‘Shock’ over snub for climate campaigners
Town Hall committee rejects offer of extra expertise
28 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
A climate change protest in neighbouring Camden
CLIMATE activists have criticised the Town Hall for preventing parents and Extinction Rebellion campaigners joining a committee looking at ways to improve Islington’s toxic air.
Helena Farstad, who co-founded Islington Clean Air Parents, said she was shocked by the lack of scrutiny she witnessed at a Town Hall environment scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday.
Labour councillors rejected a proposal put forward by the only opposition councillor at the Town Hall, the Green Party’s Caroline Russell, to co-opt representatives from environmental groups as non-voting members of the committee.
The idea had been to widen the debate and bring in extra expertise.
Mother-of-two Ms Farstad, of Mayton Street, said: “I’m still in a bit of shock after this meeting.
“First, that they don’t welcome expert advice to support the massive challenge ahead and, second, the absolute lack of quality scrutiny taking place at these meetings.”
She added: “Previously, I kind of accepted the way the council operated and believed it was working. Not any more.”
The council was due to declare a “climate emergency” at a full council meeting last night (Thursday) and has insisted it would work to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Residents are being urged to consider their own contribution to tackling climate change.
A push for more electric car use is one example.
Councillor Russell said: “The worry is that it won’t be so much a climate emergency as a climate dawdle.
“It’s a real shame the majority of the committee disagreed and wasted an opportunity to build on the interest in the climate emergency declaration.
“We should be involving the community in our work by checking the council is doing a good job.”
Sebastian Sands, a member of Extinction Rebellion, wrote to the Tribune this week expressing his anger at the decision.
In neighbouring Camden, the council is casting the net for help in coming up with green ideas by hosting citizen assemblies involving residents and environmental groups.
Labour councillor Dave Poyser, chairman of the environment and regeneration scrutiny committee, said: “It’s really important that local people are able to take part and contribute to council meetings, and, as chair, I am fully committed to making our meetings genuinely open and to ensuring they encourage participation from all those interested in the many different issues the committee considers.
“Indeed, as Tuesday’s meeting showed, different groups and their representatives already play a big role in our meetings.
“Therefore, the committee felt that adding extra members to the formal membership was unnecessary.”