitting and cleaner transport.
Under my leadership, City Hall has taken the lead in driving the green economy. Our RE:NEW programme has helped 55,000 London households reduce their carbon footprint, as well as their energy bills. Our RE:FIT programme has retro-fitted 42 public buildings with carbon-reducing technology, delivering 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions and an average 28 per cent energy saving per building. Under our RE:CONNECT programme, 10 Low Carbon Zones have been created across London to pioneer carbon reduction in our city.
In my next term of office, I will continue our investment in these schemes and extend RE:NEW to a further 20,000 houses. I will also expand electric car charging points to 1,300, giving Londoners more charge points than petrol stations, and expanding the GLA##Q##s electric fleet to 1,000.
What would you highlight as your top three green achievements from your time in office?
Since I was elected in 2008, I have delivered on all the green election pledges I set out that are so vital in helping to make London a better place. One of my top green achievements is the successful work that has been done to protect London##Q##s green spaces and plant 10,000 street trees.
In 2009, I launched the £4m Help a London Park scheme as part of mycommitment to clean up and improve the capital##Q##s rundown green spaces. Improvements have included new play equipment for children, improved access and security, extensive new landscaping and the creation of a wildlife habitat. In total, I am delivering improvements to 300 acres of green space across our city.
We need to focus on enabling more successful schemes such as this. By the start of the Olympics, I will have invested over £335m in 80 public space projects that people living, working, and visiting the city will be able to enjoy.
Street trees improve air quality as well as quality of life for Londoners. Earlier this year I planted our 10,000th street tree since 2008, fulfilling one of my key election promises. If I am re-elected I will deliver 20,000 street trees by 2016.
In addition to trees planted by the GLA I am working with the Forestry Commission, and through my RE:LEAF programme we have planted 100,000 trees since 2008.
Another ##Q##green achievement##Q## I##Q##m particularly proud of is the introduction of the £5m to create a Clean Air Fund for London to improve air quality in hotspots. This fund will:
• Help reduce pollution at the worst hotspots for particulate matter (PM10).
• Reduce idling through improved signage and infrastructure, contain targeted interventions with specific vehicles such as taxis and coaches, and awareness raising activities and enforcement.
• Installing diesel particulate filters on buses travelling along hotspot locations, such as Upper Thames Street, Marylebone Road and Park Lane.
I will continue to champion improvements to London##Q##s air quality and work constructively with the government on the issue. I will keep the 100 per cent congestion charge discount for low-emission vehicles so there is a real financial incentive for Londoners to drive the cleanest vehicles available and work with the new London Health Improvement Board to engage the health service in addressing poor air quality.
Your opponents have highlighted figures showing you spent just £40m of an £84m climate change budget over the past four years. How can you explain the underspend and what reassurances can you offer green businesses that support for the capital##Q##s green economy will increase in the future?
I have delivered on every single one of the pledges contained in my 2008 environment manifesto. In fact, I have delivered on more than 90 per cent of my election promises from 2008. In contrast, in Ken Livingstone##Q##s time in office he broke more than half the promises he made.
This election is about trust, and right from the start I have been upfront about my plans, my record of delivery and even my taxes. I stand on my record, and green businesses can be assured I will deliver on my manifesto at this election.
WELL DONE BORIS!