‘This gives me hope’: Residents come together to discuss solutions to climate emergency

Islington residents congregated at the Town Hall last night to discuss ways in which the council can advance its strategy to address the climate emergency.

The borough declared an emergency in June last year, but is now seeking ways to address carbon emissions that it does not produce directly in order to meet its commitment of achieving net zero by 2030.

Green councillor Caroline Russell AM called for such a meeting to happen monthly, claiming that many who attended the crowded conference had been alerted to it happening by her.

Cllr Russell said: “At last we’ve actually got some proper dialogue. A really useful constructive meeting, with the right people in the room and a good range of people. I think we can do a lot more to get tenant management organisations and tenant & resident associations along.

“We need to get many more people and businesses in the room. We need everyone in Islington to be on a mission to sort out our carbon emissions.

“This kind of meeting is really important. If this is the beginning of many conversations, then that gives me hope. If Islington is going to meet this incredibly ambitious target of net zero, this kind of meeting needs to happen once a month.”

Residents discussed environmental issues across six priorities – buildings, transport, energy, the green economy, the environment, waste reduction, and engagement and finance.

Positive achievements so far were trumpeted by councillors, including the arrival of a 26-tonne electric refuse vehicle (understood to be the first in London) and the opening of Bunhill 2, a local power station which uses waste heat from the tube to power 1,500 homes, two leisure centres and a school.

However, residents were quick to add their own suggestions, with discussions facilitated by council officers and experts on individual tables and fed back to the group at the end.

Among many ideas discussed were the possibility of climate hubs, in which people could come together to discuss and act on climate issues, as well as local ‘sustainability fairs’.

Also mooted was the possibility of raising council tax in order to directly address the climate emergency, putting together a central energy hub with information for residents on how they could make changes to their houses, or enacting a “lighter touch” planning system to help people retrofit their homes.

The council was further called upon to set recycling targets for estates, and to enable “collective responsibility” around recycling, with a vision of communities working together on the issue, with incentives such as free collections for small businesses.

Also dismissed as an idea was any commitment towards no net loss of green space in the borough, with residents rather calling for an increase.

Council leader Richard Watts said: “The aim of the evening is for us to listen to you, not for us to talk at any great length. I think we’ve made a good first stab as a council at the net zero emissions policy, which is much more centred around the council than it is the rest of the borough.

“We need your help in order to change that. What the council does is really important, as we are by far the biggest employer in the borough. What we do as a body matters, but it is also really important that we show leadership.

“It really would be the most pyrrhic of victories if we managed to reduce the council’s 8 per cent down to net zero and we didn’t touch the other 92.”