Opinion: Time for action is now on climate crisis

Cllr Liz Morris is worried that Haringey Council lack urgency over climate emergency.

Cllr Liz Morris is worried that Haringey Council lack urgency over climate emergency. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

We have had the hottest July ever both globally and in the UK, where at one point the temperature reached a never before seen 38.7C.

By contrast, the downpours that followed are set to make August Britain's wettest since records began, while a further record has been set for the hottest August bank holiday ever.

This extreme weather may have been unpleasant for some people, but for those living in parts of the world affected by droughts or forest fires it can be devastating or even deadly. Not surprisingly, people are growing increasingly alarmed about our changing climate. A recent Ipsos MORI survey showed a record 85 per cent of adults in the UK are now concerned about global warming, and the proportion of people who say they are "very concerned" has jumped to a record 52pc.

But what matters is whether that concern spurs us to change our behaviour and take the necessary action to tackle what is clearly the biggest threat to our planet. And while the environmental movement has long had the mantra "think global, act local", Friends of the Earth believe that "most local authorities are doing far too little on climate change". We believe Haringey Council should be doing more, and more quickly.

In March, the council followed other authorities and declared a climate emergency. However, when a colleague followed this up at the July meeting and asked what specific measures the council has taken as a result of declaring an emergency, the Labour cabinet member for the environment could not name a single fresh initiative, instead promising to produce a "Climate Emergency Plan" at the end of the year.

We will of course press to make sure this plan includes ambitious targets for reducing the borough's carbon emissions. But the plan will only be useful if it includes concrete steps to actually meet those targets.

The council's past performance on this point is not encouraging. At the same meeting where the council declared a climate emergency, it also rejected a Lib Dem amendment to make more planning applications conditional on the developer including renewable microgeneration on site. And in February Labour councillors voted against our proposal of a workplace parking levy, which would charge larger employers in Haringey for their onsite staff parking places. A scheme like this has had great success in Nottingham, where it has reduced congestion by raising money to improve the alternatives to driving. We proposed using the funds raised by such a levy to pay for a rollout of a "school streets" programme in Haringey, which would reduce the number of cars on the school run by creating "no idling" zones around primary schools at drop off and pick times and, where possible, closing the streets in front of schools at these times. With just one school street in our borough, Haringey compares poorly to neighbouring boroughs such as Camden, Islington and Hackney. Haringey Labour has now agreed to produce a plan for this by next March but our concern is the lack of urgency.

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Action plans are not a substitute for action. Future generations will judge the politicians of today not by what we say but by what we do to protect our planet.