COP26: Camden says 'big price tag' required for climate 'transformation'

A climate activist holds up a placard in Glasgow

A climate activist holds up a placard in Glasgow - Credit: PA

Camden Council has been told it must draw on the borough’s diversity to tackle the climate emergency, as its leader warned of an “existential crisis”.

Camden Climate Change Alliance, alongside the town hall, hosted a COP26-themed event at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross on Wednesday (November 3).

The regional roadshow is part of a series across the country localising the climate emergency and encouraging progression towards a greener future.

The event focused on Camden’s climate ambitions against the four goals of the COP26 climate change summit.  

These are to “secure global net zero by the middle of the century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise finance and work together to deliver”.

Camden's COP26 event at the Samsung KX building in Coal Drops Yard

Camden's COP26 event at the Samsung KX building in Coal Drops Yard - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Dialling in from COP26 in Glasgow, Camden leader Cllr Georgia Gould said: “There is a lot of expectation and hope around this global conference and we’re all calling on global leaders to deal with this existential crisis we face.  

“There is a big price tag for the scale of work necessary to invest in renewable energy, new transport, and to insulate more homes, but it can be done. The powerful thing is that cities have come together.”  

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Cllr Gould said that London requires £98 billion to tackle the climate emergency, and fund projects that create return investments such as solar panels and better insulated homes.  

The UK was the country first to officially declare a climate emergency in May 2019. Camden Council followed suit that November and then formed its citizens’ assembly on the climate crisis, the first of its kind in the country. The assembly is aiming for Camden to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Council data shows carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 37% in the borough since 2010.

“From bottom up we can really lead transformative change,” Cllr Gould said.

Activists calL for an end to all new oil and gas projects in the North Sea

Activists calL for an end to all new oil and gas projects in the North Sea - Credit: PA

Ebony Holland, nature-climate policy lead at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said: “A truth of the climate crisis is that the people and countries who have done the least to contribute to climate change are suffering the most.  

“This will drive inequalities and we really need to see urgent action on climate change to deal with this.  

“At the international level, richer countries have the resources to buffer their people and economies from many impacts of climate change, but these are not readily available to enable other countries to take the climate action they really need to.”  

Ms Holland praised the efforts of grassroots climate action groups and council-led initiatives.      

“There is very strong support at COP for community-led action and local partners undertaking their own adaption efforts,” she said.  

“It is important we keep talking about these issues and most important that we take strong action on climate change. 

“If we all keep doing this together, we can absolutely turn this around and head to a more just future.”

Protesters take part in a rally demanding global climate justice

Protesters take part in a rally demanding global climate justice - Credit: PA

The issue of climate justice continued to take centre stage during the panel debate, led by senior associate at the centre for public impact, Chandrima Padmanabhan.  

The panel featured Benaifer Bhandari, CEO of Hopscotch Women’s Centre; Aliza Ayaz, UN goodwill ambassador; Paul King, managing director of sustainability and social impact at LendLease; and Ryan Jude, programme director for the Green Finance Institute.    

Ms Bhandari drew attention to the apparent lack of diversity in the room, saying: “Why don’t we just stop for a second and look around, how many minoritised people are represented here today?  

“The voices of those who are going to suffer the most from the climate crisis – they are just not sitting around the table.”

A two-metre tall heart ice sculpture illuminated in green

A two-metre tall heart ice sculpture illuminated in green - Credit: PA

Police Exchange reported in 2017 that just 3.5% of “environment professionals” identified as being from a minority group, making it Britain’s second least diverse occupation.  

A member of the audience said at the end of the panel discussion: “Representation for Camden is quite shocking. I think we’ve missed a big section of what is going on in Camden at the moment.  

“We haven’t used the working-class word and we haven’t even mentioned food poverty.  

“People are living day to day hand to mouth and this conversation is greenwashing if nothing else happens.” 

She then pointed out the disconnect between people struggling to feed themselves, and ideas such as green finance and banking being offered up as solutions.

Activists highlight the inequity of loss and damage behind the climate crisis at COP26

Activists highlight the inequity of loss and damage behind the climate crisis at COP26 - Credit: PA