'Camden must do more on climate change'
- Credit: Sheila Hayman
In July 2019 Camden held the UK’s first citizens’ assembly. Among its proposals were encouraging low carbon food choices, zero carbon homes, more green spaces and tree planting, more walking and cycling, energy efficient retrofits and "campaigning to make CO2 reduction fun".
In October that year Camden declared a climate emergency , laying out the Camden Climate Action Plan with the aim of achieving net zero by 2030.
After a 50% real funding cut in a decade, Camden obviously struggles just to keep going. But two years on, it could be doing more with what it has.
On recycling, Camden manages only 25%, with the highest fly tipping rate in England. On streets, Camden has managed to convert only 13% of its streets into low-traffic neighbourhoods, with the associated green spaces and tree planting, compared to Hackney’s 55%. LTNs are controversial, but no more here than in Hackney, surely?
Meanwhile, on housing, Camden has pushed ahead with plans for demolition on its estates instead of the far more energy-efficient retrofitting.
No matter how energy efficient a new building may be, the embodied carbon of the construction materials and energy required to build it will far exceed the energy saved in the short term.
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Building new "energy-efficient" concrete and brick housing will actually produce more carbon, not less over the next 20 years, while retrofitting combined with infilling could make it possible for residents to remain near their homes while the work is done.
As to the embedded carbon in food, I haven’t noticed a borough-wide push to join my weekly challenge of feeding a household of five picky adults without plastic packaging, ultra processing or importing from beyond Europe.
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But when it comes to making CO2 reduction fun, while Camden fails to act on its pledges, residents have been busy creating a wealth of community groups that have brought us wildflower meadows, free bike repairs, a vegbox scheme, hop growing for beer brewed in a church basement, and local green energy.
And the coalition group Climate Emergency Camden has set out a roadmap for what ambitious climate action could look like in Camden. Check it out at https://climateemergencycamden.org/ and get involved with one of its active member organisations."
Sheila Hayman is from Climate Emergency Camden.