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Crisis gives chance to put urban carbon footprint in check
24 June 2020
In the second of a series of blogs on net-zero carbon, Clare Wildfire, Global Practice Leader — Cities, from Mott MacDonald, explores how the pandemic presents an opportunity to change. You can read the first blog here.
Anyone with experience of trying to change industry knows that it is often quite slow to respond. Being aware of this, the process of plotting what we have to do differently, and then doing it, should start now. Yet the challenge just got harder. With government, the mayor’s office and the boroughs focussed on the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, will net-zero be accorded the necessary urgency?
Sometimes it is the very existence of disruptive circumstance that allows us to change things for the better and break out of ‘business as usual’ inertia. We have all seen how necessity has turned agile working from the domain of progressive business into a commonplace and acceptable way of working, and much has been made of the expectation that a permanent shift in working culture will prevail. Coronavirus could result in a long-term reduction in demand for transport, alleviating congestion on the capital’s road and rail networks.
We know the change will have drawbacks in other areas – not least reducing revenues and employment in the transport or commercial office sectors. Set against this, the net-zero agenda can play an important part in London’s economic recovery, creating new jobs and revenue streams.
Millions of London homes will require significant energy efficiency improvement under the ‘curb energy demand’ mandate, through locally deployable packages that can boost employment.
District-scale clean energy interventions – comprising systems of diverse low carbon generation, distribution and storage – not only provide local employment but also keep the ongoing energy spend retained in the local economy, something that the UK100 group of local authorities is looking to capitalise on.
There will likely be an enhanced push towards electric vehicles, not just electric cars but other forms of mobility such as e‑bikes and possibly even e‑scooters in time. The disruption of threading new electricity infrastructure through an already congested public realm can be eased by advanced planning, starting with spatial and temporal mapping of existing capacity against predicted demand.
While attention is rightly being paid to immediate and urgent crisis, long-term advanced planning will be needed to ensure we don’t lose sight of our net-zero ambitions.
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