LONDON The British capital set out on Tuesday to become the greenest city in the world with a radical climate action plan to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent within 20 years in the battle against global warming.
The plan aims to slash carbon output by reducing demand and wastage across the whole spectrum from individuals to households, businesses and local governments.
"This will make London the first city in the world to have a really comprehensive plan to cut its carbon emissions," Mark Watts, climate change adviser to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, told Reuters in an interview.
"Londoners don't have to reduce their quality of life but they do have to change the way they live," he said. "And the bottom line is that it will save them money into the bargain."
The plan is far more ambitious than the draft Climate Change Bill the British government will publish on March 12 setting in law a commitment to cut national emissions of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 60 percent by 2050.
London's 7.5 million people will be urged to turn off televisions and lights and switch to low energy lightbulbs, while householders will be offered big subsidies to insulate their homes, which account for 40 percent of carbon emissions.
Businesses and local governments, which emit some 33 percent of the carbon, will be awarded green badges of merit for cleaning up their acts.
"The private sector is moving faster than the public sector on climate change. Companies want to be seen having good green credentials," Watts said.
But he said these fundamental changes could not be achieved without a major change in the production and distribution of the city's electricity.
That is why part of the action plan aims to switch over one quarter of the city's power supply from the old and hugely inefficient national grid to locally-generated electricity using far more efficient combined heat and power plants (CHP).
Some 70 percent of the original energy output of a traditional power station is wasted in lost heat or during transmission, but a CHP unit captures and uses the heat produced.
"If we can move power generation closer to the homes and offices where it is needed we can greatly improve efficiency and therefore reduce the total amount of energy needed," Watts said.
The plan aims to cut London's carbon emissions by 20 million tonnes a year by 2025, but the real goal is a reduction of 33 million tonnes or 60 percent below 1990 levels, Watts said.
However, to do that the city will need government help in the form of stable, long-term carbon prices and tough building regulations applied to new and existing buildings, he said.
Leading world scientists predict average world temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due mainly to carbon gases from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.