Is Camden showing the leadership it should on the climate emergency?

File photo dated 04/02/20 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Sir David Attenborough at the l

Prime minister Boris Johnson (left) and Sir David Attenborough at the launch of the next COP26 UN Climate Summit at the Science Museum - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

It’s just over two years since Camden Council declared a climate emergency and committed to Net Zero by 2030, and we’re in the run-up to the critical climate negotiations (COP26) in Glasgow.

So it is time to check if Camden is showing the leadership that may be expected of Ed Miliband, shadow climate secretary, and most importantly, opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On the activity front, yes, we’ve had a citizen’s assembly – exciting and innovative – and Think & Do, a hotbed of learning, discussion and debate. Camden has amended it’s constitution to introduce a duty to take into account climate impacts in every decision it makes. The council’s climate action plan followed in early 2020. Now a Renewal Commission is up and running and housing retrofit plans are apparently under way.

Maya de Souza shows the connection between investment and climate change.

Maya de Souza held a Dartmouth Park Talk about the climate emergency in Camden - Credit: Archant

It’s fair to ask however whether there has been real progress or just activity that might be mistaken for meaningful action.

Camden’s 2019 study by consultants Carbon Descent suggests an extensive programme of transformation leading up to 2030 – just eight and a half years away – on heating, power, and travel. This means a shift from gas boilers to electric heat pumps combined with highly insulated houses; large scale installation of solar PV on rooftops; more travel by public transport, cycling and walking – reducing car use by 15% – with remaining vehicular traffic being electric.


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In terms of the stuff we buy, its well known that the big wins are in eating less meat and throwing away less food. As to the other stuff we buy, creativity and resourcefulness come into the picture – reuse and repair, sharing and leasing, and we also need to recycle more.

This all sounds something to look forward to: warm homes, creativity, islands of green – see the Camden Forests initiative – contributing to ecology in the city, and healthy living.

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A declaration of an emergency suggests something rigorous in getting there: targets, roll-outs, monitoring etc. Instead what we have are commitments to projects. This is all great. But it isn’t enough - we need to get our skates on. Perhaps a chance here for the Labour leadership to get behind the council and show what can be done?

Maya De Souza is an environmental campaigner and chair of Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum.

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