Merton Council has stepped up its commitment to combating carbon emissions and rising temperatures, by declaring a Climate Change Emergency.
The cross-party motion, signed by the four Group leaders and moved by Councillor Tobin Byers, Merton Council’s cabinet member responsible for health and the environment, was passed unanimously at the Council meeting on Wednesday 10 July. It called on the Council to declare a climate emergency and to develop an action in conjunction with businesses and residents to decarbonise the borough.
The council has committed to take a leadership role and join forces with the community to achieve carbon neutrality for the whole of Merton by 2050. The target is in line with advice given by the Government’s Committee on Climate Change and the Mayor of London’s ambitions.
Under the declaration the council has also pledged to make every effort to become a carbon neutral organisation by 2030. The council’s actions will involve work to reduce and decarbonise the energy used in all its 340 buildings, transport and contracted out services. Merton council has been working to reduce its emissions for some time, cutting them by 35 per cent since 2009 and the motion will build upon this work.
Residents, businesses and organisations are being urged to give their views on the priorities for the council’s climate change work and volunteer to be in the council’s Climate Emergency Working Group, which is to be formed. The group is to advise on the development of the council’s Climate Change Action Plan. The key areas of action are set to be switching to low carbon energy sources in buildings, reducing car journeys, encouraging the use of electric vehicles, the consumption of sustainable products, green investment and the creation of green spaces across the borough.
The declaration also recognises that the Government needs to take bolder steps to ensure the country can be carbon neutral by 2050, to protect the planet for future generations.
The cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and the Environment Councillor Byers, said: “The evidence on the impact of global warming is now undeniable. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented. I am delighted that the motion was supported by all four parties and was passed unanimously . We know climate change will impact negatively on the well-being of residents and the local economy. We must take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees centigrade, if we want to avoid the worst case scenarios extreme weather will bring.”
The council is already taking a number of measures to reduce carbon emissions from car journeys. Measures have included encouraging residents to enjoy making more sustainable trips by foot, bicycle or public transport and the ongoing installation of charge points for electric powered vehicles. Merton, which currently has 101 publicly accessible electric fast chargers operating with another 36 expected to be installed by the end of 2019, is among the top boroughs in London for this expansion. Ongoing projects include to help clean up the air includes action to ensure drivers turn off their engines while waiting outside schools.
Cllr Byers, said: “Merton Council has a long history of taking action on climate change, dating back to the development of the Merton Rule in 2003. Our most recent strategy, which has been in place since 2014, has already made a positive impact at reducing carbon emissions. However it is now imperative that this work is now stepped up and an action plan to meet the challenges we face is created.”
“The council has the responsibility to take a leadership role in tackling climate changes. However, as 97.5% of emissions within the borough come from the buildings we work in and the vehicles we drive, the majority of which are outside our direct control, everyone has an important role to play. This is why we are setting up a working group which will actively involve residents and businesses.”
A Climate Change Emergency action plan is to be developed and presented to the council in early 2020. The council is set to launch an online survey and undertake engagement with residents.
For more information on how everyone can get involved visit the www.merton.gov.uk/climatechange
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report, last October, on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. The report warned that the risk of catastrophic climate change including extreme heat, drought, flooding and climate-related poverty would significantly increase unless global warming could be kept to a maximum of 1.5°C. The report noted global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 unless urgent and unprecedented action is taken.