‘Climate emergency’: Islington politicians back groundbreaking action
Praise for 'really ambitious' plans as borough aims to go carbon neutral by 2030
21 June, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Extinction Rebellion protesters stopped traffic in neighbouring Camden on Wednesday
THE Town Hall is set to declare a “climate emergency” and call on residents to make “fundamental changes” in the way they live.
Islington will aim to be carbon neutral by 2030, an ambition which goes further than the UK government. This will mean groundbreaking attempts to cut emissions.
In an unusual move, members from all political parties in Labour-run Islington, including the Lib Dems, Greens and Conservatives, have united to back a council motion setting out their intentions. It will be discussed at next Thursday’s full council meeting.
The new drive comes with climate change ramped up the political agenda. Activist group Extinction Rebellion is planning more direct action to follow on from its 10-day shutdown of roads in central London in April.
Jen Cronin, from Fossil Free Islington, who campaigned last year to stop the council investing its £1.3billion pension fund in the fossil fuel industries, praised the “really ambitious” plans.
“What’s exciting is that it’s not just empty promises,” she said.
“It’s not gimmicky. It’s facing up to the urgency of the climate crisis. They are recognising as a borough that we are a developed country and they are showing leadership.”
The borough will only become carbon neutral by eliminating emissions or balancing what is produced by planting trees or investing in clean energy.
Labour councillor Claudia Webbe, the council’s environment chief, has called on residents to switch vehicles to electric to help the council meet its target.
“We want people to use electric car clubs when delivering mattresses or bulky items to our depot,” she said.
“We have to try to impart a message about the fundamental changes each individual person has to make if we are going to be serious about this agenda.
Cllr Webbe said: “We can’t have the volume of petrol and diesel cars we currently have. We need to make fundamental changes to how roads work and make structural changes for pedestrians.”
There is “no future for car parks” in the borough, she added, pointing to how a green energy centre, Bunhill 1, was built on a former car park off Old Street. It is the council’s first locally produced heat network which pipes waste heat from electricity production to near by homes.
Bunhill 1 energy centre on a former car park in Central Street
A second new energy centre, Bunhill 2, will use waste heat from the Tube network to warm nearby homes.
She said residents linked to the new centre “would save 10 per cent on energy bills”. Any surplus energy generated would benefit the borough.
“Few local authorities have retained an energy team at a time of austerity and a lot of local authorities cut their energy services, which became de-prioritised,” she said.
“But we continued to excel and continued to invest in this vital necessity to tackle fuel poverty by producing heat locally to save residents on their bills. But by tackling fuel poverty we were also tackling climate change.”
The new energy centre, planned to open this year, has been funded by the EU and the council. It is considered an important pilot project which could be replicated throughout the world.
Cllr Webbe said the council was also looking to pipe heat from the Regent’s Canal and computer data centres to homes in the borough. Leaving the EU would not prevent the council moving forward with its green plans, Cllr Webbe insisted.
She has called on residents to install smart electricity meters – something she has already done.
“You can track every bit of energy usage, from making one cup of tea. Small changes can make a big difference, including having a well-insulated home,” she said.
The Green Party’s Caroline Russell, the only opposition councillor, said the climate emergency went “beyond politics”.
“That is why I’m supporting the Islington Labour Climate Emergency motion,” she said.
“I look forward to working with residents and people from all the groups who’ve campaigned so hard to make sure that Islington plays its proper part in tackling the climate emergency.
“While some actions will need national government resources and powers, Islington Council can and must do all it can within its powers to cut carbon and make our community resilient. We owe it to the young people telling us so clearly that they want a future.”