In Conversation: Matthew Pencharz, Senior Adviser to the Mayor of London for Environment and Energy, on London’s new role as “lead city” of C40 LEV Network

During a recent C40 clean bus workshop in Bogota*, London was named “lead city” of the C40 Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Network. As lead city, London will play an important role in shaping LEV Network workstreams and act as a thought leader for cities around the world on LEV policies, projects and programmes.

Kathryn Urquhart, Manager of the C40 LEV Network, spoke with the Mayor’s Senior Advisor – Environment and Energy to find out more about the city’s motivation and vision for leading the network.  


Photo Credit Ben Broomfield

Kathryn Urquhart (C40): Could you tell us a bit about why your city joined the C40 LEV Network, first as a member and now as a leadership city?

Matthew Pencharz (London): Like many cities London faces an air pollution challenge, which impacts the health and wellbeing of our residents. Low emission vehicles were identified as a key component of our strategy to tackle these pollutants to improve the air that Londoners breathe and reduce carbon emissions. We have ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions, with a 60 per cent reduction needed by 2025 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. Delivering against these targets as the city grows by over 100,000 people a year is a major challenge and required bold thinking – once again, low emission vehicles were an important part of our policy solution.

When it came to implementing on the ground strategies to promote the uptake of these low emission vehicles and put in place supporting infrastructure, we recognized that we were not alone and other cities shared our objectives. The C40 LEV Network provided the perfect mechanism for connecting with these like-minded cities and sharing best practice, other experiences and data.

In London we have particular aspirations around our taxi and bus fleets and how these can be used to showcase the potential of new technologies like electric or hydrogen fuel cell. As we begin a major push in these areas we wanted to be able to harness the experiences of other cities in these areas and share our own. So when the opportunity to lead the LEV Network came up we jumped at the chance.

Kathryn Urquhart (C40): What are the key ambitions and targets for London’s LEV strategy at present?

Matthew Pencharz (London): There are three key areas of activity for our Low Emission Vehicle Strategy at the present time:

  • The first is to deliver the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which is a world first and will be a game changer for London. By combining existing incentives with new minimum emission requirements we believe that the ULEZ will play a critical role in accelerating the uptake of ultra low emission vehicles.
  • We also have specific plans for our bus fleet. The Mayor has recently confirmed £330m in funding to deliver around 3,500 electric and hybrid buses by 2020 – around 40 per cent of London’s 8,500-strong bus fleet.
  • For our taxi fleet the Mayor has set out his proposals for all new black cabs to be zero emission capable from 2018. To retire the most polluting older cabs and to speed up the introduction of cleaner new ones the Mayor will tighten the existing 15-year age limit in 2020, affecting 7,000 black cabs out of the 23,000-strong fleet. Recognizing the cost for taxi drivers in transitioning to zero emission capable taxis, the Mayor is providing £40m in financial support with additional grants also available from our national government.

Crucially we will have the ability to specify where the new zero emission capable buses and taxis use their zero emission mode, helping us tackle air pollution where its worst using the wealth of monitoring data we collect each day from across London.

Kathryn Urquhart (C40):  Your city demonstrates strong leadership in implementing well thought-out and innovative LEV strategies. What key experience would you like to share with other cities?

Matthew Pencharz (London): I think the starting point is that we still have much to learn, especially from some of our Asian partners who have really pushed electric buses and have a wealth of in-use data which is invaluable for anyone looking to progress in this area. What I think London brings to the table is our ability to work collaboratively with a wide range of partners (be that taxi manufacturers or private sector bus operators) to deliver against clear policy goals. We are now seeking to replicate this at the global level and use C40’s convening power to clearly articulate the shared objectives of many cities to deliver low emission vehicles in their fleet and to ensure this is done in an affordable way as quickly as possible.

*The C40 LEV Network clean bus workshop was held in Bogota in November. Participants from nine cities – Bogota, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile, Warsaw and Yokohama – gathered for the first in-person meeting of the Network. To learn more about the LEV Network, click here