Urban neutral

19th May, 2007

This magazine recently presented a rather touching portrayal of Ashton Hayes, a village in Cheshire with the aim of becoming ”carbon neutral” – that is, emitting no unnecessary carbon dioxide at all, and perhaps making up for all that troublesome breathing by planting a few trees. That will take some work because the villagers’ current emissions of carbon dioxide are about 25 per cent higher than the national average. In an effort to cut this to something more respectable, the villagers are urging each other to switch off unnecessary electrical items, insulate their lofts and trade in big cars for small ones.

This is all laudable stuff, so it feels a little mean to point out that the villagers could dramatically reduce their carbon footprints by bulldozing Ashton Hayes and moving to London. Yes, London: the ”big smoke”, the richest region in the European Union, is a city whose environmental statistics make it look dangerously like some hippie commune.

The Office for National Statistics reports that Londoners produce much less household waste than anywhere else in the UK. From the same source I learn that London’s households are the most likely to have no cars, and the least likely to have two or more cars. Even before the congestion charge came into force few Londoners commuted by car.

London’s Mayor’s office informs me that London emits 40 per cent less carbon dioxide a person than the national average – which would be less than half the rate of ”carbon neutral” Ashton Hayes. All this from a city that is hugely dynamic, innovative and, frankly, disgustingly rich…

Continued at ft.com, subscription free.

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