Deputy Vice Chancellor fellow graduates ladies and gentlemen
I am truly overwhelmed by being given an honorary Doctor of Civil Law by my university, Durham.
Thank you for this special recognition. Surrounded by such exceptional people.
When I was an undergraduate reading law it was compulsory to study Jurisprudence in our third year and lectures were given at 9am every Thursday morning when Prof Dowrick Head of Dept told us that in our future lives we should remember this time each Thursday to think about why law is important and what is its purpose in society. Well its Thursday – I ‘m thinking about it!
As you heard, I followed a career in law as a solicitor and then as an elected independent member of the City of London Corporation. In both capacities I hope that I kept the relevance of law uppermost in my mind promoting good governance and the supremacy of legal rights; applying this in my professional work and with the businesses that the City encompasses and in the international engagements that it relishes. I have sought to keep the watchword as to the importance and impact of Law and the responsibility that it brings. Law has very truly run through me like lettering in a stick of rock.
That impact can be no better exemplified than with the City of London’s reputation as a global financial powerhouse which rests on principles such as “my word is my bond” and also relies on the legal underpinning of contracts, the resolution of disputes and London’s international renown for the integrity and independence of our judiciary.
Law is important. Legal services contributed £34 billion to the UK economy in 2022. Parties from some 78 countries use the UK’s commercial courts for litigation. The UK ranks second only to the USA in provision of legal services worldwide. The law matters.
This import is often glibly termed the Rule of Law – frequently this term is used by non-lawyers AND might I suggest it is too often lauded by politicians and businesses and used as a smoke screen for political expediency. We need to distinguish between the rule of law and rule by laws. The sovereign right of parliament is to make law. This does not preclude the independent judiciary who must apply the rule of law to ensure the democratic safeguards of individual rights and freedoms. THAT rule of law is fragile and whilst I refer to the beneficial financial impact on our economy; the rule of law is the set of principles by which we are governed and can never be purchased or sold.
So I truly believe that Lawyers have an exceptional opportunity to do well in society and also to do good. Remembering the motto of Van Mildert College that I took into my own coat of arms Sic vos non Vobis – we should act in all things not for ourselves. I commend that thought to you for your Thursdays and every day.
I am delighted and truly honoured to have been appointed as a member of Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral and as a Lay Canon. Whilst remaining a Methodist this appointment is in the true spirit of ecumenism. Indeed John Wesley worshipped at St Paul’s and there is a statue of him in the gardens. It happens that I am a trustee of the statue on behalf of the Methodist Church.
The appointment came about due to a recent change in ecclesiastical legislation which means that Cathedrals now need to be set up as standalone charities and the Chapter has become the formal Charity Trustee and governing body, needing more than 50% of the members to be non-clergy. I hope to bring my prior experience as a trustee to help me in shaping the new governance and strategic direction for St Paul’s Cathedral. There are exciting changes already planned including the first girl probationer choristers who have arrived and will grow to a full choir of girls’ voices in the next few years. There are many events scheduled that consider the important questions of today - not least the fact that the Cathedral is in the heart of the financial and professional business City but is also a national icon and focus of many important commemorations. And don’t worry I have not forgotten the need to promote sustainability in the operations and purpose of the Cathedral’s work.
As a member of Chapter I am also a Lay Canon. I will be taking part in services. I hope to welcome many existing and new attendees at the Cathedral and share my joy in the building, its people and its vision.
With thanks to @Graham Lacdao for the photos.
Even though we are eagerly awaiting the Blue Moon on 30th August, I doubt if we will be able to see the Indian spacecraft that has landed – not least because it is on the far side of the moon! So many cliches to play with suggests that I have had too much time on my hands over August. Fewer formal commitments and a couple of weeks away have allowed time to refresh and reflect as well as enjoy some interesting events.
I spent a wonderful eight years as a trustee of the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich https://ornc.org/, where I oversaw the fundraising for the visitor centre and witnessed the cleaning and restoration of the west wall. It was great to return and see again the splendour of the Painted Hall and the magnificent ceiling and to bid farewell to Tony Hales as Chair of the Trust. Greenwich is definitely worth a visit. As a Past Master of the Plaisterers’ Livery, I have to laud the plasterwork by another Past Master, Henry Doegood. Without his exceptional work, the painting would have literally collapsed years ago.
It was also good to share a visit to the London Museum of Water and Steam in Brentford https://waterandsteam.org.uk/ hosted by Past Master Water Conservator Rob Casey who volunteers as a guide. Also to view the film The Living Thames and meet its director Dorothy Leiper https://aquaeyemedia.org.uk/the-historic-thames/# . Do look online at the film and see her plans to film a sequel called The Historic Thames – you might like to donate to the crowdfunding.
I was delighted that the Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce published its evidence-based report on the state of the construction and related industries and their preparedness for the new green skills needed to meet net zero. The Taskforce has operated for over a year to hone the thoughts and survey the main players. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/Business/skyline-skills-recommendations-report-pdf-9mb.pdf
Over 300 organizations have joined the 'Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce,' including designers, construction firms, and education providers. The Taskforce emphasises the urgency of addressing the growing demand for sustainable commercial buildings. I am a member of the Steering Group and lead the smaller team that is considering how to engage policy makers including Government and Local Authorities. Recommendation 4 of the Report looks at how we need to reform section 106 (planning) policies, procurement processes and the Apprenticeship Levy. There are some great partners already, but we are keen to hear from anyone who works to help in this work.
There has been a plethora of consultations over the summer from the City Corporation and others. All of them are trying to plan for a better environment or healthier living. I hope you can help and respond or just read and see what is possibly planned. A wonderful idea is to change the road system around St Martin’s Le Grand and Little Britain in what is called the St Paul’s Gyratory System. See the ideas for a new public space that will complement the existing Greyfriars Gardens and the route to St Paul’s Cathedral. Nearby there is a review of the gardens around Barber-Surgeons’ Hall and I visited them again so that I could be up to date in replying to the questions. https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/have-your-say-on-improvements-to-barber-surgeons-gardens/
More mundanely the City are consulting on a draft sexual and reproductive health strategy for the City https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/city-residents-and-workers-asked-to-give-views-on-sexual-and-reproductive-health-services/ A key offering to City residents and workers.
Just a few months to COP28 (starting November 30th 2023) and I have been looking at what to expect or hope for from that conference.
John Kerry the US climate envoy said recently that we need to separate the climate crisis from politics. That is not proving easy in the UK nor in the US. However, the issues at stake are more than national or domestic petty concerns but need to address the urgency of the impact of climate change and nature depletion. This summer has once again witnessed wildfires in Hawaii and in Canada that are devastating communities and natural habitat – further weakening the ecosystems of their neighbourhoods.
COP28 should see the Global Stocktake (the scientific assessment) of emissions following the national pledges made in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Nations will need to assess where they are and redouble efforts to reduce emissions and build resilient and secure energy systems without fossil fuels. The President-designate of COP28, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, is calling on nations to triple the production of renewable energy and to double hydrogen production by 2030. Dr Al Jaber is founding his programme on 4 pillars - being fast-tracking the transition to a low-carbon world; fixing climate finance; focusing on people, lives and livelihoods; and full inclusivity. The four Fs. These are excellent aims but need to be seem pragmatically and practically. The UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell states that there also needs to be a clear route to phase out/stop fossil fuel subsidies if progress is to be made. This is somewhat dissonant to a COP28 hosted by the UAE but they are a key party to any decisions.
COP27 set in motion the creation of the loss and damage fund to provide financial assistance to poorer nations as they deal with the negative consequences that arise from the unavoidable risks of climate change - for example: rising sea levels, extreme heat, wildfires, crop failures etc. The funding will help vulnerable nations to rebuild the necessary physical and social infrastructure. A Transition Committee has been meeting during this year to establish what this means and outlining a roadmap. They have called for evidence from States as to what impact climate has had and how funding would help. For example, the impact on the Sami people of Finland and surrounding countries where the region is warming three times faster than the global average; the impact on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where the river divides the nations and the course is changing opening up potential armed conflict. And in Fiji where major community relocations have had to be implemented as sea level rise in the South West Pacific is 2 – 3 times the global average. More case studies here https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/bodies/constituted-bodies/transitional-committee/case-studies
Private finance has an important role. Indeed, the UK’s own green strategy relies heavily on this collaboration between Government and the private sector to drive the changes and create the growth in our economy that will follow. The City of London are promoters of the work that businesses and organisations such at the Green Finance Institute are undertaking.
Obvious other areas that will be discussed at COP28 include the vexed question of the Voluntary Carbon Market and how robust it can be considered and whether it can assist the vulnerable nations. Nature and biodiversity have two days on the agenda with the Just Transition having one day. These are such important areas in themselves and I am reminded of the view that resolving climate change is critical to achieving all of the aims in the Sustainable Development Goals. The fact is that there is still all to play for at COP28.
Funny how things can sometimes cluster together. So early July saw two annual conferences of organisations where I am the Chair (last year they were both on the same day which was very hairy).
The London Road Safety Council is a cross London charity that is made up of representatives of all the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London including both elected members and road safety officers. I am the Chair. Operating for over 100 years it has championed the need to share ideas and programmes across boundaries in order to reduce collisions and build confidence for those who are vulnerable – being pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists. Transport for London is working towards Vision Zero whereby there will be no fatalities or seriously injured on the London roads by 2041. In 2022 there were 129 deaths and in 2023 to date some 57. That is slightly more than the number of homicides in Greater London. These numbers need to continue to reduce.
At the Conference we heard from Sarah Bell the Traffic Commissioner for London about her role in licensing HGVs, buses, coaches and local bus services. We also heard from Prof Sir Chris Whitty the Chief Medical Officer and now on the Advisory Board of Active Travel England. Sir Chris advocated the benefits of active travel for health and well being and the need to break down the barriers perceived by many, preventing them cycling or walking.
On 3rd July the Livery Climate Action Group held its conference at Merchant Taylors’ Hall and a full house had a packed programme of speakers and networking. Our keynote speaker was Emma Howard Boyd who is Chair of the Green Finance Institute and former Chair of the Environment Agency. She is now leading a review by the Mayor of London into the resilience of the capital and has urged us to respond to the call for evidence. More detail on the Livery Climate Action Group website. https://liverycag.org.uk/news-and-events/lcag-annual-conference-2023/
Aldermen need to stand for re-election every 6 years and Alderman Ian Luder CBE had served in Castle Baynard Ward for 18 years before retiring this year. Seven candidates stood for the role making the field wide open and very interesting to the objective observer. I was objective but not an observer as I took the role representing the Lord Mayor as Returning Officer at the Ward Mote prior to the poll day and then at the electoral count. For the first time the Ward Mote was live streamed and you can view that event on the City Corporation’s YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u91gnzGm_M8 The turn out was only 25% of the electorate and the winner was Martha Grekos. Elections are a good time for people living and working in the Ward to learn more about the work of the Corporation and their Council members and if you are interested to know more then the City’s website has information on the elections and standing for a role here https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about-us/voting-elections
I have long wanted to take part in an abseil and the Lord Mayor’s Appeal launched a day to abseil down the iconic Lloyd’s Building. It was exciting and scary at the same time and I am delighted to have raised over £2,000 towards the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. Thanks to all who donated.
For many after dinner speaking is too scary but I have had lots of experience and so now enjoy the chance to talk about a topic of importance to the organisation or to me. Apart from the Conferences, I also spoke at the Wheelwrights’ Livery lunch and Basketmakers’ dinner. I know that the Livery can be a very discerning audience and so hope that a mixture of serious purpose bookended with some lighter material and even the odd joke should find favour with most listeners. They both seemed to go well.
One of my external roles is on the Council of the 1st Battalion London Guards, formerly the London Regiment. They have a close link to the City as one of the Privileged Regiments allowed to march through the City. With the redesignation, their new colours were presented at a moving ceremony at Buckingham Palace by their Colonel HRH, Prince Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was an honour to be there to see the unit in all their splendour and active in many roles as reservists. https://www.army.mod.uk/news-and-events/news/2023/07/first-battalion-london-guards-receive-their-colours/
A highlight of any Lord Mayor’s year is the dinner with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This year the Lord Mayor, Alderman Nick Lyons, was able to use the opportunity to announce the Mansion House Compact - being a commitment by some of Britain’s largest pension firms to allocate a minimum of 5% of defined contribution funds to unlisted equities by 2030. With the aim of unlocking over £50 billion of new capital by the end of the decade. A chance to give the economy a much-needed boost. Well done to Nick and his business colleagues.
A selection of my other work this month is shown in the photos below.
What price philanthropy?
The Charities Aid Foundation keep a careful eye on giving – by individuals, trusts and foundations and corporates. Their latest report on corporate giving by the FTSE 100 updates earlier ones and shows that £1.85 billion was donated. However using these figures extracted in 2023, the total financial donations have remained unchanged since 2016. That means that in real terms the donations have declined by 17%. As a percentage this was a fall from 2.4% to only 0.8% of pre-tax profits.
Within the FTSE 100 contributions differ so that some 24 donated at least 1% of their pre-tax profits - but that is two fewer than in 2016. The healthcare sector are the most generous whereby 5 companies donated 22% of the total contribution. The full report is here:
Being a Livery member it is interesting to compare these corporates to the (now) 111 Livery Companies of the City of London. Their report was produced in 2022 and review the financial giving and wider philanthropic support given by the Livery. I am pleased to say that the financial total was £75 million and this was indeed up 4.4% on the sum given in 2020 and a cumulative increase of 12% over three years. Whilst this detail was not shared in the report, it is the case that much of that came from a smaller group of the wealthier Liveries who give substantial sums from established charitable endowments whilst many other Livery Companies only receive gifts in year from the current membership which they then disperse. In any agglomeration there is this kind of disparity.
For corporates there is no compulsion to report publicly on these matters. Neil Heslop, the CEO of CAF, suggests that maybe this should be made mandatory (as it used to be) and that would align with the current transparency around ESG reporting. Liveries publish charitable accounts with the Charity Commission but these can be difficult to find with many Livery charities having different names to the actual Livery Company – for example named after a benefactor in that Livery.
There has long been a drive from the sector for the Government to appoint a Philanthropy Champion. As a trustee of Beacon Collaborative this is something we, and others, have been advocating and we hope to see come to fruition soon. The appointment of renowned philanthropist Rory Brooks as a new Board Member at the Charity Commission is a good sign of interest in the quarter. A Government appointment would bring additional support and a chance to put philanthropy (however much or little) at the heart of our economy and our responsibility as individuals and corporates.
I was asked to take part in a podcast about the City of London's pedway system. Little did the broadcasters know that I had written an article about them in 2017 and reproduce the article here and append the podcast link. Pedways: pedestrian paradise or ponderous paths? - Streets Ahead | Acast
From 2017: You may have noticed lots of elevated walkways or bridges spanning many of the City of London roads. Indeed, you may have used them to ease your crossing. That adjacent to Plaisterers' Hall stretches across London Wall from One London Wall to the highwalk that easily leads you to the Museum of London if you turn left or El Vinos (in 2017 occupying a bar) if you turn right - depending on your taste.
The arrangement of these walkways is in fact called The City of London Pedway Scheme. It is a partial elevated pedway that evolved out of a plan to transform traffic flows in the City of London by separating pedestrians from street level traffic using elevated walkways. First devised as part of the post World War II reconstruction plans for London, it was put into effect mainly from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s and eventually abandoned by the 1980s - until now.
Versions of the plan had been under consideration since the 19th century, and given shape by the German Bauhaus movement, but the scheme was only given impetus in London after World War II, during which London had suffered severe bomb damage. Enthusiasts for the scheme saw an opportunity to put it into practice through the post-war reconstruction programme, and in 1947 architect Charles Holden and planner William Holford developed a blueprint that envisaged a network of first-floor walkways that would connect buildings across the City.
By the mid-1960s, the City of London Corporation had incorporated the scheme into its development plan. Although no coherent network was ever defined, designers of new developments were required to incorporate first-floor access to the pedway network as a condition of being granted planning consent. As most of the network had not been built, this meant that many developments incorporated unused "dead space" at first-floor level and partial walkways that led to dead ends. In consequence, the scheme was unpopular with many architects.
The plan had the backing of city planner Percy Johnson-Marshall who compared the scheme to Venice, the city streets were like canals and the pedway the bridges over them. In reality it meant offices had two sets of receptions, one at street and one at pedway level (ever tried to get into 125 London Wall?). Shops built at pedway level found it difficult to get deliveries, shops at street level had no customers. Poor design meant the pedways were windswept and prone to flooding. As fewer people used them people feared using them creating a cycle of decline.
Buildings that were required to incorporate links to the pedway included in their heyday the National Westminster Tower, which incorporated a pedestrian bridge across Bishopsgate that was never used and is now demolished; the Commercial Union building, the Barbican, and Drapers' Gardens.
By the mid-1980s, the scheme had effectively been discontinued. The reason for its ultimate demise were escalating costs and the increase in influence of the conservation lobby, which opposed the extensive redevelopment of the historic areas of the City. Not to mention concerns about security due to the additional access points.
The pedway scheme only succeeded in establishing itself in areas that required extensive post-war reconstruction. The most extensive part of the network to be completed was in the Barbican Estate and surrounding streets. Indeed the clue to getting around the Barbican is to access all areas via the highwalks. The main entrance to the Museum of London is, to this day, at first-floor level. Indeed this is rather a disadvantage to the Museum as many people claim not be able to find the entrance - even though there are 6 well signposted points at ground floor level leading up to the highwalk by stairs, escalators and lifts. The new Museum of London site at Smithfield will be at ground floor level and will be much more permeable - maybe somewhat of a reaction to the current high level isolation.
Pedways have now returned in style with the new development known as London Wall Place. This large new office development is a few hundred yards from the Hall towards Moorgate. The development threatened to cut off the Barbican residents from their previous high level traverse to the City and thus the planning conditions imposed required the developer to reinstate and improve the pedways. These weathered-steel beauties (see photo) are the first additions to the pedway network in many years. True, they are a replacement for a demolished walkway rather than an entirely new piece of infrastructure. But their attractive, sinuous form is a far cry from the utilitarian concrete spans they replace.
A film was made in 2013 about the City of London Pedway and there is a link here to this interesting piece of history and architecture. https://vimeo.com/80787092. The Pedway: Elevating London is a documentary on the post-war redevelopment in the City of London - focusing on the attempt to build an ambitious network of elevated walkways through the city. Featuring interviews with professor of town planning Michael Hebbert (UCL), architecture critic Jonathan Glancey, former City planning officer Peter Wynne Rees and writer Nicholas Rudd-Jones (Pathways), the film explores why the 'Pedway' scheme was unsuccessful and captures the abandoned remains that, unknown to the public, still haunt the square mile. It worth watching and then setting out on foot to find the lost stairways.
The gentle destruction of the pedways has driven the pedestrian to the pavements and the consequential conflict with traffic. The resolution to that conundrum is more traffic free or traffic-light areas and wider pavements. A future Bank on Safety scheme is planned at the busy Bank junction and more changes that will occur with the Barbican Ultra Low Emission Zone and Cultural Hub. All of which are planned to make the City more liveable. (2023 update - these are now all in place).
One wonders how they will be viewed in 50 years' time - will they, like pedways, have given way to better architectural innovations?
Flaming June it has turned out to be - but this has not stopped the City, nor me, in the many activities that mark the midpoint of the year and the Summer Solstice.
As a woman in a predominantly (still) man’s world I can get labelled around the diversity issue and, whilst I have achieved so many firsts or even seconds as a woman in my career (first woman partner at my law firm and second woman Alderman), there is still a lot to do to encourage the widest of diversity in our work and provide opportunities. I was therefore pleased to attend the Air Pilots Livery Dinner and find not only a female headline speaker but also a significant number of senior women pilots. The speaker was Angela Stubblefield from the Federal Aviation Administration and I was also delighted to meet the President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Kerissa Khan and CEO of Wizz Air Marion Geoffrey. If they cannot move the aviation world forward no one will.
This idea had a lot of resonance in the City Corporation’s new flagship initiative called The City Belonging Project. https://belongingproject.city/ Launched at the Conservatory in the Barbican Centre, the City wants to connect and improve the links between the diversity networks in the City and its businesses which must help everyone feel part of this great City that I love.
Another programme that has been around for a few years now is City Giving Day. https://www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/news-and-events/events-calendar/1089/city-giving-day-2022/ I was pleased to host and speak at the breakfast in Mansion House that is part of the regular links with existing and new businesses who are encouraged to sign up to participate. September 26th marks the day when businesses (including Liveries and other organisations) can celebrate their philanthropic work - be it fund raising or volunteering, such as mentoring and pro bono advice.
The City businesses are always a big focus for me and I have made many visits in the recent weeks. CIBC, a Canadian Bank are based in Cheapside, but I also visited them in Toronto last year with the Lord Mayor. They were holding their annual reception in the Guildhall and I was pleased to speak and welcome them and, indeed, thank them for their amazing innovative work around sustainability. Please to engage with their CEO, Wayne Lee, and meet their President, Victor Dodig.
As you will know that my passion is to create a green and sustainable City and I have been gradually growing the Livery Climate Action Group over the last 18 months. There is a great core of Livery colleagues helping and we now have 85 Livery Companies who are members and working towards a net zero square mile. More details are here on the website https://liverycag.org.uk/ We are holding an in person conference on 3rd July with further events and information online. It was aligned to this that I represented the City Corporation at the launch of their Solar Farm and have written a separate blog about this https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/visit-to-a-greener-future.
The last week of June saw London Climate Action Week and many events all over Greater London. The City scooped the pool with two amazing conferences. See my separate blog https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/london-climate-action-week-2023
It is fascinating how environmental issues are such a thread of interest and importance. I am part of the City’s Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce that will be launching its report soon and are now working on how green skills in the construction industry can and need to be enhanced in order to meet the expertise needed to create environmentally sustainable buildings. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/Business/skills-for-a-sustainable-skyline-brochure.pdf
I co-chair the group looking at policy issues and the need to influence decisions. Thus, I was pleased to attend the City’s’ Parliamentary reception on the terrace at Westminster and meet several MPs and Lords who were interested in the City’s stance on such matters. Our City MP Nickie Aiken chaired the event. A second reception on the Terrace with BusinessLDN drew a different crowd and a chance to catch up with the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir Ken Olisa.
I also engage with a variety of Ambassadors to the UK as they are key links to the important overseas markets of our financial City. Following a lunch with the Mexican ambassador I was delighted to then receive an invite on board ARM Cuauhtemoc, a tall sailing ship that is the flagship of the Mexican navy and in dock at West India Quay. Very excellent Mexican food and music followed with some great Mexican weather. Its near neighbour the USA celebrated Independence Day a bit early with some wonderful fireworks and fun at Winfield House in Regents Park.
Earlier this year we celebrated 600 years since the death of Dick Whittington and on 27th June we remembered 300 years from the death of Sir Christopher Wren. A polymath who was professionally a surveyor but also acted as architect, mathematician, astronomer and scientist. The Surveyors and Architects’ Liveries led the celebration in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. We were told the story of a man who shaped his age in the 17th century and still shapes the landscape in the 21st.
London Climate Action Week is the hub for a massive number of events and ideas that are celebrated over one week at the end of June in London. This year’s theme of “Harnessing the Power of London for Global Climate Action” set a high bar to think big and act bigger.
I was therefore pleased to attend the LCAW Live and the Climate Innovation Forum both at Guildhall. At London Live we heard from Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi the Director General of COP28 and the UN Climate Change high level champion, HE Razan Al Mubarak. Clearly they wanted to set the tone for COP28 but noted that geopolitics and global polarisation might hinder progress. HE found hope in “ambition in the real economy,” emphasising the power of real-world actions and the transition to a net zero, climate-resilient, and nature-positive economy.
Later in the Conference Ben Stimson of the Bank of England spoke about the Bank’s own need to create operational resilience and gave a revealing speech as to the Bank’s ambitious target and an insight into how the Bank works and thinks. His full speech is here https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/speech/2023/june/ben-stimson-keynote-speech-on-boe-climate-transition-plan
Whilst many organisations wonder about the need for a transition plan Ben put it succinctly that we need a plan because the science tells us that climate is adversely affecting our world, there is legislation that requires a transition and by taking steps an organisation becomes more resilient and reliable. The Bank is also taking a lot of care over its supply chain and the need to align all to the same targets and help them along the way.
At the Climate Innovation Forum we started the day with keynote speeches by the Lord Mayor and then Chris Skidmore MP. The highlight was, however, when the Lord Mayor later returned in the afternoon with the King Charles III and the Mayor of London. The King had been engaged with discussions earlier in the day and visited some of the entrepreneurs who were exhibiting at the event. He joined the Lord Mayor and Mayor in launching the London Climate Clock that is counting down to 2030 recording the Mayor’s vision for London to be net zero by that date.
My work on climate and environment involves me in many different organisations and in each I champion this topic. Indeed, I am the Board lead for the Bridge House Estates Board of which the City Bridge Trust https://www.citybridgetrust.org.uk/ is the funding arm. I had started London Climate Week with a blog published by Bridge House Estates (BHE) about their ambitions and actions in adopting a wide ranging and funded Climate Action Strategy – aligned to that of the City of London Corporation, the corporate trustee of BHE.
It makes sense to talk about this now as BHE has set up an Investment Committee with a new investment strategy to ensure that, as a charity, it can aim high to achieve the best outcomes and lead the way for others whom BHE can influence and help. The strategy commits BHE to achieving carbon net zero in its own operations by 2027 and across the investments and supply chain by 2040.
To this end, BHE is spending £3.5 million over the next five years to improve energy efficiency in its premises, including the iconic Tower Bridge, and ensuring the investment portfolios reflect these net zero goals.
This new investment strategy statement will embed a commitment to ensuring that all financial, property and social investments align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. In addition, BHE have allocated a further £15 million towards delivering the climate commitments, with the ambition of reaching net zero across all work ahead of that 2040 target.
This kind of significant investment is about putting Bridge House Estates, which has been around for over 900 years, on a sustainable footing – if not for the next 900 years, at least for the foreseeable future.
In climate action, as in many other areas, BHE aspires to be a responsible leader, delivering activities in a sustainable way and sharing knowledge and ideas with smaller charities.
The Trust has also signed up to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change, https://fundercommitmentclimatechange.org/ in which funders commit to practical measures to play their part in tackling climate change.
It’s this kind of innovative approach that will see Bridge House Estates and its trustee at the forefront of the drive to net zero in the years to come. I am proud to be part of this transformation and transition.
Travelling west from London to a field for a party sounded a lot like a free ticket to Glastonbury but it turned out be a lot longer lasting! I was heading up the City of London Corporation’s team at the official opening of the South Farm Solar Park in Dorset.
The City Corporation created a radical costed and innovative Climate Action Strategy two years’ ago which commits to achieving net zero carbon emissions in its own operations by 2027 and aiming to become net zero across its investment and supply chain by 2040, whilst also supporting this for the whole Square Mile by the same year.
As part of that strategy the City Corporation agreed in 2020 a £40 million deal with international energy provider Voltalia to buy all the electricity produced by a new solar farm for the next 15 years. This has now been achieved. I was delighted to visit and see it in operation on a very sunny day. It has over 91,000 panels ensuring that the site will have a capacity of 49.9 megawatts – equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of approximately 35,000 people.
The facility has been providing over half of the City Corporation’s electricity from January 2023. The deal will increase the green energy supply, has no reliance on taxpayer funding, and helps the transition quickly away from fossil fuels.
The deal agreed under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a long-term contract between an electricity generator and the customer – it is the first of its kind in the UK to be signed directly between a renewables producer and a governing authority.
When you next look around the City you will see the iconic landmarks that the City owns and manages powered by renewable electricity - that includes Tower Bridge, Hampstead Heath and the Barbican Centre.
Whilst some are sceptical of these deals that use up arable land and may overwhelm a local area this transaction has been carefully calibrated and should benefit everyone - from the environment to local people. Throughout its construction, Voltalia has invested more than £1,000,000 in local supplier partnerships – all based within 25 miles of the park. Voltalia’s local supplier investment at South Farm Solar Park has totalled over £4 million across the Southwest to date.
I was pleased to have helped spearhead the City’s Climate Action Strategy back during the dark days of the pandemic and then been able to see the scheme operating at 100% capacity on the sunny day in June when we visited.
This scheme is a pioneering blueprint by the City Corporation for local authorities across the UK, cutting carbon emissions and fossil fuel use, and giving cheaper, more secure energy, protected from the price volatility of energy markets.