On the 24th July I spoke at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Full Council Meeting on the importance of taking serious action on climate change. I asked the council to commit to switching to 100% renewable energy procurement by 2020. Full clip below (please note that for first few seconds the microphone wasn’t working but the sound gets better shortly after).
Transcription of speech
Councillors, thank you for allowing me to speak today.
Greenwich, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Hackney, Lewisham, Hounslow, Southwark… A wide range of Boroughs in London, all very different, yet all with a common goal: to address climate change as the emergency that it is, and to fast track the road to net zero emissions.
I’m quite disappointed not to see Kensington and Chelsea on the list of councils taking a position of leadership.
It’s not news anymore that we are in a climate emergency. All you need to do is walk outside or look at your weather forecast for tomorrow. 38 degrees. In London. And this is just the beginning. The IPCC report that came out in October of last year contained a decade’s worth of peer-reviewed research and gave a dramatic forecast of the world we can expect in the next hundred years. Needless to say, it isn’t a pretty sight.
While a big onus falls on the national government to implement policies around climate change, it doesn’t take away the importance of local action and of the work that happens in Boroughs like our own. Without local implementation, national policies fail. And particularly for climate change, where much of the work requires behavioural changes, we need to think local with our solutions.
The council’s role must be to lead by example and work on changing behaviour locally, to support national goals.
The UK government, of the same political party as this council might I add, has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and has started taking steps to set up appropriate financing mechanisms to support this. While it is still early days, these moves should motivate this council to follow suit and a take a position of leadership on its climate agenda.
So where is this council’s ambitious climate agenda?
Now before you give me an answer about the work that already is being done, I want to pre-emptively acknowledge that I have read The Air Quality and Climate Change Policy from 2016-2021, I am aware of the greening of the council’s fleet, and its single use plastics policy. All of this work is good, and I do applaud you for the efforts to date.
But here’s the problem: we don’t have the luxury of working with such incremental change and targets. Here are a couple of examples of the incremental change I am referring to from the existing strategy document for those that haven’t read it:
· Increase recycling by Council staff members by 1% [timeframe unspecified]
· Increase the municipal recycling rate by 2% [timeframe unspecified]
· Work with the Council’s main contractors to reduce the overall energy consumption related to the Council’s operations – the target in the document dated January 2019, the latest version on the website, just says X tones of CO2 reduced
We need bolder action from the council. The council may be tempted to say we will go back to the drawing board, take a year to develop a new strategy that will start in 2021 and start working towards goals for 2030, but that’s just a delay tactic.
Climate change, the environment, sustainability, whatever you want to call it, affects everything, from transportation to housing to youth employment to economic growth.
The reality is that every decision the council makes from now on should consider the impact on climate change/environment as one of the most important criteria.
The steps you take as a council for the next few years, the commitments you make, the targets you set, will ultimately determine our future and the future of generations to come.
I acknowledge that a lot of the work you need to do as a council is ultimately outside of your control – you need to influence the residents and change behaviour.
What better way to do that, than by leading by example in the areas that you can control – the council’s operations. Getting the council to net zero emissions by 2025 is the perfect starting point to prove that you are leaders.
And the first place to start is energy.
I’d like to ask the council to commit to switching its procurement of electricity to 100% renewable by 2020.
The costs of renewable energy have fallen dramatically, bringing renewables to cost parity with fossil fuels, and in some cases dropping below the cost of fossil fuels. Any suppliers that are offering discounts for “long-term, bulk purchasing customers” are artificially changing their prices. These prices should not be used for comparison of the costs between a mixed grid tariff and a green tariff.
Switching to 100% renewable energy procurement is an action you can take in the next five months, and is a step towards leadership. With a significant estate under your control, once you have switched to a green tariff, which to be clear is simply changing one contract, the next step is to investigate the cost of bringing your estate up to the standards that will be required to get the UK to net zero by 2050.
So council, are you ready to take steps towards climate leadership?
Will you commit to 100% renewable energy procurement by 2020 and will you commit to integrating climate change as a key consideration in all future decisions the council makes, regardless of the subject?