Episode 9 of the Environment Journal Podcast is now LIVE!

In this month’s episode of the Environment Journal Podcast, I speak to Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor, Environment and Energy at the Greater London Authority.

The UK is currently in the process of chairing COP26, the most important intergovernmental conference on climate change to date. 

London is a key player in the UK’s local government efforts to combat climate change and so Shirley Rodrigues is the perfect person to discuss this with.

Of course, the Greater London Authority is not a standard local authority, but the devolved regional governance body of the London region.

It was established in 2000 under the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and is one of the early examples of an elected Mayor system with executive authority. At City Hall, the current Mayor Sadiq Khan has pursued a progressive agenda on climate change and the GLA has put together a superb suite of policy documentation covering action planned in the capital.

Shirley says she is often faced with suggestions that London has it easier than other local authorities, due to the Mayor’s unique suite of legal powers and duties and its benefits of being the largest conurbation in the country.

This is certainly the case when looking at the area of transport, where the London tube, buses and trains are the envy of the rest of local government. However, she affirms that London has earned its progress on climate change action through commitment and hard work over a number of years.

One area where the GLA has excelled is air quality, although perhaps driven by the negative context of air quality being under more pressure in London than elsewhere.

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone, introduced in 2019 and recently vastly extended to the limits of the North and South Circular roads, is a good example of progress.

Under this, drivers of cars, motorbikes and some vans that don’t meet the new emission standards must pay the daily ULEZ charge to drive in the zone.

However, Shirley confirmed that four out of five cars driving in the expanded ULEZ on an average day are already compliant, with benefits stretching well outside the capital.


Despite the fact that the GLA would rather see fewer people driving at all, it recognises that electric vehicles will have a role to play in the move towards net-zero carbon.

The Mayor has been overseeing a marked increase in electric vehicle charging infrastructure with Transport for London having delivered over 600 rapid charging points and over 7500 residential charging points in the London area. This means has something like 40% of the entire UK total of EV chargers at the present time.

That said, she constantly referred to the fact that the full legal powers do not rest with the Mayor and it is necessary to work in strategic ways and by collaboration with other bodies, not least the London Borough Councils. There can be no doubt, however, that London has achieved significant progress despite this and clearly holds a lead in some areas, such as building standards for energy efficiency and hackney carriage licensing.

Central to progress has been the Environment Strategy, which was introduced in 2018 and under which the Mayor is taking a range of actions to improve the environment of the city.

Despite the fact that London’s environment is improving, it still faces a host of challenges, including toxic air, noise pollution, threats to green spaces, and the adverse effects of climate change, all of which pose major risks to health and wellbeing of Londoners.

The Environment Strategy is the first to bring together approaches to every aspect of London’s environment, integrating air quality, green infrastructure, climate change mitigation and energy, waste, adapting to climate change, ambient noise and the low carbon circular economy.

On COP26 the Mayor would like to see an agreement to ensure the 1.5 degrees C limit is met globally.

Its own work is also tied up with the C40 Cities Group. This is a network of the world’s so-called ‘megacities’ which are committed to addressing climate change.

C40 supports cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable, and sustainable action on climate change. Representing 97 of the world’s most important cities, over 700 million citizens and a full one-quarter of the entire global economy, the sharing of knowledge and ideas with such key peers is vital to progress.

American journalist Emma Pattee developed the concept of the ‘climate shadow’, explaining that this is not just what you achieve by individual action to reduce your carbon footprint but instead what imprint you have on the fight to combat global warming more generally. This includes wider choices about how you focus on the climate crises and seek to engage in climate action and persuade others to also act accordingly.

Shirley Rodrigues is a great example of someone who is trying not just to reduce her own carbon footprint by individual action, but who has achieved significant progress in expanding her own carbon shadow by working tirelessly to move the agenda forwards on a collective basis and nationally.

Shirley Rodrigues is very well informed on the whole area of climate change and offers a useful insight in this Podcast into what is happening in the largest city area in the country


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