We have repeatedly been told that we are asking too much too quickly to tackle the Climate Crisis, that drastic change is not possible, that we cannot so easily change human behaviour.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that big changes can be quickly and effectively implemented if we all work together. That a new normal is possible.
- We have seen that the UK Government has been able to find the necessary funds, through the Bank of England’s ‘ways and means’ facility (which it also used during the 2008 Financial Crisis) to try and mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic
- Hackney Council and other local authorities have taken temporary but significant steps to secure the safety of their residents by widening pavements and creating more cycle lanes
- People have welcomed some of the changes, enjoying fewer cars and better air quality, and hearing more birdsong. Many now do not want to go back to how things were.
Through this current crisis, we must not forget the far larger catastrophe which we are already experiencing – the fast-accelerating Climate Change and accompanying Ecological Crisis and the mass extinction of fauna and flora species. As Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, states “we risk leaping out of the Covid frying pan into the Climate Change fire”.
The Good News: In response to evidence by scientists, and pressure from concerned citizens and the Extinction Rebellion movement, Hackney Council, along with 281 (67% of all) councils and authorities, has declared a Climate Emergency. Hackney Council has pledged “to do everything in its power to deliver net zero emissions across all of its functions by 2040”.
Hackney Council and council-run schools have already shifted to use half of their energy from renewables and are slowly converting their vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. The council also intends to launch its own energy company. An ambitious plan to increase tree cover by 30% in the next few years is, however, currently dependent on the availability of volunteers and grassroot organisations such as the Tree Musketeers.
The Bad News: Hackney Council exports household waste to a neighbouring borough using the Edmonton incinerator in Enfield to burn waste, releasing tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the council supports plans to replace the ageing plant with a new, bigger one which will produce more carbon through the build process and further support this archaic waste treatment system.
The plans developed by the council to reduce traffic in the borough and promote walking and cycling during the current CV-19 emergency are still of temporary nature. This is despite London Mayor Sadiq Khan announcing far reaching plans to transform central parts of the City into large car-free zones for the use of pedestrians, cyclists and partly public transport.
We ask the council to use the Covid-19 Emergency measures as a first step to transition to a net-zero emission (NZE) council by 2030.
The recovery from this pandemic must be a green recovery. We, Hackney Green Party, would:
- Consult and closely work with Hackney residents, grassroot groups and businesses to ensure all voices are heard and to coproduce solutions to reach the net-zero emissions 2030 (NZE30) target
- Set up an annual Citizen’s Assembly for effective scrutiny and to explore solutions
- Recruit a Climate Change Programme Director to provide leadership and challenge within the council
- Set realistic intermediate targets, and publish regular and annual monitoring updates about compliance with set targets
- Fully divest the council’s pension fund from any existing commitments and immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuels and large-scale Agribusiness, Livestock and Agricultural Commodities trading companies. We would urgently reinvest in, and support the development of, solutions to the climate and ecological crisis, securing return on investment through ethical, fossil fuel-free options.
- Develop and implement a food strategy for council-run schools and canteens that contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through production, transport, distribution and consumption of food (including imported food products); encourage and advise restaurants, cafés and educational facilities in doing likewise
- Closely consult and cooperate with neighbouring boroughs, London Assembly and the Mayor’s office in creating a London-wide network of cycling routes and car-free streets
- Develop a borough-wide network of car-free streets and cycling and walking routes
- Withdraw support of the Edmonton Incinerator rebuild project and invest in a range of measures to incentivise more recycling and enable a circular economy (reuse, repair, regenerate) to significantly reduce unnecessary waste
- Develop, publish and regularly update a carbon audit of all council-related activities (transport, housing maintenance, refurbishments and construction, services, parks and green spaces, private and business waste) and planned projects
- Commission independent carbon audits of businesses and private properties, in close cooperation with local businesses, landlords’ and tenants’ associations and publish the results as part of the Council’s carbon budgeting processes
- Apply principles of a circular economy to the building sector, balancing total carbon emissions (including embodied carbon) through refurbishment of old stock, demolition and new builds
- Require developers to meet sustainable standards and RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge Targets for embodied and operational carbon in construction and procurement
- Commission and publish an annual independent audit of green job creation through the shift to procuring, promoting and using renewable energy and emission reducing products (such as bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, electric vehicles) from New Green Deal companies.
 Plans for this will be discussed in a future Hackney Green Party blog post.