As COP26 came to a close Glasgow last week, it was clear that the Tories are taking the climate crisis about as seriously as MPs breaking paid lobbying rules.
Warm words from this Tory government are purely a distraction from their actions – just days before COP26 the Chancellor announced a 50% tax cut on short-haul flights. The Prime Minister even left COP26 early and flew 400 miles in a private jet to have a dinner with self-confessed climate sceptic Lord Moore. The government were also forced to make a U-turn on allowing companies to dump raw sewage into English rivers, and even their solution was half baked.
We can’t rely on a Tory government to take real action on climate change.
Haringey Labour is taking the climate crisis seriously, because climate justice is social justice.
The climate emergency is sometimes seen as a white middle class issue, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable in society.
Pollution and poor air quality are major drivers of the massive health inequalities in the borough, with our BAME residents being disproportionately hit the hardest. Residents in the bottom 40% of the income distribution are almost twice as likely to report poor health than those in the top 20%. Pollution is particularly devastating for respiratory conditions such as Covid and long Covid.
Families on low incomes tend to live in the most polluted areas of London, they also suffer from poor indoor air quality due to housing conditions such as overcrowding and insufficient insulation.
You’re more likely to be involved in a car accident as a pedestrian or cyclist if you live in a less affluent area.
There is a difference in life expectancy of 9 years between the east and west of the borough. Research indicates that almost half of the determinants of health are environmental, so there is no doubt in my mind that climate injustice plays a huge role in this shocking statistic.
In my brief time in my role, I have ensured that climate crisis is front and centre of all of Haringey Council’s policy and thinking, because we need a holistic approach to tackle the climate emergency. From now on all Council projects must positively impact carbon emissions.
We have committed to making Haringey a net zero carbon borough by 2041.
This isn’t just about planting more trees, although there is plenty of that underway – The Haringey Urban Forest will be one of the most positive transformational infrastructure projects the borough has ever seen.
It’s also about building safe and decent council homes – we have committed to building 3000 in the next ten years – all of which will be built with the presumption of zero carbon. It’s about retrofitting existing homes, not only to reduce carbon emissions but to keep down the cost of rising household bills. We are insulating Haringey.
It’s about providing cleaner and healthier streets through Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Our Walking and Cycling Action Plan, for which the public consultation just concluded, seeks to make Haringey’s streets and neighbourhoods safer by prioritising pedestrians (more than half of Haringey residents have no access to a car) and reducing health inequalities through providing cleaner air.
We are accelerating our school streets programme, creating safe, unpolluted zones outside schools. Where the school is on a main road we will look at other interventions such as tree-planting and living walls.
The climate emergency is also a biodiversity emergency with thousands of species facing extinction. The collapse of the climate is exacerbated by the collapse of precious eco-systems. We can not only help reverse this trend but also improve our lived environment by creating a network of rich biodiverse “bee corridors” or wildflower meadows and are looking at plans to realise this.
We have decarbonised our pension fund, the Council’s biggest carbon contributor. However, approximately 90% of the borough’s carbon emissions come from sources outside the Council’s direct control.
We’ve therefore committed to empowering and supporting community-based action through our Community Carbon Fund, which helps residents reduce their emissions through carbon offset payments.
This is a national problem that needs national action, but with the climate action vacuum left by the government, it’s important that we as a local authority show leadership on environmental issues and make real, permanent change, both inside the Council and across the borough. You can keep up to date with everything the Council is doing on the Council website.
We want to do even more – by giving local people the funding and support of the council, we can unlock the talents and creativity of our communities to tackle the climate crisis and ensure a fair and sustainable future for Haringey.
Cllr Mike Hakata
Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency and Deputy Leader of the Council