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Taking climate change seriously

Date: Tuesday 30 July 2019
Author: Councillor Martin Elengorn
Title: Chair of Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sport Committee

This July, the Council:

  1. Unanimously declared a Climate Change Emergency for the borough
  2. Unanimously censured the Government for exempting the aviation industry from contributing towards reducing carbon emissions
  3. Approved for the borough a draft new Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy and a draft new Air Quality Action Plan, for consultation in the autumn and adoption in January

Why has the Council decided to promote a new Climate Change Strategy?

This is the Council’s latest response to an increasingly serious situation starting with the Charter for the Environment in the 1990s and including the borough’s first Climate Change Strategy In 2008. Irresponsible use of fossil fuels has led to a runaway increase in carbon emissions causing a rapid increase in temperatures, melting of the ice caps, rising sea levels, unpredictable and worsening weather incidents, extinction of species, disruption of agriculture, food shortages, population movements, spread of diseases etc. If a great effort is made internationally, across Europe, nationally and locally to mitigate the effects and adapt to them, we may be able to avoid the worst outcomes.

What role can the wider borough play in developing the strategy?

While the Council can put its own house in order, making its buildings more energy efficient, plant more trees and resist requests to remove existing trees, promote electric cars and cycling and work to improve air quality, the greatest contribution to carbon emissions and therefore the greatest scope for improvement is down to residents and businesses, for example in their travel and food choices and their energy use.

What impact will climate change have on our day to day lives?

The most obvious effects are with us already in terms of weather disruption with higher temperatures, more extreme events, drought and flooding. Consequent agricultural failure and food shortages overseas lead to population movements which cause or exacerbate political instability and threaten international order. Species extinction will reduce the gene pool and the ability to adapt.

Why do we need to act now?

The rise in temperature in recent years is at the higher end of predictions and tipping points, for instance in the melting of polar and Himalayan glaciers, could have runaway consequences.

We all have an individual responsibility for the situation we are in and, for the sake of the young and future generations and the natural world need urgently to pursue behaviour change. This particularly affects travel choices, energy choices and lifestyle choices.

What next?

We will be holding a Borough Summit and a special Borough Youth Summit in October

Updated: 24 March 2021