WTN 2004 Prize Nomination:
Ken Livingstone for London Congestoin Charging Initiative

  • The Issue
  • The Award
  • Background
  • The Views
  • The Point
  • Proposed resolution of conflict
  • Draft Nomination statement

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  • 1. The Issue

    Our colleague Eric Britton has nominated for the 2004 World Technology Network Prize for Environment the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, for his initiative in introducing in February 2003 the Congestion Charging Scheme in his transport-challenged city -- and then put this nomination before hundreds of leading thinkers and practitioners in many parts of their world for their/your views and eventual support of the nomination.

    The international reaction has been strongly positive, with distinguished colleagues around the world stepping forward to express their support for this nomination, with votes coming in thus far from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA. . . and counting. But not all of our respected local expert colleagues (i.e., British) agree, and several voices have been vigorous raised in protest stating their objections, not so much to the concept per se as to both the way that Livingston has decided to handle it and, more gravely yet, a number of his announced transport projects which go strongly against the grain of the sustainability values that are so important to our forum here. Hmm. What to do?

    So, and as proponents of spirited exchange and debate, we have decided to go public with these discussions and of this date have opened up a special "voting station, that you can reach both to express your views and to help us to understand if indeed this is a step in the right direction. The polls close on 15 June, at which time we will submit the whole business to the other judges of the WTN as final support for our nomination in this complicated world of ours. It will take you but one moment, and all you have to do is. . .

    * Bit of background first?

    * See what has been said thus far

    * Click here to make your voice heard

    Note: To protect your email address from spam harvesters, please put # in the place of the usual @.

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    2. The Award

    "The World Technology Awards have been created to honour those individual leaders or, at times, co-equal teams from across the globe who most contribute to the advance of emerging technologies of all sorts for the benefit of business and society. We especially seek to honour those innovators who have done work recently which has the greatest likely future significance and impact over the long-term. The WTN awards are about those individuals whose work today will, in our opinion, create the greatest "ripple effects" in the future... in both expected and unexpected ways."

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    3. Some Background

    Most of you will already have full information on the London project, but for those who don't, or may wish to do a bit of homework on the subject, here are a handful of reference points that may help. You will find balanced coverage, and less balanced. But you'll figure out all that for yourselves. ;-)

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    4. The Views: Contrasting positions

    Nobody ever said that transport in cities was supposed to be a simple matter. Proof of that, if indeed it is needed, can be found in the wide range of reactions that we have received since launching this 'international peer support' campaign to bring attention to one idea that in our view may have its place in the still all-too-thin list of practical schemes to improve mobility and life quality in our cities. And while the reaction is on the order of 5:1 in favor of the nomination, there are those other voices. Here is a quick anonymous sample to give you a feel for the terrain.

    Example 1: Something bold, simple and brave
    I would be very happy to add my name to the nomination of Ken Livingston for the WTN 2004 - World Technology Award for Environment. Ken Livingstone has been a leader in doing something bold, simple and brave to limit car use in a one of the world's major cities. The scheme is easy to understand and has achieved its objective of reducing car use. As a result, London is a healthier and pleasanter place to live and work. (Moreoverů) I think the approach is worthy of emulation not only by many cities in Europe but by many many cities in the third world that stand exposed to: widespread damage through deadly impact of air pollution on health, damage and destruction to the fabric of the city by auto vehicles, destruction of natural and man made heritage by the never ending appetite of roads and parking spaces, and the tendency to substitute the vibrant and unique personality of the city by mono-culture of urban design, devoid of life and spirit. Many cities in India are ripe for initiatives to reign in the personal auto vehicles that are growing at a cancerous pace. We certainly would benefit from any ripple effect the award may generate.

    Example 2: Environmental vandal of the year award
    I don't support any nomination at all for Ken (apart from environmental vandal of the year award). His road schemes/bridges are appalling and show that he does not understand London/transport or the needs of ordinary citizens. It's not a case of warts, more a case of systemic physiological failure. It would be a huge mistake to encourage this man to pursue yet more dinosaur road building in a very fine city. He also supports massive airport expansion and his overall contribution (apart from wrecking people's lives in Hounslow, Hillingdon, Greenwich and Thamesmead...only 500,000 people) will be a massive increase in greenhouse gases and climate change risks but who cares about the planet, species or poor people in Bangladesh as long as Ken's friends can drive to a wine bar and fly to their holiday home in Spain. That's what really matters.

  • And if that is not enough for you, please click here for the latest results from the group. (With apologies for those awful little graphics.)
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    5. The point of it all

    Here is the bottom line as we see it:

    • We are not claiming that this is the best way for London to solve all its problems of mobility and life quality. Nor are we meaning to imply that we think that the mayor is doing everything right in this domain. But if we scratch the issues and the debate we can learn two valuable lessons in being politically effective in an imperfect world.

      1. The London/Livingstone project provides us an important demonstration of a more radical approach to which virtually all of our larger cities should at the very least be giving their very closest attention. Experience has shown that if there is not clear recognizable example (and that means not at the other end of the globe, and in a recognizable socio-economic-political context), then the message simply will not get through. Now we have such an example -- and among the most important explanations for it is that one man put his career on the line to make it work. Hmm.

      2. The second lesson can be seen in this process which is taking place here: a lesson in political maturity for us all and with it the importance of open, vigorous and civilized democratic debate. (I leave it to you to check out the views and positions that appear here to sort out that one for yourselves.)

    • What was it that Bismarck famously said when struggling with his rounds of important social reforms in the nexus of Germany: something along the lines of "Politics is the art of the possible". So, how can we use this thought in the present circumstances to deal with what, from a perspective of sustainability and social justice, is a legitimate conundrum.

      1. We feel strongly that the Livingstone/London road pricing project is a significant concrete advance in the still-poor armory of weapons in the was on unsustainable transport in our cities. So it is important that this accomplishment be given maximum visibility.

      2. By the same token we have a situation in which the same person, the same team that have made this important path-breaking advance, are, apparently in error according to the most thoughtful and best informed of our colleagues, giving serious consideration to a number of transport measures that are entirely contrary to the concept of sustainable development as we understand it.

    Proposed resolution of conflict: (1) We do all that we can to ensure that the Mayor make sit at least among the five finalists, at which time (2) we pat the good mayor kindly and publicly on the back for the important contribution he has made with this innovation -- but at the same time (3) we add to our public commendation, a very serious reserve and open international commentary about the rest. What form might this most efficiently take (because that's our only concern here, getting this message across)? Well, I propose we leave this to the group to work out how best to proceed.

    So if you go to the Nomination/Comments form here, you will see that ample space has been provided for you to come in with your views and suggestions as to how to handle this. We all look forward to seeing how this exercise in open brainstorming and international collaboration works out. One thing we know for sure: we want to get out of this for the sustainability agenda, both for the world and for the citizens of his city. With that, I leave the floor to you.

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    6. Draft Nomination Statement

    Ken Livingston, the Mayor of London, has made an enormous contribution to quality of life in our cities over the last year by showing the courage and perspicacity to plan and execute Europe's first major congestion charging project. Importantly he has carried the people of London with him in this project and he has now been re-elected as Mayor to continue and expand the system. Call it a path-showing hands-on application of the UN Agenda 21 "polluter pays" principle which has reclaimed the city's environment for its people and its visitors. It is for this reason that I am proud to nominate Mayor Livingston for the 2004 WTN Environment Award.

    Since February 2003 London has charged a fee for private automobiles coming into its central area during weekdays as a way to reduce traffic congestion, improve quality of life, and raise revenues to fund future transport improvements. This technology-based project has significantly reduced congestion in the target area, led to improved bus and taxi service, started to make life a bit safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and generates substantial revenues for future improvements. Public acceptance has grown and there is now support to expand the scheme to other parts of London and other cities in the U.K.

    This is the first road pricing program of its kind in a major European city. Its success has broken the ice for congestion pricing and created the prospect that other major cities in Europe and elsewhere in the world will follow suit. This success was however not easily achieved. It took considerable audacity since the mayor was from the beginning assailed by political, economic interests, lobbies, and other forces all assuring him that this project would be a disaster for the city. It could not have reached fruition without Mayor Livingston's vision, steadfastness and courage. ( For further details on this project from the official site see http://www.cclondon.com/ ) To review this nomination, I solicited comment and views from an international panel of recognized transportation, environment and public policy experts. More than fifty responded, with nine out of ten enthusiastically endorsing the nomination, indicating that this example will also stimulate new thinking and much needed innovation in cities in the developing countries as well. (For a full account of this fascinating commentary, please go to http://newmobility.org, WTN Nomination.)

    Several respondents, including some leading English experts with outstanding credentials, asked that if this award is given it should be handed over to Mayor Livingstone with the vigorous counsel that he continue to pay close attention to managing the system -- as opposed to the old "building your way out of the problem" approach that has led to many of the mobility and life quality problems that today plague our cities, London among them.

    I rest my case and this nomination in full agreement, and I hope that in the event this award is made to the mayor, we too express both our appreciation for his outstanding contribution and our concern for a sustainable future.

    Eric Britton, The Commons, EcoPlan International, Paris

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