Emission targets at risk as growing population hits greener city plan

aerial river dawnAmbitious targets to reduce greenhouse gases look likely to be missed thanks largely to London’s growing population.

In 2011 the Mayor set out a climate change strategy that aimed to reduce CO2 emissions to 60% of what they were in 1990 by 2025. 1990 is an internationally recognised baseline that countries used in signing the Kyoto agreement.

2015 is the first big milestone in the Mayor’s plan. By the end of this year emissions should be down by 20% on 1990 level. But the most recent data for greenhouse gases in London shows that the capital is off course to hit this target. In 2013 a reduction of only 11% had been achieved. This is better than the 10% of 2012 but falls short of the 13% achieved in 2011.

Emissions annual

In its annual report on the most recent figures the GLA says that 2013 was one of the coldest winters in recent history, which pushed up gas consumption. Without the cold winter a reduction of 13% might have been achieved.

But the record increase in population is the factor that may de-rail the targets. The GLA has admitted that its population estimates at the time that the CO2 reduction strategy was set were “seriously off target”. And more people means higher emission levels.


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London does have the lowest rate of emissions per person of any region in the country. Londoners use cars less and the large number of flats in the housing stock may mean lower energy consumption for heating.

About 40% of emissions are produced by domestic energy use, a similar amount from workplaces and the remaining 20% from transport. All have seen emission reductions since 2000. The largest reduction is in the industrial and commercial sector, which in 2013 was down by 15% on 1990 levels.

emission changes sectors

The Mayor’s strategy to achieve a “cleaner, greener city” is based on 3 pillars – making homes and workplaces more efficient, including retro-fitting existing building as well as ensuring efficiency in new builds; making the city greener with more trees; and improving air quality with measures to reduce transport emissions.

Last year the environment committee of the London Assembly judged that in all areas the Mayor “could do better’. The Mayor will be hoping that London’s success as a growing economy that is attracting more people does not kill off his ambition to reduce its carbon footprint.

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