Plans to tackle global climate and health emergency get green light from Newham Council

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‘An ambitious and far-reaching’ plan to address the global climate and health emergency was given the green light at a meeting of Newham Council in London on 16 July.

The Climate Emergency Action Plan seeks to ensure that as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, any economic recovery accelerates and escalates the Council’s response to the climate emergency facing the planet.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz commented on the announcement: “The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 doesn’t change the magnitude of the climate crisis that we are contending with, in fact it underlines the imperative to put both the health of people and the planet at the heart of our plans to address the economic consequences of the pandemic.

“Addressing the global challenge of the climate emergency and building a sustainable future is a non-negotiable priority for this administration.

“It is shaping our policies across the Council and is central to our Community Wealth Building agenda and Inclusive Economy strategy.”

The action plan lays out projects, strategies and schemes across all Council service areas, from parks and open spaces to housing and green technology, health, waste reduction and recycling and economic development, to drive the Council’s ambition to improve air quality and become carbon zero by 2050.

Mayor Fiaz added: “As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and the resulting recession, the rebuilding of our local economy must address the impact of economic activity on air quality and climate change in our borough.

“As the Council’s climate emergency policy direction evolves and is translated into action, we will work closely with other agencies at national and local levels, such as the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, NHS providers, educational bodies and private investors, as well as local businesses, voluntary and community organisations and residents.

“This initial Action Plan should, therefore, be regarded as a first step in a vital process that will develop over time.”

Some of the measures, which will be piloted or introduced, include:

  • a green business loan fund, focusing specifically on businesses demonstrating a green-focused ethos or proposals;
  • complete Energy Performance Certificates for all Council stock and identify units below a C rating; prepare a work strategy to bring all units up to a rating of C by March 2025;
  • establish a new Energy Efficiency Standards Team (EEST) to educate and enforce against private sector and commercial landlords whose properties fall below the minimum energy standard;
  • introduce an emissions-based residential parking scheme;
  • introduce up to 40 electric vans to the Council’s fleet and install charging points for electric vehicles at Council depots in East Ham and Stratford;
  • trial of a move to weekly recycling collections with additional items including a wider range of plastics and glass included for the first time, with a view to roll out borough-wide next year;
  • develop a ten-year Parks and Green Spaces Strategy and investment plan alongside a new tree strategy.

The Council agreed that the Action Plan would form the basis of a borough-wide campaign to promote collective and individual behaviour change, raise awareness, and contribute to the Council’s climate emergency response.

In addition to the Climate Emergency Plan, the Council also noted two separate reports on Climate Change.

The first was a report on outcomes from the Newham Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change.

The Newham Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change brought together 36 randomly selected residents for three evenings and a weekend in February 2020 to develop recommendations in response to the question: “How can the Council and residents work together to reach the aspiration of being carbon zero by 2050 at the latest?”

The Assembly report highlighted six action areas for the Council:

  1. Education, Awareness, and Action: educating the Council, residents and communities about the climate emergency so everyone is clear about what we all need to do.
  2. Technology and Energy: investing in technologies to create sustainable energy.
  3. Moving Around (transport and travel): switching Newham towards a cleaner, greener, healthier journey.
  4. Food and Recycling: reducing food waste and food miles and aspiring to recycle 100%.
  5. Environment and Outdoor space: the Council will work with residents to transform the environment to produce a greener, more pleasant, healthier place where people will want to live, work and settle.
  6. Buildings and Houses: The Council providing greater leadership and taking more responsibility for how residential homes and businesses become more energy efficient.

The Council also noted a report commissioned by the Council from environmental consultants Aether and SE2.

This reviewed the Council’s current approach to addressing the climate emergency and assessed the likely impact of existing plans in relation to the National Committee on Climate Change’s main areas for action towards a net zero carbon future.

In its conclusions, the report says: ‘Newham’s current activities are moving in the right direction but there is a wide delivery gap that will need to be filled in order to meet Newham’s carbon neutral targets.

‘The actions recommended are often a step change away from business as usual, with some quite radical interventions suggested.’

Mayor Fiaz continued: “Taken together these important reports show how Newham is responding to the climate emergency, and show the positive steps the Council has taken to work with residents, leading experts, partners and stakeholders to build a greener future as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and the recession.

“We are absolutely committed to continuing with this collaborative and inclusive approach to tackling the climate emergency and I am excited at the prospect of creating a better, greener, healthier and more pleasant borough together.”

The various reports to Council can be read here