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xr enfield members outside enfield civic centre 29 Jan 2020The Extinction Rebellion Enfield demonstrators outside the Civic Centre

A demonstration by environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion Enfield led to last Wednesday's meeting of Enfield Council being temporarily adjourned. An Extinction Rebellion member, speaking from the public gallery shortly after the start of the meeting, read out a statement complaining that six months after declaring a climate emergency "we have continued to see business as usual from the council". Stressing the urgency of the need for action, the speaker quoted David Attenborough's declaration that "we have been putting things off for year after year" and that “the moment of crisis” has come.

In the address (see the full text at the bottom of this report) the protesters complained that the council would only act once its climate change strategy is finalised, which would take a year.

Speaking after the meeting, an Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council takes tackling climate change seriously and is moving quickly to implement our commitment to be carbon neutral.

“Since 2011 Enfield Council has reduced its carbon footprint by 45 per cent, exceeding its carbon reduction target three years early.

“The borough itself is on track for a 40 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint by 2020, despite a rapidly growing population.

“We are now aiming to reduce the council’s carbon footprint by 60 per cent by 2025 and to be completely carbon neutral no later than 2030.

“We sympathise with Extinction Rebellion’s aims and support their right to peaceful protest, and we have welcomed their discussions with cabinet members in recent months.

“We encourage them to continue to engage the council in constructive dialogue rather than undertaking disruptive and divisive activities in council meetings.

“The chair of the Climate Change Task Force set up by the council continues to meet Extinction Rebellion regularly.”

Further information about development of the council's climate change strategy was included in the councillor questions and answers document published along with the agenda for the council meeting. In his reply to a question from Cllr Mahmut Asanoglu, deputy council leader Ian Barnes said that "progress is being made". He said that "Staff engagement on our emerging strategy will be taking place during January and February and then we will be engaging with the public during March and April. Following this, the final strategy will be ready for approval and implementation, so that we can reach our challenging ambition of carbon neutrality by 2030."

Extinction Rebellion Enfield Address to Enfield Council meeting on 29 January 2020

This is the voice of Extinction Rebellion Enfield – this is an emergency!

  • NASA, NOAA and the UK Met Office have confirmed that the decade running up to 2019 was the warmest on record.
  • The Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change have declared that business as usual will result in a 4.8 degree warming by the end of the century with catastrophic consequences. Food scarcity, flooding, elevated disease levels and a likely breakdown in societal structures.
  • David Attenborough has publicly declared that "we have been putting things off for year after year" and that “the moment of crisis” has come.

In July 2019 Enfield Council acknowledged the climate crisis and declared a climate emergency, committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 – at the time we welcomed this move and its implications.

Six months later, and we have continued to see business as usual from the council.

We asked the council to commit to the climate emergency by taking three actions, as a matter of urgency – they are

  1. To establish a baseline for the council’s carbon emissions so that this may be used to measure progress towards achieving net zero carbon emissions.
  2. To commit to switching the council’s e-supplier to a 100% renewable provider so that the local authority reduces its carbon footprint
  3. To commit to the divestment of council pension funds from fossil fuels so that the local authority is not investing in the organisations most harmful to our environment.

Since July we have held several meetings and email communications with the council but, so far, we have seen the declaration be treated with a severe lack of urgency:

In six months, the council has met just twice to discuss the issue. Once again, the climate emergency does not feature on tonight’s council agenda.

We have been told that we must expect Enfield to move slowly as it is a large organisation with over 8,000 employees. But despite employing so many, just one, part-time consultant has been assigned the task of establishing a carbon baseline and a climate change strategy.

We have been told it will take a year to finalise a strategy and that the council will not act until this is in place. How does this reflect any sort of urgency and priority?

Despite our suggestions, the council has so far declined to commit to switching to a renewable energy supplier on the grounds of cost, whilst ignoring the cost to the environment of continued global warming.

Similarly, the council has yet to make a commitment to pension divestment meaning that the council will be indirectly involved in the production of harmful emissions for many years to come. This directly impacts employees of the council whose future pensions will be undermined by the destruction created by global warming.

In addition, Enfield Council continues to support plans for the rebuild of the Edmonton Incinerator instead of considering more environmentally sound options. When complete, the new incinerator will release up to 700,000 tonnes of CO2 a year as well as severely affecting the air quality of thousands of the Borough’s poorest residents.

Based on the lack of progress to date and Enfield’s support for destructive projects like the incinerator rebuild, we seriously doubt the council’s sincerity when it says it is committed to addressing the climate emergency.

The declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ has given Enfield Council credibility and kudos that it does not deserve. Wearing the badge of climate change without taking concrete action is nothing short of ‘greenwashing’.

The climate emergency is real. In the last year alone, we have seen wildfires in California and Australia that have devastated the wilderness, burned homes and created unlivable conditions for many city dwellers - yet our leaders do nothing.

Temperatures around the globe have increased to unprecedented levels creating drought, famine and conflict and still our leaders do nothing.

Conflict over scarce resources, climate driven wars, and rising sea levels will displace millions in the years to come and still our leaders do nothing.

This is not new news – our leaders have known about these changes for decades but have always avoided taking action on the grounds of cost and convenience.

Extinction Rebellion is made up of ordinary men and women, driven to extraordinary measures to protect our right to survive. We believe that leadership on the climate crisis should start locally, in the places where we live – If Enfield Council refuses to take action on the existential threat of climate change then you are not our leaders and we will not be your followers.

This is an emergency

This is an emergency

This is an emergency

Excerpt from written questions and answers included in the agenda for the council meeting on 29th January

Question 13 from Councillor Mahmut Aksanoglu to Councillor Ian Barnes, Deputy Leader of the Council

Can the Deputy Leader give us an update on the work of the Climate Change Task Force?

Reply from Councillor Ian Barnes

We declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and I know some people have felt frustrated by the speed of action but as Chair of the Task Force I want our forthcoming strategy to be based on accurate data, and on evidence of where we can make the most effective impact at driving down our emissions. I can assure the Councillor and all interested parties that progress is being made.

We are working with consultants Greengage Environmental to develop our new strategy for achieving our pledge and tackling the climate emergency in Enfield. The focus of work over the past few months has been to establish our 2019 carbon baseline – our current carbon footprint – and to use this to start to develop a clear roadmap to how we will reduce this to zero over the next ten years. Our strategy will also set out the action we will be taking with local stakeholders across Enfield and London, so that we work collectively to tackle the huge task ahead. We already have a track record of driving emissions down as an organisation and influencing better behaviour across the borough, including through installation of ground source heat pumps in 400 council homes, our work with Energetik, and action to encourage active travel and reduce car use through Cycle Enfield, the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and our new School Streets programme.

But the task force is clear that much more is needed, and we are developing a clear strategy to address this. This will include reducing energy use across our estate, switching to a renewable energy provider, and converting our fleet to 100% electric.

We will also need to offset remaining emissions, and plan to do so through continuing our pioneering work in enhancing biodiversity across our parks and open spaces, and through reforestation in Enfield Chase, with 60,000 new trees to be planted, starting with half in late 2020 and the rest in winter 2021.

Staff engagement on our emerging strategy will be taking place during January and February and then we will be engaging with the public during March and April. Following this, the final strategy will be ready for approval and implementation, so that we can reach our challenging ambition of carbon neutrality by 2030. I welcome the support of members and officers across all parts of the Council’s business so that we can achieve this together.

Links

Six months on from the climate emergency declaration: What has the council done so far? (Palmers Green Community 14 January 2020)

Extinction Rebellion Enfield

Enfield Climate Community Group

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