The Glass Shard

In 2001, Ken Livingstone struck a deal with the “Corporation”, the Square Mile’s local authority. It went something like this: the then London Mayor would relax restrictions on developers and allow them to build skyscrapers outside of the City in return for substantial investment in deprived inner London boroughs – paid for via a new planning levy.

As a result of the relaxation of planning laws, a glut of skyscrapers have been built outside the perimeters of the Square Mile. The most recent and eye-catching skyscraper to appear is the Shard in London Bridge. It is already the tallest construction in the European Union and dwarfs all around it. Designed by Renzo Piano, who had a hand in Paris’ Pompidou Centre, the Shard is apparently inspired by Canaletto and London’s maritime past.

One prerequisite for major new building projects under Mayor Livingstone’s tenure was that they be based in areas of pre-existing and high-functioning transport hubs. Certainly, the Shard developers would argue that by building in such close proximity to London Bridge rail, bus and underground terminals, they had chosen a very practical site. One major problem, however, is that – and I am sure many people who commute to or through London Bridge will testify – the pre-existing infrastructure is already creaking. How will London Bridge cope when the Shard is at full capacity and all 72 of its inhabitable floors are in use? The knock-on effect for the entire London Underground system could be severe – many more commuters using the tube at a time of cuts to staff numbers and a lack of investment.

In a city like London, where space is precious, we should always keep an eye on the long-term social impact of grand new building projects. We might value a building’s aesthetic design or its green credentials. We might favour creativity and innovation. We might even support more skyscrapers being built in order to help the City keep its competitive edge over other centres of global finance. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that London is a living, working city.

Building vast glass-panelled monuments is all very well, but without the accompanying infrastructure and investment, projects such as the Shard may face real resistance from Londoners in the future.


Con-Lib coalition pledge a "low carbon and eco-friendly economy"

The Con-Lib coalition has agreed on the following environmental priorities for government:

The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.

The creation of a green investment bank.

The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills.

Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs.

Measures to encourage marine energy.

The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.

The establishment of a high-speed rail network.

The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow.

The refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

The replacement of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.

The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.

Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.

Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Continuation of the present Government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.

An agreement to seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

Finally, the agreement also lays out a compromise on new nuclear power plants. The Conservatives will allow new plants to be built with the introduction of a planning policy statement, however, no public money will subsidise any nuclear works. The Lib Dems will in turn be able to abstain on any Commons vote on this issue.

Source: better generation

US-Russia agree new START Treaty

The Times – reports on the US-Russia nuclear pact forged yesterday in Prague. Incidentally, this is one of the most positive articles around on the subject. Many journalists remain skeptical about the importance of the treaty whilst commentators on the American right are hostile to what it means for US hegemony in international affairs.

Jon Snow writes from a personal perspective on his C4 blog.

I grew up in the shadow of the bomb. The mushroom cloud struck awesome fear into our small hearts. Neville Shute’s ‘On the Beach’, dominated our schoolboy book shelves. We knew there were others of our age who practiced survival beneath their desks. We actually feared radiation, nuclear fallout, radiation sickness, and oblivion. I was an impressionable fifteen years old amid the terrifying events of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today who gives the detail of nuclear war a thought?

Here in the UK, this historic agreement between the two most powerful nuclear states in the world has received minimal news coverage. A real shame.

Forty-five nations (Israel will not be attending) will meet next week in the Washington Convention Center for a nuclear security summit. In addition, the United Nations, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency will be represented. Let us hope the US-Russia nuclear pact reached in Prague yesterday is a prelude to increased nuclear cooperation between others in the coming months and years.

Five Links

The Independent – on the secret of Stockholm, winner of the first ever Green capital award from the EU.

Commodity Online – EU emissions decreased by 11% in 2009. As the major European economies begin to move into positive growth one wonders how long this can last.

Edie – on the UK government’s plans to tackle climate change “in house”.

The Jakarta Post – details how Muslim communities worldwide will be uniting against global warming later this week.

earth2tech – on the iPad’s green apps.