Nicky Gavron, as deputy mayor of London, was a driving force behind London's ambitious climate action plan and a sustainability overhaul for a city increasingly central on the global stage. Then along came Boris Johnson, who surprised Gavron and Mayor Ken Livingstone with a victory in the elections in May. As is common in the U.S., the new administration wasn't necessarily keen on carrying on the signature agenda of the predecessor.
"One does hear occasionally talk of drowning the kittens," Gavron said at a visit to Lincoln House June 10, where she delivered a special Lincoln Lecture on the London climate action plan and other planning initiatives. But as a member of the London Assembly, the equivalent of an American city council, Gavron said she is hopeful she can continue to be a green influence on policy. And, she noted in her talk, some requirements for developers -- for on-site renewable energy, for example -- are now set in stone.
"The battle on climate change will be won or lost on cities," Gavron said. "Cities use 75 percent of global energy and are responsible for 80 percent of emissions. We may be the problem -- but we’re also the solution."
London dedicated itself to slashing carbon emissions even as the current 7.5 million population grows by 50,000 per year, by emphasizing density, Brownfields redevelopment, transit use, and the celebrated congestion pricing scheme where private cars are charged the equivalent of $16 to enter the center city. New York under Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a similar proposal that was defeated, though Gavron -- noting "hysterical opposition" that gave way to universal support in London -- predicted that eventually Manhattan below 86th Street would operate like London in the years ahead.
Such initiatives can reduce emissions by 30 percent, Gavron said, but beyond that what is needed is a price on carbon, the removal of barriers on locally generated energy, and investment in green technologies. "Surface transport is 22 percent of emissions. But buildings represent 70 percent. We’ll get half from energy efficiency, a quarter from greening the grid [electricity produced from wind power and other renewable sources] and a quarter from locally produced energy supply [thermal, decentralized energy, combined heat and cooling, co-generation]. It's going to be nothing short of an energy revolution,” Gavron said.
Gavron, who appeared the day before at the MassImpact conference at MIT, noted that the Boston area was "unrivaled in terms of research and academic excellence," and could take the lead in emerging green technologies. She urged the audience to "mobilize, proselytize, and catalyze" on the issue of climate change. Her appearance marked the conclusion of the spring Lincoln Lecture series, which will resume at Lincoln House in the fall.