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View from the chamber: School walk-outs by students can force authorities to act over threat of climate change

PUBLISHED: 15:30 21 February 2019

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Climate action on the streets and from our young people is pushing politicians into more urgency at last, with a new zero carbon target being set for Camden.

Following months of action by climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion, and after worldwide examples of school students striking to protest about the threat to their future, pupils from schools across the UK are taking action.

In more than 60 UK towns and cities on Friday, the emergency of climate change was stated more clearly than ever by our young people, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

I was in Parliament Square on February 15 to see thousands of our youngest citizens gathering out of school to tell politicians we need to move faster to protect the ecosystem upon which we all depend, and there I met several Camden students who told me how important this issue was to them.

The last time I witnessed so many young people striking and protesting at Parliament was on the day the Iraq war broke out 15 years ago. I was relatively young myself then and without a voice on the political stage, so I understand the frustration young people feel.

Their generation isn’t in positions of power but many of my generation is now, and we have the most profound duty to act on what they tell us.

The student action comes alongside a wave of motions being passed by councils across the country, as well as the London Assembly where I work. These ask local and national governments to bring forward climate targets to 2030 to make sure we don’t go above a 1.5C rise in global temperature: a limit the UN warned in October would risk runaway warming if we did not act much faster.

In a Channel 4 film last week I celebrated councils across the country who are committing to emergency climate action, a wave that started in Labour-controlled Bristol after Green councillor Carla Denyer proposed a motion, and Camden is now following.

I was pleased the Labour group here agreed to second a climate emergency motion I proposed in January, which asked it to work with residents to make a new, more urgent, climate action plan for when our current plan ends in 2020. The council meeting ran out of time to debate this, but cabinet member Adam Harrison’s support for the motion and his written response are both excellent, backing the ambition of setting a zero carbon target for Camden for 2030, based on the stark evidence. I look forward to working alongside him, other councillors and Camden residents in making new plans very soon.

On the ground, Camden’s citizens are already putting their faith behind green energy, as shown by the success of Power Up North London’s second sale of shares this month.

I backed the group’s first scheme at St Anne’s Church in Highgate, helping it navigate the planning system in 2016.

It has been a huge success, and now in just 12 days the group has raised all the capital needed for a second installation of solar panels at Caversham Group surgery in Kentish Town. I applaud this achievement and the new wave of climate protest pushing politicians to more ambitious targets.

We have heard warm words on the environment that turned out to be empty promises before. But, as a Green whose job is scrutinising the council, the mayor of London and the government, I’ll be working hard to make sure today’s pledges turn into real action before it’s too late.

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