Climate emergency in Greenwich: a chronology

This chronology is organised with the most recent events at the top. If you want to know how it all started – start reading at the bottom!

Coming up – 16 March 2020

XR Greenwich political sub-group will meet at 7.30pm, at St George’s, Westcombe Park, 43 Glenluce Road SE3 7SD, to discuss the Council’s plans and our response to them

20 February 2020 – councillors had a further meeting with XR members

The meeting was held following correspondence between XR members and councillors Danny Thorpe and Denise Scott-McDonald.

29 January 2020 – the Council discussed its Carbon Neutral Plan Evidence Base

The Evidence Base, which is the first document published by the council about how it intends to address the climate emergency, is attached here.

There are supporting documents available on the Council web site here (see agenda item 14 for the meeting on 29 January). An especially important document, filename “CNPEB Appendix B” is the consultant’s report, commissioned by the Council, on how it may make progress towards carbon neutrality.

Some comments on the Evidence Base by Simon Pirani, a Greenwich resident and fossil fuels researcher, are online here.

26 June 2019 – the Council recognised that there is a climate emergency

The resolution passed stated:

Resolved –

Council notes:

  • that the impacts of climate breakdown are already causing serious damage around the world;
  • that the ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C’, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, (a) describes the enormous harm that a 2°C average rise in global temperatures is likely to cause compared with a 1.5°C rise, and (b) confirms that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society and the private sector;
  • that all governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to act, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies;
  • that strong policies to cut emissions also have associated health, wellbeing and economic benefits;
  • and that, recognising this, a growing number of UK local authorities have already passed ‘Climate Emergency’ motions

In Greenwich:

  • The consequences of inaction to address this emergency will include:
  • Increased risk of flooding, subsidence, and damage to buildings and infrastructure
  • Health problems, particularly for children, the disabled and older people
  • Higher energy and food costs
  • Increases in social injustice and inequality

Council resolves to:

  • Join other local authorities and declare a ‘climate emergency’.
  • Pledge to make Royal Borough of Greenwich carbon neutral by 2030 or earlier if possible – and to make sure that in meeting this pledge the Council takes steps to avoid any adverse impacts on vulnerable residents.
  • Pledge to develop a Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan, detailing how the Council’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030 will be achieved – and requests that this Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan is brought to Full Council for approval by January 2020 at the latest.
  • Pledge to produce, in January of each year between now and 2030, a Greenwich Climate Emergency Annual Report, detailing the Council’s progress against the Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan – which will enable members, residents and other local stakeholders to hold the Council to account for delivery of this pledge.
  • Pledge to review and update the Action Plan of the Greener Greenwich Strategy. We aim to have this completed by December 2019. We will publish an Annual Report outlining the progress we have made against these actions.
  • Pledge to create the first Greenwich Partnership to focus on climate change and ask our partner organisations across Greenwich to make clear commitments to dealing with this crisis.
  • Use our lobbying power as a local authority to campaign at the local, London-wide and national level to draw attention to issue and bring about changes at all levels of government.
  • Pledge that the Core Strategy will be reviewed to help ensure we deliver our Carbon Neutral target.
  • Pledge to explore all opportunities to divest our pension fund investments, while discharging the relevant fiduciary responsibilities to members of the pension fund, and work to ensure that wherever possible any future investments are assessed against these principles.
  • Pledge to ensure that sustainability is central to our Procurement strategy.
  • Pledge to make this council free of single-use plastics by 2020 and work towards reducing the use of single-use plastics across all council buildings.

22 June 2019 – XR People’s Assembly in Greenwich

The Assembly, organised by XR, was attended by 120 local people, including residents’ groups, trade unionists, students and members of environmental groups. Matthew Pennycook MP was among the speakers and several councillors attended.

In the run-up to the Assembly, XR put together a series of proposals; What the Royal Borough of Greenwich Could Do About the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

17 June 2019 – XR meeting with Greenwich councillors

This was a report we put on Facebook after the meeting

A delegation from Greenwich XR met today with councillors Danny Thorpe (leader), Sarah Merrill and Denise Scott-McDonald, to discuss the climate emergency that the council plans to declare at its meeting next week.

The councillors responded to our questions about concrete actions that we believe the council could take in view of this emergency, including:

  • We suggested that a senior council official should co-ordinate efforts on climate and ecological issues, and underlined the importance of a single point of contact for residents who are concerned about the climate emergency. Cllr Thorpe said in response that the council hopes to change the Air Quality Task Force into a Climate Task Force. The responsible officer would be the Director of Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills.
  • We asked the council both to support our People’s Assembly, being held on Saturday, and to consider launching a Citizens’ Assembly (i.e. council-supported gatherings, with invited residents), to discuss climate change. Some of the councillors will attend our event. They are also considering holding “Better Together” sessions focused on climate change.
  • We asked how young people’s concerns would be addressed. A further meeting will be held with Greenwich XR Youth on this.
  • We asked about how we might work together over the long term. We agreed to meet again. Cllr Thorpe also said that, once the climate emergency is declared, an annual report on it would be issued, that would be a benchmark to judge progress.

Other points were discussed about the council’s response to climate and ecological crisis.

We welcome the council’s efforts on air pollution, in particular around schools, and the plans for Car Free Days that are under discussion. But we also made clear that all infrastructure projects that will expand road transport, e.g. the Silvertown Tunnel, are incompatible with declaring a climate emergency.

We welcome the council’s interest in rewilding with respect to its parks and open spaces. However we are strongly opposed to this policy being used as grounds to make council employees redundant; if a policy is adopted that makes some work unnecessary, staff should be retrained to undertake the many tasks necessary to make the borough a less polluted and more healthy place to live.

We also discussed the Greener Greenwich strategy. XR members have been in correspondence with councillors and council officials in recent weeks about this document, arguing that, notwithstanding many positive points, it is insufficient to meet the ecological emergency we now face. The councillors consider that it does not need fundamental revision. We will continue to discuss this issue at a meeting next week.

We have sent our document, What the Royal Borough of Greenwich Could Do About the Climate and Ecological Emergency, to the councillors, and look forward to their comments.

February 2019

XR Greenwich was set up and called on the council to declare a climate emergency

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