'We'll do our bit locally – we need world leaders to act at COP26'

The London skyline as the sun sets.

The London skyline as the sun sets. - Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

This Sunday marks the start of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) – perhaps the most important climate crisis meeting yet.

Some may regard the summit as somehow remote – the preserve of politicians, punctuated by the interventions of pressure groups. 

But I know that in Camden our residents care deeply about taking action to protect the planet. After all, we were the first place in the UK to hold a citizens’ assembly on this issue. That wasn’t just a talking shop – the council adopted the citizens’ 17 recommendations on how to cut carbon locally. As a result, we have begun planting more trees than ever – 579 across Camden last year – and the administration has agreed a new Tree Planting Strategy that aims for 600 every year. 

The flash flooding in parts of the borough in July showed the direct effects of climate change on our communities. Wetter, more extreme weather puts huge pressure on systems’ ability to cope.

I, along with Tulip Siddiq MP, the leader of the council Georgia Gould, local councillors and residents, have written to Thames Water to demand greater action, sooner.

But Camden can play a role in this too, by resisting over-concreting and greening up our highways. Outside Hampstead School on Westbere Road, and on Camley Street in King’s Cross, we have installed "rain gardens", which store and gradually release rainwater after a storm, preventing it from discharging en masse into water companies’ drains that cannot cope.

At a recent Camden Council meeting dedicated to COP26, Swiss Cottage ward councillors announced new funding to improve sustainable drainage in South Hampstead.

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The council has also brought in increasingly tough planning conditions requiring sustainable drainage and flood risk assessments for developments, including new basements.

And, by the end of this year, we will present our draft new Flood Risk Management Strategy to councillors and residents. 

Alongside the new trees and greening, we need to make changes to how we live, such as eating less meat and walking and cycling more.

The council will do our bit locally to make this happen. I hope the leaders meeting in Glasgow recognise this and work at all levels of government to forestall the gathering climate emergency.

Councillor Adam Harrison (Lab) is cabinet member for a sustainable Camden.

Cllr Adam Harrison.

Cllr Adam Harrison - Credit: Kareen Cox / Camden Council