Fighting the climate crisis in Croydon

The Croydon Climate Crisis Commission will work to make the borough carbon neutral while lifting living standards.

From the bushfires in Australia to floods at home, the message is clear: the climate crisis is here and it is devastating. And as a growing movement of activists, from the youth strikers to Extinction Rebellion, mobilise to push it up the political agenda, our political system has begun to respond. Parliament has declared a climate emergency along with the Mayor of London and 274 councils up and down the country. But tackling this emergency will require an almighty push to green our economy – one that will touch every aspect of our day-to-day lives.

The big question facing communities across the country is how we transition to a zero-carbon economy in a way that is just and fair. Achieving this will not only mean rapidly eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, but doing this in a way that creates jobs, protects our communities and lifts living standards. And this is the central question that will sit at the heart of the work of the new Croydon Climate Crisis Commission.

Croydon Council is one of the local authorities that has declared a climate emergency. It has set up the independent Croydon Climate Crisis Commission, and appointed me as its first chair, to find ways to make Croydon carbon neutral by 2030. It will draw on the findings of the new Croydon citizens’ assembly on climate to set out ways to lower the borough’s carbon footprint.

In answering the question of how Croydon can cut its emissions, we must get three things right. First we must be ambitious – a firm commitment to make Croydon carbon neutral by 2030 with a clear plan for how to achieve this. This will require investing in green infrastructure and technology, using planning powers and setting industry norms to decarbonise our homes and offices, and reimagining our public transport system.

Second, it must have the community at its heart – informing, shaping and driving the direction of travel. Instead of a closed commission of the great and the good putting together a plan that will be done to the community, we want to put the community front and centre so that the Commission’s plan is their plan.

Third, we must ensure that the green economy that Croydon will build will work in the interest of the community. This means a commitment to create good jobs to replace the ones that will be lost as we transition, and the training to equip people with the skills they need to make the most of this. And an unrelenting focus on improving living standards should sit at the heart of a green economic strategy for the borough. The Council should work together with other community anchor institutions – universities, further education colleges, the NHS, schools – to push change and green the local economy. And it should act in a deliberate way to give people a greater stake and ownership of the local economy – using the investment and procurement power of local institutions to create alternative ownership models and local jobs.

All of this is within the power of Council to do now. But alongside this, Croydon must continue to push City Hall to do its part as well as wrestle more power and levers from Whitehall to deliver the scale of change needed. Putting power in the hands of people who live in, work and understand the communities they are trying to help will be key to achieving a just transition from place to place. The Commission will therefore seek to set out a plan for what can be done now and what is possible with existing powers, then work with the community to apply pressure to win the additional powers it needs.

We have a decade to take urgent action in response to the climate crisis. If we get this right, Croydon will be leading the way in creating just sustainable communities. And where it goes, others will follow.

Image: Matt Brown (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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