There’s still a long way to go but Islington is getting greener
Borough may be among the most at risk from climate change, but it is taking the eco emergency seriously, writes Caroline Russell
Friday, 7th January — By Caroline Russell
Green councillor Caroline Russell
MOVING into 2022, we face a third year of the coronavirus pandemic, growing pressures from rising prices and rocketing energy bills.
Our future also holds a likely succession of wetter, colder and hotter climate events, as the climate emergency continues to bite – starting with the very first day of this year being the warmest New Year on record.
The Mayor of London’s vulnerability map identifies Islington as one of the boroughs most at risk from climate change, with effects such as increased surface water flooding and overheating homes predicted to jeopardise both lives and livelihoods.
Prompted by the creative school strike protests by thousands of Islington school children, the council has declared a climate emergency and is taking that commitment seriously, building the need to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 into all its work streams and reporting.
Councillors backed my motion committing Islington to drawing up a resilience plan, working to ensure, among other things, that people’s homes stay warm in winter, cool in summer and are protected from condensation and mould by decent ventilation.
These resilience plans should apply to all new council homes like those planned for the Holloway prison site.
They also backed my call to sign up to the Transport for All “Equal Pavements Pledge”, committing the council to listen to disabled people and check that pavements are well maintained, even and clutter free.
Our streets and green spaces have been working extra hard through the pandemic, as people newly working from home get their daily exercise in a borough with the least green space per person in the whole country, so it is so important that our streets are inclusive.
It’s been brilliant to watch our communities organise play streets, start parklets in parking bays, to make their streets into friendlier, more sociable places, and watch the people now playing, exercising, singing and just hanging out, for example, on the road that bisects Highbury Fields, which has been closed to cars.
These will all become more important as we move towards more flexible working and the “15-min city”, where essential services are all within easy walking distance.
This inclusivity also needs to include access to toilets, as knowing there’s a toilet on your way to the shops can make all the difference for children, older and disabled people.
Which brings us to the need to move towards a circular economy, where we shop more carefully, to reduce impact on the environment, cut our waste, and recycle more of the stuff that we do throw away.
It was great to see the council open a Library of Things last year, so people can borrow rather than buy rarely used items like electric drills, sewing machines or hedge trimmers.
However, this is one area where the council has not yet got things right. I had hoped councillors would back my motion to pause and review expansion of the incinerator at Edmonton, which risks locking in high consumption and waste for years to come, with no incentive to use less stuff in the first place. Unfortunately, they chose not to and are going ahead with the scheme.
Islington is doing a lot to grow greener. But it’s still got a long way to go!
• Caroline Russell is a Green councillor and London Assembly Member