Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 6 News List

`Red Ken' launches a green initiative for polluted London

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, on Friday promised a greener and more healthy British capital by imposing prohibitively high charges on polluting lorries and improving access to more local and organic food.

Calling it the the most radical overhaul of Londoners' diet and health since the establishment of the welfare state, Livingstone said he wanted his new food strategy for London to become a blueprint for other cities, not just around Britain, but also the world, just as the congestion charge had done which costs UK?8 (US$14) a day to bring a car into central London.

Addressing the Soil Association's conference on food and farming he said: "The energy and emissions involved in producing food account for 22 percent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions."

"I want London to set a standard for other cities around the world to follow in reducing its own contribution to climate change. How we deal with food will play an important role in this," Livingstone said.

His food strategy for London included cutting the amount of food transportation with the help of "prohibitively high" charges for polluting lorries.

By 2008 he hopes to introduce a low emission zone in London with very high charges for vehicles producing high greenhouse gas emissions, and punitive fines for those failing to pay;

Livingstone also wants to encourage schools and hospitals to buy more local and organic food. Five London state-run hospitals are experimenting with sustainable procurement.

"The power of public procurement will be used to transform food markets and drive sustainability," he said.

The mayor talked about the use of planning policies to end "food deserts" in poor areas where there are whole neighborhoods "where you cannot buy a single piece of fresh food." Death rates from heart disease are twice as high in the poorer East End of London as in the west. Improving food access was vital to tackling "health inequalities,"he added.

Overall, the mayor said he was setting a target to cut London's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050. He predicted a fight over the low emission zones.

Meanwhile on Thursday evening, the Conservative party's national leader David Cameron chose the organic farmers' conference in London to declare himself in favor of organic production, and to identify himself with consumers' concerns over GM foods and diet.

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