'Camden must answer questions on climate change'

Camden Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould

Camden Council leader Cllr Georgia Gould - Credit: Camden Council

In my last column, I asked whether there had been real progress in Camden towards a meaningful shift related to the climate emergency.

I concluded that action fit for an emergency involves intermediate targets, roll-out of large schemes, collaboration, and monitoring. Just imagine the fire brigade or the army addressing an emergency with warm words and workshops.

Last week, at Dartmouth Park Talks, I was pleased to put the same question to Cllr Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Council. We had the pleasure of Farhana Yamin, climate activist and international lawyer, and Zack Polanski, newly elected Green Party London Assembly member, and also Ed Miliband MP (shadow energy and climate secretary of state) joining the discussion.

It was an eventful day considering, not just the England v Germany game, but the number of deaths reported from the heat dome on the West Coast of North America, 700 have died in British Columbia alone. Older people in particular died in unbearable heat. The same occurred in Pakistan as temperatures rose above what is tolerable by the human body.

It was reassuring to have real discussion with facts being put forward by Zack showing action in other boroughs. And Ed Milliband’s words about transitioning to a world that is better for all, not simply a low carbon world, resonated with many. So did Farhana’s about building a truly diverse coalition for action and making full use of expertise in the borough.

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

However, these points made by the audience still need an answer:

  • Two years after the emergency, with just eight years to go before Camden is due to hit its 2030 target, a quantitative plan has not been published;
  • The council’s investments in fossil fuel stocks have risen from 4.2% in 2019 to 4.66% in June 2020; and
  • The investment in waste incinerator facilities will not cut carbon emissions and will expose us to the risk of stranded assets – hitting our pockets directly.
  • There is no plan to retrofit our leaky older houses let alone reduce our transport emissions further.
  • The massive new Murphy’s development claims to be low carbon but it’s not close to zero carbon, with all those carbon emissions from producing carbon-intensive materials.

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A final positive proposal was twinning with a city in Bangladesh – people whose homes and paddy fields which will be submerged and salinated are the families of people who live here. By twinning, Camden can learn about the impacts of climate change elsewhere, magnify the voice of people from poorer parts of the world, and share expertise so that, as we reduce our emissions, we would support others do the same.

Cllr Gould promised an action plan with measurable steps in a couple of months combined with a retrofit strategy, and its clear that some thinking is underway. We will watch this space over the next two-three months with bated breath to see if our local leaders will take responsibility for real action.

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