Ever since David Cameron stated “I’ve had enough of all this green xxxx” (despite starting his Premiership with his hug a husky arctic trip) the conservative government has not considered reducing C02 emissions or fighting global warming as an important area to work on. Indeed having voted to leave the EU it is likely that they will be very little Parliament concentration left for this important fight in the next few years.
Given that we live on an island and therefore are going to be hit harder by rising sea levels then most countries, this seems a short-sighted issue. However this does to a certain extent follow a similar trend worldwide, it demonstrates the issue with democracy – the leaders and therefore policies enacted are chosen by those people living at the moment, not by those that will have to live with the consequences of runaway global warming. While you would hope that people would look out for the standard of life they are leaving for their descendants, study after study shows that this is not the case.
Sadiq Khan, as the mayor of London, is one of the most high profile politicians in the UK, and despite not being in the House of Commons has a huge amount of power over life in London and responsibility for a large budget. So long as he is sensible with his public comments this means that he can raise attention to things that he feels are important for Londoners, even if the current government does not find this helpful.
He opposes the government over several things, one of these is the third runway at Heathrow. Every study done makes it clear that if a third runway is added to Heathrow it will be virtually impossible for the UK to meet its carbon reduction aims. Another of these is the government’s wish to allow fracking within London. Given the tightly packed living conditions with in London, and the facts that the water quality of river such as the Thames have been improved dramatically over recent years any leaking of fossil fuels due to fracking could have significant consequences, quite apart from the fact that virtually all assessment suggest fracking should not be used if we are to have any hope of keeping global warming at survivable levels.
He is also trying to protect the green belt, strict building regulations in a band around London have meant that there is a ring of less developed land around London. However this is highly important both for dealing with air pollution in London and for the well-being of Londoners who are able to escape into the countryside relatively easily. The current government wishes to erode these protections, as this land would be good for developing, however the greenbelt is very good because it stops London spreading in the way that Jakarta and other cities like Cairo have grown and grown to the detriment of their populations.
This fight is a similar one that plays out around the world where local worries about local pollution meet national aims and collide. The government should be very careful about how it forces this through – while cities are generally labour strongholds the green belt is a strong favourite of the Conservative Party.