What’s the single most important action for the environment you can take this year?
If you are one of those who have spent years campaiging for governments to take action on climate change will know how influential the EU has been in ensuring the UK has adequate environmental protections. For those of you who are newer to the space, here’s how some of the UK’s most established climate change campaigners are talking:
Make the time to vote on Thursday – it’s a simple action with huge consequences for the world’s climate and the UK’s environment.
The last few months have been hard for community energy projects with national support being slashed. However, here in Camden we have an opportunity to apply for support from a new source of funding, the Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL.
The CIL is a new tax collected by Camden Council and paid by developers after their planning permissions are implemented. It is charged on all developments which add one or more new dwellings or more than 100sqm of floor space. The funds raised can be spent on infrastructure projects such as schools, transport, green spaces or community buildings. Although the majority of the funds will be spent centrally, 25% of the CIL will be available for local projects allocated on a ward by ward basis. The amount expected to be available each year will vary considerably by ward from just £6,375 in Frognal and Fitzjohns to £379,463 in St Pancras and Somers Town.
Ward councillors have been given the responsibility for determining a priority list of projects by 8 January 2015 and we’d like to see community energy projects high on those lists.
As an example, the recent installation of solar panels at Camden School for Girls, estimated to save 14 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, shows that such projects are desirable, feasible and deliverable. The capital cost of £27,000 (including VAT) was difficult to raise from donors and is unlikely to be replicable but would not be a large sum in the context of the expected CIL funds for the ward.
Here at CamdenCAN, we are focusing on Cantelowes ward being a reasonably significant beneficiary of the CIL (circa £243,188 expected) and also one in which we have strong links. We have identified a number of potential sites to put forward but are interested in hearing about others. More importantly though we want to be able to demonstrate that we have the support of Cantelowes ward, so if you live in the area please please do get in touch. You can check which ward you live in here. If you’d like to take this idea forward in your own ward we’d be happy to help too.
With the election now a distant memory (perhaps), it’s time to turn our attention to other opportunities to influence those who can act at the scale needed to tackle climate change. The divestment campaign is developing such ability to influence with Axa announcing just last week that they were moving $500 million out of coal investments. Last night’s #keepitintheground campaign hosted by the Guardian was a timely reminder that the debate has moved on from being purely a moral issue to being a pragmatic one, from a debate about the science to a debate about the economic and political solutions.
The business case for divestment is robust: regulation (and hence cost) is increasing, alternatives such as solar are becoming increasingly cost competitive and the social licence for fossil fuel companies to operate is dropping away. The shift over the last two or three years is pronounced which is why public divestment now makes sense. Fossil fuel companies are betting that the world will not commit to holding global temperatures to a 2% rise, if we do then many of their assets (oil reserves) will be unusable – worthless – and the companies themselves will be worth significantly less. If we don’t commit, those assets might not lose value but our homes and cities will.
Investment managers recognise these risks, but can only divest of fossil fuels if you ask them to. So ask them. Ask your pension or ISA provider to divest, ask your workplace to do the same, join the campaign to persuade Camden council to divest. Use your money to do good rather than simply less bad. I divested a long time ago – it was easy to move my pension and ISA to an ethical one which avoided investment in fossil fuels and if you want to take one simple action to reduce climate change right now, this one is it.
The 150 strong audience starting to gather
Beyond the important cross party agreement on climate change earlier in the year, there has been a remarkable silence on what the declaration states is “one of the most serious threats facing the world today”. Not only is this a lost opportunity to build public support for the critical changes needed, but it also hides from the view the very real differences between parties and indeed between local candidates and national party policy.
That’s why we invited Natalie Bennett, Greens, Will Blair, Conservatives, Jill Fraser, Liberal Democrats and Keir Starmer, Labour, all prospective MPs for Holborn & St Pancras, to take part in a debate on all aspects of climate change whether that be energy policy, tax, transport and international policy.
Being Holborn & St Pancras all candidates were in agreement about scrapping HS2 and the importance of tackling air pollution. But on broader issues such as fracking, nuclear power and tax there are significant differences. You can read a short summary of the candidates’ policies with a minute by minute analysis on greener good’s blog or by searching #climatehustings on twitter.
Sadly there is only a limited amount of time at a single hustings and we didn’t get chance to address all the questions people had. This is where you can help. Seek out opportunities to quiz both Holborn & St Pancras candidates and those in other constituencies on aspects of the debate that are important to you. Share the answers (you can email me, add them to the website or tweet) and put climate change back in the 2015 general election debate.
Many thanks to Camden School for Girls for hosting (and especially Martins Camisuli architects for sponsoring) and to Stephen Tindale for chairing.
I am always re-energised by other’s resolutions – the huge increase in the number of people cycling to work in the first week in January has inspired me to keep cycling despite the vagaries of weather and meeting no less than eight new members at Camden Friends of the Earth January meeting is leading to an exciting new campaign (of which more next newsletter).
And so it is that I am thinking also about CamdenCAN’s future and what impact we can have in reducing Camden’s carbon footprint. This newsletter, our website and twitter account are part of connecting people and organisations in Camden and inspiring them to do more.
CamdenCAN can be more than just an online presence though. Last year we developed a manifesto for sustainability to which both the Labour & Green parties here in Camden signed up to demonstrating the impact of bringing together local organisations when asking for change. With both existing MPs for Holborn & St Pancras and Hampstead & Kilburn constituencies standing down we have a fantastic opportunity to ask our local MPs to focus on climate change. I am looking at the possibility of holding a local hustings focussing on climate change and other sustainability issues and I’d be interested to hear from you if you’d like to get involved either as an individual or as a group.
Finally, as many of you will know, Prashant has recently moved to Hong Kong. It’s been great fun working with him on CamdenCAN and I wanted to thank him for all his support over the last year. His departure leaves a gap and I’d really love to hear from you if you are interested in helping me run CamdenCAN on a longer term basis.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated in secret between the European Union & the USA. If it goes through as it currently stands it will be the greatest transfer of power to transnational capital that we have seen in a generation and stands to force the reversal of many of our environmental & energy related laws.
If agreed in its current form, TTIP would give corporations the power to sue governments over decisions that could harm their future profits, undermining demoncratic decision-making made in the public interest.
Saturday saw the over 1,000 people from a remarkable number of campaigning organisations (Camden Friends of the Earth, Transition Kentish Town and Camden Green Party amongst them) join in a march from the Department of Business to Europe House to demonstrate their concern about the treaty.
If you want to add your voice to the movement head to www.nottip.org.uk for more information, put the international day of action (11 October) in your diary and consider joining the planning day on 2 August.