The Paris Agreement of December 2015, which saw 190 nations agree on a series of legally binding actions to bring the world nearer to carbon neutrality, is not reaching its targets.
In 2019, this failure triggered the UN to declare a Climate Emergency and this has been echoed by thousands of nations, provinces, states, towns and cities across the world.
Naturally, when Merton Council followed suit and declared a Climate Emergency on 10th July 2019, a decision influenced by a petition signed by over 750 residents, all at Sustainable Merton were both pleased and relieved. Essentially, this sets the target of carbon neutrality for the Merton Council by 2030 and for the whole borough by 2050.
Merton Council's Climate Change Officers Katie Halter and Dominique Hill then set up Merton's Climate Emergency Working Group; a very active group of councillors, council officers and Merton residents, including a number of Sustainable Merton's Community Champions, to take on the task of developing a Climate Action Plan for the borough to bring about the change that is needed to meet these targets.
On 13th July 2020, one year on from Merton Council's Climate Emergency declaration, the Climate Action Plan was presented to Merton’s cabinet and we are delighted to announce that this was approved. This is fantastic news for climate action in Merton and the future of our planet!
Watch the recording of the cabinet meeting online (First item)
"We welcome a united approach to taking actions to meet the targets set."
CEO, Sustainable Merton
"For over 50 years we have known our actions were slowly harming the planet but carried on anyway. Finally, we and the rest of the world are waking up to our responsibilities to our children and grandchildren.
Merton, along with hundreds of other authorities, is doing just that in declaring a Climate Emergency and agreeing a plan to make it happen and Sustainable Merton is proud to be part of it."
Community Ambassador, Sustainable Merton
Dr Pippa Maslin, Merton Green Party, represented the Climate Emergency Working Group at the meeting and we are pleased to share her speech with you:
'Good evening, everybody. I speak tonight on behalf of the Climate Emergency Working Group - fourteen Merton residents who have, for the past ten months, worked with the Climate Change Officers, and the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and the Environment, to create the Climate Strategy and Action Plan before you. We would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to Councillor Tobin Byers, and Climate Change Officers Katie Halter and Dominique Hill, for all of their hard work. And we thank you for your time and consideration, and ask that you approve the plan and ease its way to Full Council. We understand that co-producing with a group such as ours is a new way of working, and would encourage this direction of travel. Amongst those living and working in the borough are many who understand that we are living on borrowed time when it comes to preventing further climate breakdown, and whose passion, knowledge, and innovations will be crucial to the implementation of the plan over the next thirty years.
Indeed, we ask that the Council engages as widely and as deeply as it can with the business sector, the education sector, the health sector, the voluntary sector, housing associations and developers, transport bodies, community groups, places of worship, and so on and so forth, to give this borough the best opportunity of transitioning successfully to carbon neutrality. Furthermore, we ask that Cabinet sets the tone in this regard, and enables Councillors of all stripes to do likewise. That the majority of carbon emissions lie outside the direct control of the Council means that such collaboration is necessary, and there is so much enthusiasm and expertise to be harnessed. Last Spring, over 2000 people petitioned the Council to declare a Climate Emergency, and the Council listened. Please continue in this vein.
We also ask that you play your part in ensuring that political rivalry and tribalism does not impede progress. Rational debate should not be stifled, but please remember that last year’s motion was passed not only with a cross-party consensus, but unanimously, and that this was well-received by the public, who look to the Council for grown-up politics for the common good. Just as the current public health emergency has not only exposed our vulnerabilities, but also revealed our capacity to work together to make large scale changes quickly, so addressing the climate emergency requires a similar mindset. Please try to not be deterred by any resistance or opposition. Rather, please help to educate.
To conclude, the unparalleled undertaking represented in the Climate Strategy and Action Plan may, in one sense, be a long game. I will be all of 74 in 2050. However, we cannot afford to waste any time in making the changes that are necessary to ensure the health of the planet and the wellbeing of future generations. The group asks that you become ambassadors for the changes ahead. Please use the plan as not only a map, but also to lobby and take advantage of relevant funding opportunities. We believe that it can be deployed as effective leverage and we feel certain that the public will thank you for your leadership.'
Dr Pippa Maslin
speaking on behalf of Merton Council's Climate Emergency Working