On 3 October Croydon Local Group of Extinction Rebellion wrote to the Mayor, the Leader (Tony Newman), and Councillors to outline the need for more urgent action by the Council on the climate emergency.
‘You’ve Declared a Climate Emergency.
Now it’s time to act as if the truth is real.
On 15th July 2019 Croydon Council formally declared a climate and ecological emergency. At the meeting Cllr. Tony Newman stated that it was time for “… deeds not words”. Unfortunately we have yet to see much evidence of this approach.
Despite our requests to meet with the Leader’s team to learn more about what the emerging action plan will entail, and assurance that a meeting would be set-up, this has not happened.
We are therefore growing increasingly worried that this vitally important matter is being sidelined. As residents we expect you to act to protect us and to safeguard our future wellbeing.
This means taking immediate action to address the climate and ecological emergency.
Whilst we acknowledge that Croydon Council is preparing to announce plans for a ‘sustainability commission’ and a citizens assembly, there are many other additional measures that should be addressed as a matter of urgency. Helpfully, Friends of the Earth has produced a useful list of 33 actions Local Authorities can take immediately. In line with your declaration of a climate and ecological emergency, we now ask that you commit to undertake at least the following 3 no/low-cost measures to demonstrate that you are taking your declaration seriously:
1) Baseline the carbon and ecological footprint of the Borough and use this to inform the Council’s carbon reduction and biodiversity strategies
Carbon Baseline / Reduction Plan
Without a solid understanding of our carbon emissions (in tCO2 or tCO2e per annum) it will be impossible for Croydon to meaningfully measure its progress toward the 2030 carbon neutral target that you have set.
Please establish a carbon baseline, set out a clear monitoring framework and make all reporting public. There are free resources that officers can use to help inform this work provided below:
- Can-do- Cities
- or SCATTER carbon management calculation tool
We can find no up to date yearly monitoring of carbon emissions by the Council and it is unclear whether you are on track to meet the target of 34% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025 as set out in your existing Climate Change Action Plan. The new stated target of carbon neutrality by 2030 cannot be achieved without effective monitoring and this must inform all policy development going forward.
Biodiversity Action Plan
Please update the Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) states that: “Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity”. The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) provides a framework for prioritising conservation actions for biodiversity. Find out more about the duty here.
There is a template that officers can use here. An example of an adopted BAP from Wakefield DC can be found here.
2) Provide an official update on the progress of the strategy to fully divest from fossil fuel investments
Croydon Council Pension Fund and Croydon Council itself must immediately freeze any new investments and begin divesting existing investments in companies either directly or indirectly involved in the extraction, promotion or sale of fossil fuels. These are highly polluting investments increasing the rate of climate and ecological breakdown.
Continued investment in such companies is incommensurate with taking meaningful action on either issue.
I am sure the Council will be aware of the on-line petition that Croydon Friends of the Earth group has relaunched calling on Croydon Council to divest. Extinction Rebellion Croydon fully support this campaign.
Please publish the strategy and commit to a transparent and timely process to complete this essential task.
3) Withdraw the Council’s support for further airport expansion at Gatwick Airport
The expansion of airports in the UK, including Gatwick, is completely incompatible with the UK achieving it’s Paris Agreement commitments. While the aviation industry argues that they have made aircraft more efficient, any efficiency gains have and will continue to be negated by the significant increase in the number of flights taken.
The government relies on future Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies and carbon offsetting to allow the aviation sector to continue operating under ‘business as usual’ conditions, without requiring any meaningful reduction in emissions. CCS technologies, such as Bioenergy and Carbon Capture Storage (BECCS), are unproven at scale and risk-prone, whilst carbon offsetting will not get us to true carbon neutrality.
This is not a workable solution.
Furthermore, the slice of the carbon budget taken up by aviation puts an unfair burden on our public services such as schools, hospitals and – yes – local authorities, who will have to make more drastic reductions in their own emissions to compensate. The possible future take up of “solar powered aircraft” technology cited previously by Croydon Council members is highly speculative and won’t make the slightest impact on emissions in the foreseeable future. It’s time to stop using this as an argument for expansion.
Croydon must withdraw its support for Gatwick or any other airport expansion proposals, and should instead focus on other means of generating truly sustainable local economic development in line with its ambitions to be London’s “greenest borough”. This could involve promoting Croydon as a leader in the Circular Economy – placing itself in an excellent position as an early adopter of the sort of clean industries that will likely form the basis of a future Green New Deal. Instead of yesterday’s ‘Airport City’ lets have tomorrow’s ‘Clean Air City’.
In 5 days time thousands of citizens, including many Croydon residents, will take to the streets as part of the International Rebellion to demand that all governments – both national and local – take the action required to address the climate and ecological emergency. We hope that Croydon Council will deliver on its promises and we withhold the right to take non-violent direct action within the borough if we do not feel that enough is being done.’
The arguments for not supporting Gatwick Airport, and for development of a diverse, sustainable and green economy were made in its report by the Croydon TUC Working Party on the Council’s Growth Plan in 2014. This report was totally ignored by the Council. A request to Cabinet members for a meeting was not responded to. Under questioning at the Whitgift CPO inquiry Jo Negrini felt she had to agree to a meeting. At it she refused to discuss the detailed recommendations, saying many were political and should be discussed with the Cabinet members! A further request was not responded to.
I hope Extinction Rebellion has more success in having a positive meeting to discuss its proposals.
Biodiversity is closely linked to protecting green spaces. The battle over these continues in Croydon with the Council having conflicting policies: Local List Designation Review, recognition of the need for more in Croydon North, allowing Brick by Brick to build on green spaces the Council owns, and allowing developers to build on large back gardens and cut down trees in areas such as in Pollards Hill.
Hopefully Croydon Extinction Rebellion will take an active role in the next stage of the consultation on the Local Plan Review. Some of the issues are in the submission by Croydon TUC and Assembly at the first stage of the review earlier this year.