There is no doubt that Covid19 is the biggest global crisis we have faced in a generation. It has infected more than 90 million people worldwide, killed over 1.9 million, and continues to cause disruption globally by shutting down countries, hitting economies and pushing health systems to their limits.
As we continue to tackle this crisis, we must not forget that before we had heard of Covid19 we were already facing another crisis: a climate and ecological emergency. While there is hope that vaccination will bring some relief in the case of Covid19, when it comes to climate change there’s no vaccine, no single or easy fix for it. Investment in renewable energy and technology can help, but the real breakthrough can only come from a radical political and corporate will.
There were some early indications that Covid19 may have helped reduce carbon emissions. However the initial decline in energy use and air pollution at the beginning of the pandemic has not been maintained. Both globally and nationally, there is a real need for radical action supported by Government stimulus to reduce emissions and avoid a long lasting impact of climate change.
Early in 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published a report that indicated that around 1 million animal and plant species are being threatened with extinction, many within decades, due to the rise in global warming. This report came after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published their report stating that there is very limited time left to reduce carbon emissions and stop many species, including coral, from going extinct.
As a council, Croydon declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in July 2019 with unanimous support. We have already been working towards becoming a more sustainable borough by achieving nearly 50% recycling rates and implementing 26 schools streets with more to come, improving air quality around schools and making the streets safer for our children. We’ve introduced emissions based parking charges and we are in the process of implementing low traffic neighbourhoods to further improve our air quality as well as making our streets safer for our residents to encourage active lifestyles in the form of walking and cycling.
Sustainability isn’t just about making Croydon greener, it’s also about tackling poor health due to air quality, addressing fuel poverty, providing more opportunities for active lifestyles and making sure that our diverse communities can have the health benefits as well as the economic benefits. That is why we are putting in place alternative ways for residents to heat their homes by installing ground source heat pumps in council housing blocks in New Addington, Upper Norwood and Broad Green. This new heating system will save residents £300 a year in fuel costs.
These actions we have taken and will continue to take will have far reaching benefits for our borough and for our communities.
As a cabinet member responsible for Sustainable Croydon, I look forward to the recommendations of the Croydon Climate Commission this year and commit to work with our partners including the Mayor of London, Central Government departments and local voluntary organisations and our residents to deliver on these recommendations.
I understand that some of these decisions are not easy to make or implement and it may cause some inconvenience. However, with the urgency of the climate emergency, we have to move with pace to lower our carbon emissions and ensure Croydon is doing more to become sustainable to do our part to circumvent the outcomes foretold in the IPCC report and contribute our share to the UK Government’s net zero 2050 target.
I urge everyone in Croydon to work with the council to make small changes to their lifestyle in 2021 and help towards making Croydon a more sustainable borough.