Councillors vote to declare a ‘climate emergency’, reports James Cracknell
Enfield Council will do “all in its power within available financial resources” to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030, councillors have agreed.
The pledge was made as the council declared a ‘climate emergency’ after increasing pressure was placed on the local authority to take action by green campaigners.
Other promises included establishing a ‘climate emergency task force’ to work out ways to achieve the net-zero emissions target, making the council’s supply chain carbon neutral, and recommending to the council’s pensions committee that it divest Enfield Pension Fund from fossil fuels.
Prior to a meeting of the full council last night activists from Enfield Extinction Rebellion held a good-natured demonstration against climate change outside the civic centre. Council leader Nes Caliskan later told councillors: “We’re aware large numbers of people have been protesting on this issue and we have been contacted by hundreds of people about declaring a climate emergency.
“This issue requires urgent attention. We are committed to making the council carbon neutral by 2030, if not sooner. We should also commit to reduce our holdings in fossil fuel companies and I am glad the pension committee has begun to look at that.
“The scientific evidence on climate change is absolutely undeniable.”
After a report setting out the council’s commitments on climate change was agreed in a vote, a lengthy debate on the motion to declare a climate emergency took place. There was praise for the council successfully reducing its carbon footprint by 45%, launching programmes such as Cycle Enfield and Sustainable Enfield, and for energy-saving schemes such as installing ground-source heat pumps at eight council tower blocks to help reduce residents’ energy bills and erecting solar panels on the civic centre.
Yasemin Brett, a Labour councillor for Bowes, said: “I would like to thank Enfield Extinction Rebellion for the pressure they have put on the council. I intend to concentrate on the impact on children’s health and my colleagues have been working hard on the North Circular road to ensure there is adequate tree planting and measures to reduce air pollution. We are also supporting plans for low traffic neighbourhoods.”
However, there were also calls for the council to go further with its pledges. James Hockney, a Conservative councillor for Bush Hill Park, said the council’s divestment promise was not strong enough. He said: “The report only talks about ‘reducing’ fossil fuels and the written answer to my question says the council is ‘actively engaging’ with fossil fuel companies about how they can become carbon neutral. It frustrates me – there is no detail on how they will deliver this.”
The Conservative group abstained on both the council’s climate change report and the climate emergency motion, with opposition group leader Joanne Laban calling the report “weak”. Cockfosters ward member Alessandro Georgiou went further by voting against the report, claiming it was “virtue signalling” and that immigration had contributed to UK carbon emissions. At the start of the meeting two Tory councillors declared interests, with one admitting holding “a substantial number of shares in BP” and another that his wife worked for the company.
A small number of Labour councillors had also abstained on the council’s report on climate change after complaining it was “not carefully worded”. They pointed out that the climate emergency motion, which they did support, was first put forward by Chase councillor Vicki Pite six months ago.