We need to be more ambitious on climate change

A local branch of Extinction Rebellion recently held a protest against the new Edmonton incinerator, which Enfield Council continues to support (credit Dora Petrou)
A local branch of Extinction Rebellion recently held a protest against the new Edmonton incinerator, which Enfield Council continues to support (credit Dora Petrou)

Enfield Climate Action Forum co-founder Francis Sealey reacts to the launch of the council’s climate action plan

In September, Enfield Council launched Enfield Climate Action Plan 2020, declaring it wanted the authority to become carbon neutral by 2030 and the whole borough by 2040.

Unfortunately, in my view, the plan’s ambitions fall far short of the vision required, and sadly it has turned into a lost opportunity. While the plan is full of good intentions, it needs more than just aspiration. Having set targets for many areas of council activity, it did not say with sufficient clarity how it would achieve that.

We need more detail on their plans to calculate emissions and how they monitor their success in reducing emissions. The plan currently falls far short of ambition in four major areas.

Firstly, the council, through its own operations, is responsible for under 2% of the borough’s carbon emissions. The overwhelming majority of emissions come from local commercial industry, residential homes, and individual people. The plan has no whole-borough strategy in its proposals, to act as a catalyst for change. It wants the borough to become carbon neutral by 2040 – but how will it reach out to schools, businesses, faith groups and the public?

Secondly, climate change is not just about mitigation. It is also about adaptation. Climate change is happening now and temperature will rise further by the end of the century, possibly by 2.6 degrees or more. How do we cope with that? How will the council prepare for possible severe heatwaves, floods, drought, storms, food shortages, and challenges to public health? There is a brief mention of this in the council plan, but there is no defined strategy. A plan that deals with mitigation and not adaptation is only half a plan.

Thirdly, there are serious concerns about how the climate strategy is joined up with other strategies developed by the council, such as their poverty strategy and local plan for housebuilding. We know that climate change will adversely affect poorer communities more than wealthier ones, and many local areas, especially those in the USA such as Boston, are integrating poverty strategies with climate change strategies – they have created a comprehensive ‘green deal’ as central to their plan. Enfield’s plan is totally deficient in this and that is a major flaw.

Finally, the next 80 years are going to be very tough – tougher than probably we have ever known – and we will need immense community resilience to cope with what lies ahead. This has to be built from the bottom up, with the local authority as a partner and not a leader, and this will need openness and transparency and genuine dialogue. There are currently no plans from the council on how they are going collaborate inclusively with our local communities to make this happen.

I suspect one of the reasons Enfield’s climate plan has these omissions is because of the way it was set up, with the taskforce that drafted it meeting in secret from the start and not allowing community groups or even councillors to be a part of their deliberations. This was a fatal flaw and meant that the taskforce depended on consultants, and although they did a good job given their limited brief, the vision that was needed was not there. If it had been open to the wider public, with civil society more intimately involved, things might have been different.

Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCaf) is meeting monthly to discuss climate change issues locally and hear from a range of people. To get involved:
Email [email protected]
Visit encaf.org