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Good ideas, now get on with it, XR activists tell council chiefs

Islington publishes its strategy for making the borough carbon net zero by 2030

28 February, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Extinction Rebellion’s ‘people’s assembly’

COUNCIL chiefs have warned that “significant and ongoing funding” from central government will be needed for plans to make Islington a net-zero carbon borough within a decade.

Islington this week published its plans to reach the milestone by 2030, pledging to eliminate emissions from gas boilers and vehicles, ensure buildings in the borough are as energy efficient as possible and maximising heat and power generation.

Other measures include making sure any remaining electricity needs or emissions are sustainably sourced or offset, and educating residents on how to reduce their utility bills and become “carbon literate”.

Upcoming spending will include £1.5million to lay the groundwork for partial electrification of its road fleet, and £3.5million for transport projects in the next two years that encourage active travel or public transport.

One scheme the council admits is well beyond its financial means, however, is to retrofit the borough’s housing stock to become both energy efficient and carbon zero.

XR Islington, the borough’s branch of the Extinction Rebellion campaign group, gave a cautious welcome to the strategy, but said the whole community would need to join in.

It held its first “people’s assembly”, on Tuesday when around 40 attendees discussed the council’s response to its declared climate emergency.

The group said it was supportive of the council’s intentions, but added: “We are uncertain about whether this is really being treated as an emergency. Whilst planning is critical we now need to also see action even if all the t’s may not be crossed or the i’s dotted.”

Islington XR’s Helena Farstead said: “Overall, people are positive about what the council has done, but they are still apprehensive and there is still some doubt. The council needs to find solutions that are not tied into party politics.” She added: “We can’t accept a lack of funding as an excuse for inaction, we need to explore all options, such as getting the business community involved. Just sitting waiting for hand outs won’t work.”

Ms Farstead said new environment chief, Lab­our councillor Rowenna Champion, was “much more open and realises the power of people’s opinion in a different way”. She said: “She doesn’t seem to think that she knows better than anyone. That’s really positive. There is that sense that the consultation process needs to be done differently. It has to be much more accessible than it is usually. The majority of residents are not well-versed in this climate emergency space. Quite a lot of groundwork that is still needed.”

Ms Farstead added: “Not following through with these plans is not an option. XR Islington will be keeping an eye on the process.”

Islington is also looking to start a new project to provide 30,000 residents and 70 businesses with power and heat using an underground grid.

Designers hope the GreenSCIES (Green Smart Community Integrated Energy Systems) will be able to warm up and cool buildings using “waste heat” from office blocks and the tube train network.

Cllr Champion said it was an “innovative” way to help Islington reached its aim of net carbon zero by 2030.

Green councillor Caroline Russell said it was good to see the council has developed an initial plan. But expressed disappointment that communities and business were not involved in its drafting.

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