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With government legislating for net-zero by 2050, what does this mean for UK energy markets and business models?

Getting to net-zero will require economy-wide changes that extend well beyond the energy system, leading to rapid and unprecedented change in all aspects of society.

Research published today by the UK Energy Research Centre shines a light on the level of disruption that could be required by some sectors to meet net-zero targets.

With many businesses making strong commitments to a net-zero carbon future, the report highlights the stark future facing specific sectors. Some will need to make fundamental change to their business models and operating practices, whilst others could be required to phase out core assets. Government may need to play a role in purposefully disrupting specific sectors to ensure the move away from high carbon business models, facilitating the transition a zero-carbon economy.

Sector specific impacts

The in-depth analysis presented in ‘Disrupting the UK energy systems: causes, impacts and policy implications’ focuses on four key areas of the economy, highlighting how they may need to change to remain competitive and meet future carbon targets.

Heat: All approaches for heat decarbonisation are potentially disruptive, with policymakers favouring those that are less disruptive to consumers. Since it is unlikely that rapid deployment of low carbon heating will be driven by consumers or the energy industry, significant policy and governance interventions will be needed to drive the sustainable heat transformation.

Transport: Following the ‘Road to Zero’ pathway for road transport is unlikely to be disruptive, but it is not enough to meet our climate change targets. The stricter targets for phasing out conventional vehicles that will be required will lead to some disruption. Vehicle manufacturers, the maintenance and repair sector and the Treasury may all feel the strain.

Electricity: Strategies of the Big 6 energy companies have changed considerably in recent years, with varying degrees of disruption to their traditional business model. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to continue to adapt to rapid change – or be overtaken by new entrants.

Construction: To deliver low-carbon building performance will require disruptive changes to the way the construction sector operates. With new-build accounting for less than 1% of the total stock, major reductions in energy demand will need to come through retrofit of existing buildings.

The report identifies how policy makers plan for disruptions to existing systems. With the right tools and with a flexible and adaptive approach to policy implementation, decision makers can better respond to unexpected consequences and ensure delivery of key policy objectives.

Prof Jim Watson, UKERC Director and Professor of Energy Policy, UCL said “The move to legislate for net-zero is welcome progress, but we need economy-wide action to make this a reality.
This includes policies that deliberately disrupt established markets and business models in some sectors – and address any negative impacts.”

Prof Jillian Anable, UKERC Co-Director and Professor of Transport and Energy, University of Leeds added “The UK transport sector is nearly 100% fuelled by fossil fuels, with only tiny niches of electrified and bio-fuelled vehicles.

Whilst politically challenging, the sector can only hope to reach ‘net-zero’ through whole-scale change that involves reducing hyper-mobility and fuel switching. This will lead to disruption to actors, global networks, governance and lifestyles.”

Labour is announcing that climate change will be a core part of the curriculum from primary school onwards. The announcement comes on the same day that the UK Climate Strike Network hosts more school strikes across the country.

Under plans set out by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, the next Labour government will ensure all young people are educated about the ecological and social impact of climate change.

A review of the curriculum will also make certain that it focuses on the knowledge and skills that young people need in a world that will be increasingly shaped by climate change, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation will drastically increase future demand for the knowledge and skills required for the green jobs of the future, with these skills severely underrepresented in the current curriculum.

As part of the review, an expert panel will consider how climate change and its impact are taught from primary school onwards.

One of the key demands of the climate school strikes is that the national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority. Currently, teaching climate change is restricted to Chemistry and Geography in Key Stages 3 and 4.

Under the Conservatives, the curriculum has narrowed, with Michael Gove scrapping the last Labour government’s plans to start teaching children about the environment and climate change when they are in primary school.

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said “Today, young people are taking to the streets to send a  clear message to the government that climate change will be a fundamental and defining feature of their adult lives, and we must take the action needed to tackle it.

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.

“That must be part of a broad education and that prepares pupils for adult life. Climate change should be a core part of the school curriculum, and under a Labour government it will be.

“As well as teaching young people about the impact of climate change, their education must prepare them for the jobs of the future. As part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution to create 400,000 skilled jobs across the country, young people will be taught the skills they need.”

As the built environment moves towards becoming eco-friendly, buildingspecifier Editor Joe Bradbury posits the question – are we not seeing the wood for the trees in the quest for a viable green alternative?

The construction industry accounts for almost 7% of the economy in the UK and we hold a 10% share of total employment. However, with great size comes great responsibility and unfortunately – a very big carbon footprint. 47% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from buildings and 10% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials. Shockingly, 20% of the materials used on the average building site end up in a skip. According to a 2011 report, in 2010 up to 4.3 million tonnes of timber waste was generated.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom and reckless capitalism, as the construction industry has come on leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so in a bid to make the industry a cleaner, greener entity. One area where vast improvements have been made is in the recycling and usage of wood in buildings. In 1992, less than 2% of all waste wood was recycled; 10 years later approximately 60% (2.8 million tonnes) of all wood waste generated in the UK was recycled.

The energy industry is also beginning to see the potential of wood for cleaning up its act. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide whilst they grow, burning wood for energy is considered ‘carbon neutral.’ In 2010 around 0.55 million tonnes of wood was used in energy generation. Some coal-fired power stations have had some of their boilers converted to accept wood and they burn more than 100,000 tonnes of recycled woodchip a year.

Remarkably, the future of wood in construction of buildings has reached soaring new heights recently as innovations in engineered timber could spell the beginning of a new era of eco-friendly wooden skyscraper design.

Despite wood in its raw form not being able to compete with the steel-frame design used in skyscrapers globally, a new type of super-plywood has been created that just might give steel a run for its money.

By gluing layers of low-grade softwood together to create timber panels, today’s “engineered timber” resembles Ikea flat-packed furniture rather than traditional sawn lumber and removes the height limits usually imposed on buildings with timber frames. Free from these constraints, ambitious architects are exploring the possibility of a next generation of “plyscrapers.”

Architect Michael Green has drawn up plans for a 30-storey, naturally grown tower for downtown Vancouver, which if built would become the world’s highest wooden building – an accolade currently awarded to London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne.

With China next on the list of countries suspected to implement timber skyscrapers into their cityscapes, it is definitely possible that we could one day be working in a building that began life as a seed.

However, there is still deep mistrust of timber builds en masse, with many considering them a tinderbox responsible for causing ravaging city fires such as the great fire of London, San Francisco and Chicago, to name a few examples.  Whilst historically fires have razed great cities to the ground, today’s engineered timber develops a protective charring layer that maintains structural integrity and burns very predictably. This means that it would actually be more structurally sound than steel, which warps drastically under intense heat.

NASA satellite photos of our planet help biologists calculate the number of trees there are on Earth. Whilst impossible to settle on a specific number, many professors agree that there are roughly 61 trees per person worldwide. It requires 22 trees to produce the amount of oxygen consumed by one person, with an acre of trees producing enough oxygen for 18 people. The forest loss is 49,421 acres per day, equivalent to an area twice the size of Paris – an alarming statistic when you consider the expanding population.

Obviously trees alone aren’t the answer to the construction industry’s environmental issues, however, through responsible usage and with the utmost respect it could help us edge further towards that cleaner, greener future we all need.

Britain’s best innovators and researchers are being invited to pitch their ideas to help tackle the effects of climate change on towns, cities and the countryside as part of modern Industrial Strategy.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark recently announced 4 new research programmes to boost the UK’s resilience to climate change, develop digital environments, promote clean air and investigate how to use our land to boost health outcomes.

The £60 million funding pot was announced during the first ever Green GB Week – a government-led week of campaigning to encourage businesses, communities, funders and academics to renew their efforts to confront the global challenge of climate change.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said “Companies are capitalising on the UK’s world leading position in the greener economy as we transition to a greener, cleaner economy and is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.

“The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change, cutting our emissions more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy. When you combine Britain’s leadership, innovation and determination it is an unbeatable combination – exactly what our Industrial Strategy and Green GB Week are supporting and encouraging.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said “The recent IPCC report is a timely reminder of the challenges we face in tackling climate change. Storm Callum has highlighted the impact that extreme weather events can have on our communities.

“It is vital that the evidence generated by research is used effectively to navigate and mitigate the effects of climate change, and new technologies are developed to support a move to a low carbon economy.

“The Strategic Priorities Fund is important in supporting UKRI’s mission, allowing us to bring collective expertise from a wide range of disciplines and sectors to bear on addressing important matters affecting all of society.”

The programmes, administered by UKRI, will bring together a broad range of research disciplines, ranging from mathematics and biology to climate science and technology development to:

  • produce better data on climate risks to the UK
  • build a digital picture of our natural environment for greater monitoring and analysis of the impact of climate change
  • cut air pollution and protect vulnerable groups from its effects
  • use our land better, for the benefit of the environment and communities
  • develop ways for the UK to adapt to climate change

Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Professor Stephen Belcher, said “These programmes will allow the Met Office and our partners to make real progress in two areas of significant environmental impact: air pollution and climate change.

“Working together with other world-leading scientists from the UK’s academic community, we will be able to deliver tools and services which will benefit the lives and livelihoods of people across the UK.”

Competitions for the programmes will open in the coming weeks. Researchers and innovators can visit the UKRI website for updates.

The funding comes as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. Further programmes will be announced in the coming months.

A report commissioned by WWF finds that UK businesses must invest in sustainable forest management if they are to guarantee access to timber that their businesses rely on in the near future. Leading countries that supply timber to the UK are either at the point of expiry or running at a deficit as forest resources are used without adequate provision for sustainable timber supply.

However, the report highlights key benefits that will make the case for businesses to switch more rapidly to sustainable sourcing. These include:

  • advantages in regulatory positioning
  • easier raising of finance
  • added brand value
  • a more engaged workforce

It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These benefits can increase performance of the timber industry as a whole and ultimately aid the bottom line of all companies involved.

As the international market for timber will change in its dynamics in the next decades, without urgent action UK businesses who have failed to adequately plan for continuity of their timber resource could be left exposed with fewer commercial options.

Depleting sustainable resources

The implications are far reaching with WWF’s Living Forests report series concluding that global demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050 due to an increase in demand of wood and paper products from growing economies and populations. At the same time this report’s analysis indicates that:

  • Brazil has only 16 years of timber forests remaining, South Africa 7 years, Colombia 12 years, Mexico 9 years, Nigeria 11 years, Thailand 9 years and Pakistan 10 years.
  • Primary forest is being depleted at an alarming rate in many forested countries, the most extreme examples being Nigeria, losing 99% of primary forest, and Vietnam 80% since 1990 – a loss of almost 2 million hectares in these two countries alone. This has a huge impact on the biodiversity and other important forest ecosystem functions.
  • In the UK by 2050 less than 22% of the timber will originate from Britain.
  • All the UK foresters interviewed for the report expressed grave concerns over the future of domestic softwood supply.

The report also sets out how sourcing timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect the natural environment as forests not only provide timber but also supply a range of ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water provision, flood prevention, erosion control and biodiversity. Securing long-term supply of timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect wildlife and ecosystem functions residing in these forests, as well assisting in securing wider social benefits, and is also a contributor to the bottom line of businesses utilising timber as a resource, which currently is as yet widely unaccounted for as a benefit, only as a cost.

Julia Young, Global Forest and Trade Network Manager for WWF-UK commented “Committing to sustainable timber sourcing isn’t just an added bonus, but is something that any timber dependent business must be investing in if they want a healthy and resilient business that will survive. This report sets out important areas in business functions where benefits are likely to accrue, but are not accounted for when making decisions about the overall cost benefit of sustainable sourcing. We can no longer rely on our usual sources of timber as unsustainable practices are having devastating consequences on forests, and we face a real danger of not having enough timber to satisfy our growing population needs.

“Businesses need to review how their timber is sourced if they want to secure supply for the future, and in keep timber prices stable. This will have tangible business benefits of sustainable practices including advantages in regulatory positioning, easier raising of finance, brand value and an engaged workforce. It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These business benefits can increase performance and ultimately aid the bottom line.

“The UK Government must lead by example and address sustainable forest use in the urgently upcoming 25 year plan for nature.”

Built environment experts Arup have released a report entitled ‘The Urban Bio-Loop’ which highlights the need for more diverse material usage within construction. For an industry that specialises in boxes, is it time to think outside of it in terms of how we tackle very real issues such as climate change and overpopulation?

The publication aims to demonstrate that a different paradigm for materials in construction is in fact possible.

Organic waste from our cities and the countryside, traditionally managed through landfill, incineration and composting could be diverted – at least in part – to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products before being fed back in the biological cycle at the end of their service life.

The use of organic waste in construction would possibly allow the exploitation of its untapped value with a positive impact not only from an environmental perspective but also from a technical, social and economic standpoint. In this project a number of organic waste streams have been identified, together with their applications in building construction as products. Some of them are already certified products used in some markets at global level. Some others need further research and investment before being ready to market.

In the short term these examples are a guideline for designers and practitioners for replacing some of the traditional architectural products with equivalents made with organic waste as a resource.

The report also explores to which extent both our cities and urban districts could become self-sustaining – at least partially – from a feedstock point of view. This would be through the active implementation of organic waste streams into the supply chain of building construction products. This vision entails on the one side cities and urban districts that could implement more effective recovery systems and processes to turn organic waste into a source of value, while on the other side they can be planned for growing natural construction materials.

The principles of Circular Economy would provide the rationale for a shift form a linear – disposal model – towards a circular value chain where organic waste is the main resource.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today called on the Government to grant him additional powers so that he can effectively tackle non-road pollution sources in the capital.

Only half of the capital’s air pollution is caused by on-road vehicles and Sadiq believes London needs more powers so that it can combat pollution from the River Thames, emissions from machinery used on construction sites and pollution from the domestic burning of solid fuels.

Since becoming Mayor, Sadiq has more than doubled investment in tackling air quality to £875 million over the next five years. He has also introduced the boldest plans to tackle air pollution in the world, including a £10 Toxicity-Charge (T-Charge) which will start in October this year, the introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 (subject to consultation), and the cleaning up of London’s public transport fleets such as buses and taxis so that they lead the way in ultra-low emission technology.

Sadiq has now written to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, setting out the additional powers that he believes are required.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said “Non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London so we need a hard-hitting plan of action to combat them similar to moves I am taking to reduce pollution from road vehicles.

“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer and I am calling on Government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

The Mayor is requesting new powers in the following areas:

Non-Road Mobile Machinery

Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) such as diggers and bulldozers are currently the second largest source of ultra-fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions in London and the fifth largest source of oxides of Nitrogen (NOx). This is likely to grow as traffic related emissions decline and as construction increases across London.

Sadiq wants greater powers for the capital to enforce the standards of the Non-Road Mobile Machinery Low Emission Zone (NRMM LEZ) – a scheme that uses the Mayors planning powers to impose minimum emissions standards for machinery used on construction sites.

Sadiq does not believe this scheme is as rigorously applied by the boroughs as it could be, especially where they already have stretched resources.

He has already invested £400,000 so that local authorities can better enforce the zone. However, he is keen to ensure that boroughs, or GLA bodies have greater ability to apply the standards.

He also thinks it should be possible for the rules of the NRMM LEZ to be applied across the board to existing planning permissions and to other users of NRMM as the current regulations mean that more than 1,000 sites are not registered and activities such as roadworks and events are not covered at all.

Sadiq also wants either himself, or another appropriate authority, to have the power to set minimum emission and technical standards for all NRMM used in London. This could be done by amending the GLA Act so that the Mayor can use his powers to regulate NRMM in the same way as he can for road vehicles.

In order to support these powers, Sadiq wants the creation and maintenance of a DVLA-style national database for NRMM.

River and canal emissions

There are currently at least five different regulators that play a role in policing emissions. In addition, current emission regulations only apply to new vessels.

With ambitious plans in the growth of traffic on waterways, unless sufficient controls are introduced, the number of people exposed to this source of pollution will only grow.

Sadiq wants to see the regulations simplified so that there is a single regulator with the ability to charge and enforce and a single emissions control framework. The body would also be able to set minimum emission and other technical standards for specific classes or types of vessels. It would also provide clarity for local, national and international shipping accessing the Thames and canals.

In the meantime, Sadiq is leading by example with the vessels that are owned or run by Transport for London (TfL). The new Woolwich Ferries that will be entering in to service next year will be some of the cleanest vessels working on the river. TfL will also shortly be retro-fitting a Thames Clipper boat with emissions-reduction technology. If successful, this could provide an important example of how existing boats can reduce their pollution.

The Mayor currently does not have any formal powers to control emissions from vessels on the River Thames or the canal network but has recently set up a Thames and London Waterways Forum, which will bring together the regulators and other stakeholders to ensure that growth in the use of London’s waterways is co-ordinated and sustainable.

Wood and solid fuel burning

Current controls on emissions from domestic burning of solid fuels like wood and coal are obsolete, with the definitions barely revised from the original Clean Air Act of 1956. For example, terms like ‘dark smoke’ and ‘smokeless’ don’t reflect a modern understanding of pollution – which can be invisible.

The Mayor’s recently published Environment Strategy set out his ambition to reduce emissions from this source, but without reform of the existing Clean Air Act this is likely to be limited in impact.

The Mayor wants the Clean Air Act to be amended to allow for the creation of zones where the burning of solid fuel is not allowed. These would complement his existing plans to create transport zero emission zones in small areas from 2025 onwards. In addition, the Clean Air Act should be reformed, so the Mayor can set tighter emission limits for new domestic heating appliances like wood burning stoves for pollutants such as PM10 and PM2.5 that are invisible and are known to have a detrimental effect on health.

To ensure these new zones are effectively implemented, local authorities should be given enhanced powers to ensure compliance, including the ability to inspect and enforce, such as by issuing penalty charge notices. Similar powers could also be used to address emissions from larger and commercial premises.

The Stove Industry Alliance and Woodsure, the UK’s woodfuel accreditation scheme, have recently launched their voluntary “ecodesign ready” and “Ready to Burn” labels for stoves and fuels to help consumers make the right choice in London and other smoke control areas. The Mayor believes that more should be done to empower consumers to make the right choice, including better information at the point of sale and mandatory labelling of products that are legal to use in smoke control areas.

Renewable energy developers will compete for £290m worth of contracts to support the growth of clean energy in Britain, as the second Contracts for Difference auction launches.

Contracts for Difference are won through a competitive process which drives down energy costs for consumers and guarantees companies a certain price for the low-carbon electricity they produce over 15 years. This gives them the support and certainty they need to attract investment and get projects off the ground.

The contracts made available today represent the first part of the Government’s commitment to provide up to £730m of annual support for renewable electricity projects over the course of this parliament. They support a key pillar of the Industrial Strategy by ensuring a cleaner, more flexible energy supply.

Energy Minister Jesse Norman said “This auction underlines that Britain is open for business to companies seeking to invest in low carbon energy.

“It is designed to deliver clean power to a million homes, create jobs in the energy industry and provide new supply chain opportunities, while reducing carbon emissions by some 2.5 million tonnes per year.”

The scheme is funded through a levy which forms a part of energy bills and only projects that offer the best value for money will win contracts. There is no cost on energy bills until projects are up and running and generating low-carbon energy.

The auction process started yesterday (3rd April) and will continue over the coming months. It is expected to draw to a close by the autumn, when the winners of the auction and final clearing prices will be announced.

There has been £52bn of investment in renewable energy in the UK since 2010, and for the first time ever exactly half of the UK’s electricity came from low carbon sources in the third quarter of 2016. The latest contracts will help the UK build on this success.

Nanjing Green Towers, promoted by Nanjing Yang Zi State-owned National Investment Group Co.ltd, will be the first Vertical Forest built in Asia.

Located in the Nanjing Pukou District (an area destined to lead the modernization of southern Jiangsu and the development of the Yangtze River economic area), the two towers are characterized by the interchange of green tanks and balconies, following the prototype of Milan’s Vertical Forest.

Along the facades, 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees (for a total amount of 1,100 trees from 23 local species) and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs will cover a 6,000 Sqm area. A real vertical forest, contributing to regenerate local biodiversity, that will provide a 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and will produce about 60 kg of Oxygen per day.

The taller tower, 200 metres high, crowned on the top by a green lantern, will host offices – from the 8th floor to the 35th – and it will include a museum, a green architecture school and a private club on the rooftop. The second tower, 108 metres high, will provide a Hyatt hotel with 247 room of different sizes (from 35 sqm to 150 sqm) and a swimming pool on the rooftop. The 20 metres high podium, will  host commercial, recreational and educative functions, including multi-brands shops,a food market, restaurants, conference hall and exhibition spaces.

Nanjiing Vertical Forest project, which is scheduled to be finished in 2018, is the third prototype, after Milan and Lausanne, of a project about urban forestation and demineralisation that Stefano Boeri Architects will develop all over the world and in particular in other Chinese cities such as Shijiazhuang, Liuzhou, Guizhou, Shanghai and Chongqing.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has expressed his ‘deep concern’ about the impact of Britain leaving the European Union on the environment – and on air pollution in particular.

In an official report about the impact of Brexit on London, the Mayor calls on ministers to ‘guarantee’ that environmental regulations, monitoring and enforcement standards will be strengthened in the aftermath of Brexit, rather than weakened.

European Union regulations have overall had a hugely positive impact on Britain’s environment. They have led to British homes, vehicles and appliances becoming more energy-efficient, waterways becoming cleaner, a decline in harmful emissions and a reduction in the amount of waste produced in Britain.

Only last year, European Union regulations were used in a legal case by Client Earth, in which the Mayor was an interested party, to force the government to come forward with a new air quality strategy by the end of March – bringing quality back within legal limits.

However, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom MP, recently told Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee that only two-thirds of EU environmental regulations would be directly brought into British law.

Furthermore, there are serious challenges to recreating monitoring and enforcement schemes that are currently run by the EU – and have no equivalent in British law.

The Mayor, in London’s official response to the government’s Brexit White Paper, is calling on the government to introduce a new Environment Act, to guarantee that environmental regulations and enforcements are at least equivalent, if not better, than the current EU standards.

This would include enshrining key EU safeguarding principles in British law, including the ‘polluter pays’ concept, ‘environmental rights for citizens’ and the ‘precautionary principle’ – so lack of knowledge is not used as an excuse for poor decisions.

Sadiq is also asking for a guarantee that recently announced EU policy – which has yet to be enshrined in UK law – including the recent Winter Package on energy efficiency and renewable energy, will be transposed into British law as part of the Great Repeal Bill.

The Mayor has made tackling London’s dangerously polluted air a key plank of his administration in City Hall. He has announced plans for a new T-charge on the most polluting vehicles from October, is consulting on introducing the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2019 and on extending it to the North and South Circular, is introducing Clean Bus Zones on the most polluted roads and has announced his intention to clean up London’s entire bus fleet by 2020.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said “I campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, but I accept that the British public voted to leave and we now must respect their democratic will.

“However, the British people did not vote to make our air more polluted or our environment dirtier.

“Our relationship with the EU has been particularly important for London’s environment. Our homes, vehicles and appliances are more energy-efficient, our water is cleaner and better protected, harmful emissions are on a long term decline and we produce less waste. This has all been helped by environmental protections and targets driven by EU directives, regulations and standards.

“The Government should legislate for a new Environment Act to ensure that the UK has an equivalent or better level of protection than in the EU, enshrining key environmental safeguarding principles such as polluter pays, environmental rights for citizens and the precautionary principle. It should also ensure that the necessary powers and resources are devolved to the authorities best placed to tackle their environmental issues and targets.

“I have made it clear that air quality is a key priority for my administration and Londoners need complete assurance of no reduction in regulatory standards and protections in this or other environmental areas. They must be strengthened rather than weakened.”

Sam Lowe, Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said “Brexit can’t be allowed to undermine environmental progress, which is why government must commit to bringing EU environmental laws and principles into UK law. That’s just a first step, they then need to create the domestic institutions so that these laws are enforceable. Continued cooperation and collaboration on the environment with our EU neighbours must also be a priority in the Brexit negotiations.

“The fact is that climate change and air pollution transcend national borders, so they demand coordinated action at a regional and international level – Brexit won’t change that.”

Leah Davis, acting director at Green Alliance and chair of the Greener UK coalition, said: “With 80 per cent of the UK’s environmental laws having been developed with the EU, leaving the EU will be a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. Today, nature is struggling and the air in our cities is dangerous to breath.

“We will need to secure the benefits of existing environmental laws as we leave the EU, and we will need to go further still, with ambitious new milestones for environmental restoration and high standards for pollution and resource efficiency. While the Greener UK coalition is ready and willing to play its part, it is vital that governments and politicians lead, and we welcome the Mayor’s leadership on this.”