The green economy and its role in West London’s recovery was debated at the Capital West London Build & Recover Summit.
WSP’s UK Sustainability Director David Symons, Bipin Jha, Managing Director of Work Work, Jacinta Rowsell, General Manager of Westfield London, Nathan Pierce, Head of Smart London Team and Programme Director for Sharing Cities at the Greater London Authority and Paul Walker from Harrow Council all took part in the Grow Back Greener Session.
Opening the session, Mr Symons said: “The Build & Recover plan is a really good, strong, document, and it’s tremendous to see green at the heart of it.
“There are large amounts of money available right now from government to support and get that going, including the green homes grant scheme, public sector decarbonisation and money for smart travel. There’s a great opportunity to crack on with that.”
Mr Symons added skills were a really important part of West London’s green economic future, as at the moment, only 9% of London’s workforce is aligned to the low carbon economy, so new skills will need to be learnt across all sectors as the sub-region moves to net zero.
Discussing WSP’s Future Ready programme, which is allowing the company to plan ahead for the future and see more clearly, which is a growth opportunity for the business, Mr Symons said: “I would say there is the opportunity for West London, opportunities for local authorities opportunity for business, and we know residents and the communities really support this work.
“I would commend this plan and we look forward to working with West London on delivering its build back better plan.”
Mr Walker told delegates the climate emergency became a key priority for all the west London boroughs and that there was now the chance to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and the climate emergency together.
“We share an ambition that any recovery has to be around a green recovering, bringing shared ambitions around climate action but also growth in the green economy,” he said.
“It is pretty clear that green touches everywhere – our aviation communities, skills and employment, growth sectors and housing and infrastructure.”
With a decade of work to retrofit homes beginning next year, Mr Walker added there were plans to develop and share best practice and emissions measuring framework, so there was a consistent approach to measuring progress across the capital, for both the public and private sector.
“We want to make sure that we’re working with our green supply chains by putting sustainability at the heart of our projects. Local authorities spend huge amounts of money on supplies and services. Let’s make sure that sustainability is at the heart of those procurement strategies, and the supply chain that we’re going to work with,” he added.
Mr Jha, who has been working with households to reduce carbon emissions for ten years, said the government’s Green Homes Grant would help to improve the energy efficiencies at home and that Work Work was ready to work with homeowners to implement those improvements.
Ms Rowsell said since Westfield was acquired by Unibail-Rodamco, the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy was integrated with the Better Places 2030 strategy. Targets of that strategy include halving the company’s carbon footprint, tackling responsible consumption and supporting the circular economy.
She said the strategy was “really key to the long-term success” of the businesses and that it was important to be held accountable to it.
Some innovation the centre has gone under includes the introduction of contractors taking control of waste management to reduce volumes of waste through working with retailers to educate them on ensuring they dispose of their waste correctly and help sort their waste. Westfield’s community team last month also opened a nature reserve, which has been developed for the community.
One way the centre has saved on wastage is through the introduction of water fountains, which has seen the equivalent of 75,000 water bottles worth of water used by customers, as the shopping centre continues to encourage people to think about whether they need to buy a water bottle while they are out.
Ms Rowsell added Westfield has also been working with electric vehicle partners and future initiatives were in the pipeline as the centre looked to continue to drive energy and waste efficiencies.
“Our ownership of it (efficiencies) is around sharing our ambitions and targets and making sure we’re held accountable to them but also that our retailers and all he thousands of people that come to the centre know what we’re trying to do and what part they can play.”
Mr Pierce said told delegates smart and digital technologies are an “important pathway” into the modernisation of our cities and the recovery from COVID-19 and that smart and green infrastructure very often went hand in hand, as it enables more efficiency in an environmental and financial sense.
As part of the shared cities programme, London is working with Milan, Warsaw and Bordeaux to name but three, with the public and private sectors and academics to test smart and green technologies to see what works, and then promote packages that work to be promoted to other cities. Some of the examples of work to improve energy efficiencies during the programme include the retrofitting of hundreds of apartments across London with the latest in smart technologies and a deep retrofit to get them as close to zero carbon as possible, integrated electric mobility solutions and energy management systems that optimise energy inputs and outputs across large areas of a districts, which is generating energy savings of up to 10% in some cases.
And while progress was taking place at great pace, behaviour changes will need to be made to ensure the zero carbon target is reached before 2050.
He said: “In London we have the target to become a zero-carbon city by 2050, and the ‘easy’ stuff is going to be decarbonising the grid and new buildings being zero carbon. I say easy in quotation marks as the really difficult bit is going to be retrofitting our existing infrastructure to make it carbon neutral, and then also encouraging people to change the way they live their lives, these kinds of things are going to be vital.”