Southwark Council declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019. Since then, silence. Residents are still waiting for the promised action plan, writes Eleanor Margolies…
Meanwhile much of the council seems to be on autopilot, stuck in old habits with no sense of urgency.
It’s staggering that Southwark persisted in its bad habit of promoting car travel by offering free parking on Saturdays in December 2019. Lambeth’s Christmas present to residents was much more on-trend: your shopping delivered free by zero-emission cargo bike.
As for lack of urgency – at a presentation about refurbishing five Camberwell housing estates, Cllr Leo Pollak was asked how the works would help cut carbon consumption and prepare for hotter summers. Would solar panels be installed, for example? He replied with some good long-term ideas but admitted there were no climate measures planned for these estates, even though the refurb is “once in a generation”.
I don’t usually make New Year resolutions, but this year I’ve resolved to raise the climate emergency at every opportunity. We need to test everything we do against the question: “How will this action affect the climate?”
We can make sure our future is discussed at every work, school, community and public meeting, even if it’s at the end, under “Any Other Business”. Make that a moment to ask questions about planting trees or saving energy – because the climate emergency is “All Our Business”.
I’ve realised you don’t need to have all the answers to ask. Someone else in the room will know how the shop down the road avoids plastic packaging or how another council is building low-energy homes.
It helps to join up with other people. At work, you can contact unions and groups like Culture Declares Emergency, Flying Less, Medact and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion.
Around schools, parents are providing the vital information to tackle both air pollution and climate change. Mums for Lungs hand out flyers about the harm from idling engines and together with Clean Air for Dulwich have put up banners outside schools that read: Pollution INSIDE CARS can be three times higher than outside: Walk, Cycle or Scoot. Don’t Pollute.
Unlike Southwark Council’s vague exhortations to “do one thing”, they are bold, clear and urgent – an inspiration for the New Year.