The last year has been one of uncertainty, not just for London but all across the globe. In the capital, we saw our thriving city twice enter lockdown to stop transmission of Covid-19, unexpectedly this altered how we viewed and used our city leading to road congestion and air pollution decreasing overnight. This has led to significant damage to our economy and lost lives, but it also opened the eyes of many Londoners to what a more sustainable city could look more like, while also showing the scale of the challenge we still need to respond to over the next decade.
With this in mind, London Climate Action Week this year has been crucial. While we couldn’t meet to celebrate LCAW events in person, the online events in late November brought the whole of London civic society together to discuss solutions and inspire action to tackle the climate emergency while considering how we recover from the challenges and devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The climate emergency is a critical issue not just in terms of the environment, but also the economy, and most importantly our society. While there are many pathways to sustainability, the transition to sustainable ways of living will involve significant changes to how we live, how we work, and how we spend our leisure time, and it is vital that the public is not just aware, but actively involved and supportive. If there was one clear message from across the week it was that the role of Londoners and their councils will be crucial.
Our new public polling, launched at an event on 17 November as part of London Climate Action Week, highlighted that Londoners are motivated to take action to tackle climate change with 71 per cent of respondents across all groups saying addressing climate change must be a priority for London. 57 per cent said their concern about climate change had grown in the last 12 months. We cannot ignore this rallying call to safeguard our capital’s future. 28 boroughs, including my own Hackney, have already declared a climate emergency and 75 per cent of London’s boroughs have set a target of net zero by 2030 for council emissions, but we need to do more. The results of the climate change polling will influence how we move forward.
London Councils’ second November LCAW event focused on empowering local government to be climate leaders. Boroughs understand the urgent need for decisive action and can draw on local relationships and their position as community leaders to ensure progress is made in an inclusive and sustainable way, with social justice and issues of fuel poverty to the fore
While local leadership and action is crucial, a united approach is the best way of ensuring we are all pulling in the same direction on shared climate goals. In November 2019, boroughs agreed a Joint Statement on Climate Change which recognises the significant threat of climate change to London and its residents. The Joint Statement outlines seven major programmes of collective work, from retrofitting to energy, and a green economy to a more resilient city.
Working together across boroughs, and with GLA and TfL, private and third sectors, we can deliver significant climate action that will improve the lives of Londoners, reduce pollution and make our city safer for our most vulnerable residents. We know that the impacts of climate change often disproportionately effect marginalised, low income and our diverse communities; addressing inequalities must be at the heart of how we design and deliver work to reduce our carbon emissions, lead a just transition for citizens and business and adapt to climate impacts.
All local councils are facing similar challenges around funding for services, investment in our places and supporting vulnerable residents, but we know that alongside funding we need skills and a supply chain to deliver the right technology and mechanisms that can give households confidence in the green economy and green industries. That’s why we believe Government should make retrofitting a national infrastructure priority delivering the warm safe homes so many Londoners need and the skilled future proof jobs our economy will need to recover.
London is a city of 9 million people with many diverse communities and local areas. We end the year tested by Covid-19, but also more confident and focused on climate change as citizens and London government. Next year we see COP26 hosted in Glasgow, but it will also be an opportunity to showcase what we in London are doing. As a truly global city, it is essential that we lead and as councils are an enabling and inclusive force for sustainability. By listening to our residents’ calls for action to tackle the climate emergency and working with together with other boroughs and partners, London can become a beacon for climate change progress. By being a leader and a partner for other cities, London can champion development of the best net zero solutions and demonstrate that sustainable choices and sustainable living is not just better for the climate, but for people too.
Mayor of Hackney Council