CEC statement to Full Council meeting as Camden declares a Climate and Ecological Emergency

We are facing an unprecedented catastrophe. 

  • The world is on track to far exceed the 1.5°C limit before 2050
  • One million species are at threat of extinction.

These are not abstract statistics. They will affect every facet of our lives and those of our children. In addition to increased threat of heat waves and flooding, the price of food will become increasingly volatile and water supplies will be at risk. 

Climate Emergency Camden is a coalition of local groups which believes that it is possible to halt the damage to the planet, but only if we act immediately and radically. 

Councils will play a vital role in addressing the crisis we face. Every decision you make has an impact on the climate and on nature. You have significant scope to reduce emissions in buildings, transport, and waste, which together account for 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. You shape our streets and green spaces.  You determine the environmental footprint of millions of pounds of goods and services.  

Today is the moment for you to decide how to use the power invested in you to build a better future.

The motion before you has much to commend it.  We welcome the formal declaration of a climate and ecological emergency. 

We welcome your commitment to a zero-carbon Camden by 2030, including recognition of the importance of tackling scope 3 consumption emissions.

We welcome your commitment to telling the truth.   

But we don’t think the motion goes far enough

First, it’s too slow.   If we were in the grips of a disease outbreak or a war, you would not ask us to wait a year to see the plan. We want to see to see some big, meaningful changes fast. 

For example, you could immediately commit to:

  •  divest from fossil fuels 
  • stop using pesticides on council land

Within 6 months you could:

  • Overhaul your approach to procurement, promoting localism and radically reducing the borough’s environmental footprint
  • Mobilise significant innovative financing to provide renewable energy throughout the Borough  
  • Transform at least 20% of public spaces in favour of people and trees, not cars.

Second, it’s too narrow.  As things stand, we fear that this agenda could remain stuck in the margins of the ‘sustainability’ agenda, rather than embedded in every single decision you take. This needs to change. We want the Carbon Descent report on Camden’s emissions to be expanded and translated into a series of carbon reduction and biodiversity objectives for every department and senior officer.

Finally, there is no framework for partnership or for scrutiny. You can’t address this crisis alone. The motion recognises the importance of working with business and the community, but offers no mechanism to make that happen. We propose the formation by Christmas of a Camden Climate Commission, similar to that set up in Leeds. It would bring together residents, business, scientists and the Council to build a shared vision for change and scrutinise progress.

We look to you to unlock and channel the talent, resources and energy from across the borough in order to tackle the emergency. 

Together we can show that practical change at scale is possible, and that it will deliver a better, safer and fairer Camden. 

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