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Across the world cities are awakening to the potential of green leadership. In Paris legislation was passed last year to ensure new commercial buildings in business areas have either solar panels or plants adorning their roofs. Following London’s footsteps, Rio is embarking on a low-carbon city development program ahead of its Olympics this year.
We have a unique opportunity to fundamentally improve London for future generations. A smarter, cleaner and more sustainable London is the answer. The question becomes how we can best harness solutions offered by the burgeoning greentech sector in the city.
To reach the smarter, greener London of the future we need to review the fundamental pillars of city life to understand where improvements need to be made. As a city we own approximately 2.6 million cars. An increased reliance on driverless technology has the potential to revolutionise transport infrastructure and facilitate tangible gains in road capacity by significantly cutting the number of vehicles in use. The green dividend cannot be overstated. The adoption of autonomous cars globally could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 300 million tons per year.
London’s ever-expanding workforce also stands to benefit from championing the mantle of the city’s flourishing greentech sector. Unemployment in the capital currently languishes at 6.3%, way above the national average. According to the World Economic Forum, demand for skilled workers in the technology sector will continue to grow, and in the UK alone the increasing role of ICT will create £122 billion in economic value over the next 14 years.
Statistics indicate that record numbers of Londoners are cycling, showing that we have the collective will to challenge carbon emissions as a city. Figures published in January show that the UK government has failed to capitalise on this. Policy makers for our city have the opportunity to seize on this spirit, and position London as the first global hub to fully embrace smart cities technology. By building on the pioneering work of the London data store, implementing technologies like smart meters city wide and enabling all to stay connected through a single and consistent Wi-Fi service, we stand to both improve efficiency whilst contributing to the global struggle against emissions.
It falls to the next Mayor to lead the way in establishing London as a global greentech leader, and it is reassuring that all of the front running candidates have adopted a warm approach on this front. The marriage of ICT and environmental initiatives could be recognised in City Hall through the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer for London with sustainability at the heart of their remit.
A simple first step for a new Mayor could be to have London join the swelling ranks of the now 66 cities and local authorities across the UK in signing up to #go100percent initiative. The initiative commits companies and councils to sourcing 100% of their energy from renewable sources. At BT we are working to meet this target worldwide by 2020.
London has always been a global leader in innovation and greentech is the latest form this must take. The rewards are substantial and we stand to improve our city life in a number of ways – efficiency, environment and employment. We won the Olympics through our bid to be the greenest Games. Let’s be the greenest city going forward.
Andrew Campling is General Manager for BT Group in London, Southern and Eastern England
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