Leader's Column in Southwark News November 2021 - ‘Southwark 14th Worst for Air Pollution in England’

Cop26 is helping showcase the inaction of our world leaders on climate change, but it should not let Labour’s unambitious council policy off the hook.

The UN at the end of October released another damning report on climate change ahead of Cop26. The report forecast, based on nations’ pledges at the time, that carbon was on track to reduce by only 7.5% by 2030.

This is well below the 45% drop scientists say is necessary to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.

The only conclusion to make is that our global leaders have not been doing enough. The result will be an increased likelihood of natural disasters such as flooding in Southwark.

These catastrophic eventualities should not only be attributed to the inaction of countries’ premiers, however. We all have a part to play, including Southwark Labour.


The party needs to concede that it has more power to help lower emissions than it openly admits and that its failure to use these levers is damaging.

Government data shows that Southwark emissions place it in the top ten for estimated CO2 levels by area nationally and recent analysis, reported on by The Times, ranks the borough as the fourteenth worst for air pollution in England.

Southwark is consequently a large contributor to carbon emissions and air pollution. Yet, the council is unwilling to invest itself fully in reducing them.

The authority’s gross delay in publishing its climate strategy (it came two and a half years after we declared a Climate Emergency) highlights this.

When the council released the document environmental campaigners, including Extinction Rebellion Southwark, lambasted the strategy for having no clear timeline or specific targets.

There is nothing stopping the authority from being a leader and taking direct action over matters in its control.

Southwark could substantially raise its tree-planting target from 10,000 by 2022 to over 100,000 by 2025.


Or it could change policy to ensure that future developments in the borough are low carbon by default, such as those constructed to the Passivhaus standard.

Both of these ideas will feature in the Southwark Liberal Democrat 2022 manifesto, alongside many other environmental pledges.

Other councils have implemented similarly creative and successful policies.

Nottingham City Council collected £61m after it created a parking space levy. It will invest this money into active or public transport.

Southwark Labour, in contrast, was unable to collect more than approximately £2m of the £10m legally owed to it by developers for its carbon-offset fund.

The council, worryingly, has earmarked this woeful amount of money for its new Green Buildings Fund that will focus on the retrofitting of properties in the borough.

If Southwark buildings cause 79% of carbon emissions, as research states, the council will need to collect all the money it can to fund such environmental improvements.

After a decade in power, the party is clearly unable to realise its policies remain unambitious and ineffective.


It can change this by taking responsibility for its failures and by going further, faster now on climate change.