In conversation with Shirley Rodrigues: Enhancing resilience and achieving net-zero

The Resilience Shift’s Seth Schultz joined  Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the Greater London Authority, for an online webinar on climate resilience, collaboration and London’s net-zero ambitions.

Watch the full webinar back here and below

Shirley Rodrigues

In the first Resilience First webinar of the year, Seth Schultz moderated an interactive discussion with the GLA’s Shirley Rodrigues hearing what impact Covid-19 has had on the capital’s net-zero ambitions and what lessons can be learnt from London’s approach to tackling climate change and enhancing resilience.

Building back better from Covid-19: an opportunity to reset.

Pre-Covid the leadership of the Greater London Authority had been clear about their ambition to tackle the climate crisis.  The need to recover from Covid-19’s impact on the capital and the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis are compatible priorities said Shirley, with the need to embed resilience into the recovery a priority so London can withstand not only climate change but any future shocks the capital may face.

Echoing a similar message to last year’s Coalition for Urban Transformations Covid-recovery paper, Shirley said the Covid recovery should be viewed as a reset opportunity; an opportunity to recognise the inequalities exacerbated by the Covid crisis and build back a greener, cleaner and fairer city. In particular, a recovery that affords more access to green spaces and diversifies transport infrastructure, increasing clean air transport options.

 

Resilience as a collective effort

As with many discussions about net-zero and enhancing resilience, the discussion turned to the ‘how’. How can you achieve decarbonisation ambitions in a mega-city as diverse as London?

Drawing upon the whole-system approach of Resilience Shift, Shirley was clear that achieving decarbonisation and resilience required leadership and a collective effort from all parts of the city.

The GLA’s Green New Deal

To do this London had set up a Green New Deal Commission and began to roll out £10 million in financing of Green New Deal projects, tackling air pollution and the climate emergency. To embed resilience into the Commission’s work, the focus has been on future-proofing existing and new buildings to withstand climate change, investing in green transport and spaces and laying a green foundation of skills to make these shifts possible.

For these measures to work though, Shirley was clear collaboration needed to be an operational principal. Engaging a cross-section of the city was key to achieve this, a principal that led to the establishment of Recovery Boards in 2020 to have community input on recovery plans.

There is no silver bullet: so let’s get on with it

Asked by Seth Schultz how the GLA is going to be able to tackle the biggest challenge of an energy transition away from high-carbon emitting sources Shirley was clear: there is no silver bullet solution available at this moment. Waiting for decarbonised options like hydrogen to become viable for cities or spending another five years on analysis was not an option.

The problems are clear so let’s get on with what tools we have available now.

For London these options include enabling homes and housing estates to access low energy networks, investing in electric car infrastructure and setting up building and energy frameworks to create stability in long-term planning.

The importance of sharing experiences

Shirley was clear though that enhancing resilience and decarbonisation needed more than government leadership; it needs central government support and the backing of people and businesses. Understanding why people might not take up decarbonisation measures and making sure support is tailored to that is a major challenge. If people and businesses share their positive experiences of taking action, for example of changing their energy supply, cycling through the city or insulating their home, it will have strong impact on others, increasing pick up of resilience enhancing measures.

“Ultimately it comes down to winning hearts and minds. If people can see the benefits of a shift in behaviour or taking up a change-making measure, they want it.”

The challenge remains making sure people are getting information on the programmes and opportunities available to them. If people know what the positive impact will be on a day-to-day level, it makes adaption of resilience measures much easier.

To see more upcoming Resilience First events, visit their website here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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