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London and Washington leading charge for going green, says Chairman appointed by President Obama

Posted on 14/11/2012

In the Annual Sustainability Lecture at Royal Holloway last night, alumnus and Chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) in America, Mr L. Preston Bryant Jr, spoke about the advances both capital cities have made in addressing environmental challenges and achieving tangible results.

Mr Bryant Jr who studied for an MA in English Literary Studies at Royal Holloway, returned to campus in his role as Chairman of the NCPC, the central agency for all federal lands and buildings in Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. He was appointed to the position by President Obama in 2009.

Quoting figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which estimate that urban areas could account for 74% of energy-related global greenhouse gases by 2030 (currently it stands at over 67%), Mr Bryant Jr impressed how vital it is that these issues are urgently addressed, to an audience of staff, students and members of the public.

“Water also poses major problems,” he said, adding that storm water runoff is the leading cause of water pollution. “Indeed, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life and 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.”

Mr Bryant then looked at what the future holds, with both cities setting aggressive targets and creating roadmaps for achieving these targets in energy conservation, water quality improvement, public transportation, and waste reduction.

For example, London aims to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025, increase the share of all trips by bicycle from 2% in 2009 to 5% by 2026, and recycle at least 45% of waste by 2015. Meanwhile Washington is looking to cut citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2032, make 100% of District waterways fishable and swimmable and cover 40% of the District with a healthy tree canopy.

He explained that the key in achieving these targets, and a better future, lies with the programmes the cities are implementing. He held up the congestion charge and the development of the Olympic Park as examples of transformation in London, while Washington’s District Transit Programmes are helping to minimise parking and maximise ‘walkability’ through the Capitol Bike Share Programme, Zipcar car-share program and expanded metro line.

“In Washington DC, there is a growing focus on sustainability by both the Federal and District of Columbia governments, which share city planning responsibilities,” Mr Bryant Jr said. He highlighted the SW Ecodistrict Initiative, a collaborative effort led by the NCPC, where the two governments have focused their attention on a portion of the city’s south-western quadrant. In addition to accommodating the future space needs of the federal government, the Ecodistrict will extend the civic qualities of the National Mall, create new places to live, and promote a vibrant, open, and pedestrianised neighbourhood. “This plan could serve as a leading example for other world cities,” he said.

The lecture, organised jointly by the Centre for Research into Sustainability, and Politics, Development and Sustainability, aims to put a spotlight on environmental issues, highlighting topics that are important to us all. Now in its third year, the series has included a number of high profile speakers including Lord May, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government and President of The Royal Society.

Professor Laura Spence, Director of the Centre for Research into Sustainability said: “We are delighted to continue this prestigious series of lectures on one of the global contemporary challenges, with the lecture by L. Preston Bryant. Bringing an international perspective and reminding us of the practical complexity of sustainability, was both enlightening and challenging in equal measure”.

For more information about the lecture, please visit: www.rhul.ac.uk/CRIS



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