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London Assembly Environment Committee Respond To Mayor’s Air Quality Consultation

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London 3 by pedro szekely via flickr

Through Transport for London, the Mayor is undertaking a formal consultation on the Emissions Surcharge (ES, also known as the ‘T-charge’), to be introduced into the central zone from October 2017.

The same consultation is also less formally seeking views on further measures being prepared for later dates, especially the strengthening and expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

The Environment Committee is submitting this response on behalf of the London Assembly.

The response is agreed by a majority of the Committee. Dissenting views, from the Conservative and UKIP Members, are noted in the appendix. The Green Member, while supporting the content of this response, has an additional point contained in the Green Group’s response to this consultation and referred to in a note to the ULEZ section below.

The Emissions Surcharge (ES)

Under the ES, it is proposed that older vehicles would pay, in the same zone and during the same hours as the Congestion Charge, a £10 daily charge (in addition to the Congestion Charge of £11.50). Some vehicles will be exempt from the charge, including vehicles meeting the Euro 4 emissions standard or better, taxis and minicabs, and motorcycles. Disabled drivers will not need to pay the charge and there will be a 90 per cent discount for residents, as with the C-Charge.

A significant purpose of the ES will be to signal the intent behind the subsequent ULEZ, and send a message to individuals and organisations who are planning to buy new vehicles to use in London. TfL expects the ES to reduce car-based NOX emissions in central London by just 4 per cent.

Response

The Committee supports the ES as proposed.

The Committee had suggested that there should be a stricter exemption standard for diesels (Euro 5) than for petrols (Euro 4 as proposed by the Mayor). This would have a stronger immediate effect on pollution, and would signal more clearly the principle of the forthcoming ULEZ, which is that diesels should be subject to the charge at younger ages than petrols, in line with the emissions from the vehicles.

However, following further discussions with the Deputy Mayor for Transport and officials from TfL and the GLA, the Committee sees the case that establishing this principle as early as 2017 would risk some less-aware motorists upgrading Euro 4 diesels to Euro 5 to gain ES exemption, only to require another upgrade when the Euro 5 diesels themselves become subject to the ULEZ in 2019, at significant total expense. It is true that Euro 5 diesels often do not offer lower real world NOX or NO2 emissions than older models. Therefore the Committee accepts the all-fuels Euro 4 exemption criterion for the ES as an interim measure.

The Committee had also recommended that the ES should end when it is superseded by the ULEZ, to avoid an over-complicated system of zonal charges. This is now part of the Mayor’s proposal and we welcome this. It has been clarified that for residents of the central zone the ES will continue (at the 90 per cent residents discount) during the ULEZ ‘sunset period’ (during which central zone residents will not pay the ULEZ); this seems consistent with our recommendation.

ULEZ proposals

In 2015, the previous Mayor ordered the ULEZ to take effect from September 2020 in the central congestion charge zone. It will impose a daily charge (£12.50 for light vehicles, £100 for heavy). Vehicles with low emissions of toxic pollution will be exempt – the standard being Euro 4 (from 2006) for petrol vehicles, and Euro 6 (from 2015-16 depending on vehicle type) for diesels. These two standards are approximately equivalent in terms of NOX emissions (though on-the-road compliance with the standard is an issue for many current diesel cars).

The Environment Committee at the time found that this scheme did not go far enough. It recommended that the scheme cover a wider area, be introduced sooner than 2020, and the charge to increase over time to have a stronger effect. The committee also underlined the importance of making vehicle-switching affordable for affected drivers, and supported the Mayor’s call for a national diesel scrappage scheme.

The current Mayor has been making proposals to take forward some of the Committee’s main recommendations, implementing the central charge earlier, and widening the zone to cover an extended inner zone for light vehicles and London-wide for heavy vehicles. The proposals in the current consultation include:

• Bringing forward the implementation of the ULEZ in central London to 2019. The consultation also covers options for leaving it at 2020 or delaying to 2021, 2022 or 2023.
• Applying the ULEZ to heavy vehicles London-wide, again at a range of possible dates from 2019 to 2023.
• Applying the ULEZ to light vehicles in a zone within the North and South Circular roads, at the same range of possible dates.

Response

As in previous consultation responses, we urge wide and early implementation of the ULEZ. Within the current consultation, this means supporting a 2019 date for the central zone rather than 2020, or the negative step of delaying the implementation already ordered. Specifically, we would continue to support an early 2019 date rather than a date later in the year. We welcome that the ULEZ is being addressed in the current consultation and would urge that the formal consultation on ULEZ changes be conducted soon enough to enable an early implementation date.

We fully support extension of the ULEZ London-wide for heavy vehicles, specifically from 2019.

For light vehicles, we support expansion to a zone within the North and South Circulars as a minimum and again at an early date, preferably 2019. We would support further consideration of wider boundary options, and the most preferable option would be for a London-wide ULEZ for all vehicles.

Additional alternatives for consultation could include placing the North and South Circular roads themselves in the zone, incentivising drivers to find a wider range of alternative options, rather than simply diverting onto these already-congested roads. The A406 North Circular as a purpose-built orbital road carries very heavy traffic even without the ULEZ, while the urban streets designated the A205 South Circular in many places have just a single lane in each direction and are not suitable to receive traffic diverted from trunk roads such as the A2 and A3.

There is demand from boroughs for areas outside the North and South Circulars to be included. Particular consideration should be given to south London where the South Circular cuts through inner London much more closely than the North Circular does. In the south, the proposed boundary bisects the inner boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich, whereas in the north it passes through Barnet, Enfield and Waltham Forest in outer London, going entirely around Haringey, Camden, Islington and Hackney.

If an inner zone with a diversionary road boundary is chosen, sections of the A232 are more equivalent to the A406 North Circular than is the A205. This distinction is the minimum that is required to bring symmetry between north and south London, although our preference is to have the ULEZ and the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) at the same London-wide boundary.

Extending the ULEZ to all of London for light vehicles as well as heavy would simplify the zonal structure, largely remove the discrepancies between north and south London, and offer the purpose-built orbital M25 motorway as a diversionary route. This option could be considered as a 2020 phase, to allow car and van drivers in outer London time to acquire compliant vehicles or take other alternative options.

We also re-iterate the point made in our previous consultation response that any 2020 phase of the ULEZ should be implemented at the beginning of the year (before the Mayoral election in May), rather than in September.

Looking beyond 2020, and considering the recent announcements of future diesel bans from Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens, the potential to remove Euro 6 diesels from exemption should be considered, if forthcoming real-world driving emission standards do not reduce emissions effectively. Earlier dis-exemption of diesels could be considered in the central zone. Consideration should also be given to progressive tightening of exemption standards towards zero tailpipe emissions; a statement of intent for a zero emissions standard in 2025 would give an appropriate signal to drivers, operators and the vehicle industry.

Other measures

We continue to support the Mayor’s calls for the national government to take tougher action on air pollution, including a nationally-funded diesel scrappage scheme. This would both reduce the costs of the ES and ULEZ to drivers, and enhance their air quality impact, by facilitating switching to cleaner vehicles.

We also support the devolution of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘road tax’) to London, enabling the Mayor to set rates that take into account air pollutants as well as CO2 emissions, and to retain revenue raised in London for London use rather than seeing it reserved to the national strategic road network, almost all in other parts of the country. We will write to the Government to support these calls.

As the Committee has also previously stated, running through your transport emissions work should be a priority on traffic reduction, with complementary measures to enable modal shift to buses, trains, walking and cycling. The experience of reducing car journeys between 1991 and 2011, and during the 2012 London Olympics, show how Londoners can adapt their travel behaviours. Less traffic on the roads can reduce congestion, improve journey times and reliability including for buses, and further encourage sustainable travel choices.

We have likewise drawn attention to other air pollution issues, including emissions from private hire vehicles, river transport and non-transport sources.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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