Green campaigners welcome Hackney’s net zero pledge but urge more action

The council’s website has been out of action since Thursday Pic: Hackney Council

Green campaigners in Hackney have welcomed the council’s pledge to reach net zero emissions for its buildings and services by the year 2040, but said they could go further.

Agathe de Canson of charity and independent thinktank the Green Alliance said the council’s plans – which will see the planting of 36,000 trees by 2022, introduction of more electric vehicle charging points by 2030, and increasing community engagement – had limits, particularly around limiting of gas and electricity use.

De Canson, policy advisor at the organisation, said: “Hackney Council is showing great leadership on tackling the climate crisis locally. It’s brilliant to see initiatives that support walking and cycling, as well as new green spaces for residents to enjoy. These steps will help cut emissions while improving air quality and health. 

“But there are limits to the council’s plan, particularly when it comes to cutting emissions from gas and electricity in people’s homes and in buildings owned by businesses. Hackney Council should redouble its efforts so residents can benefit from lower bills and warmer homes. And the government must provide the right level of support too.”

The council acknowledges that they have direct control over about 5 per cent of the borough’s emissions.

Mete Coban, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, said: “The council only has direct control of 5 per cent of the borough’s emissions, and influence over a further third, with the majority made up by things like emissions from private gas and electricity consumption, road transport, the food people eat and the flights people take. If we’re to rebuild a greener Hackney, it’s vital that we work together.”

Hazel Norman, Chief Executive of the British Ecology Society based in Hackney, said the society was pleased with the nature-based solutions.

“As an international ecological society based in Hackney, we’re pleased to see Hackney Council implementing several nature-based solutions in the area,” she said.

“Current and proposed tree planting along our streets and in our parks will capture carbon, cool urban areas, and help to reduce the impacts of harmful emissions and converting areas of roads and pavements to rain gardens will reduce flood risk and benefit wildlife.

“Our report on nature-based solutions, published earlier this year, found that introducing nature into our cities has huge potential to fight climate change, improve our wellbeing, increase biodiversity, and bring economic benefit.”

Hackney Council announced their strategy on Twitter on November 1.

They wrote: “We’re committed to reaching net zero by 2040 – meaning we won’t be a net contributor to climate change – and a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030.” 

Their announcement followed the start of the COP26 Summit meeting in Glasgow on October 31, where world leaders such as US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson were set to appear over a string of meetings, to discuss the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Report.

The IPCC Climate Report made headlines back in August for its message to world leaders. It said: “Unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”

The council’s recently updated roadmap to net zero shows how they intend to contribute to reaching this ambition for the buildings and services they run.

Domestic/business gas and electricity are among the biggest contributors to emissions in the borough, according to the council.

And campaigners point out that there is still plenty to do in the borough, however, with the roadmap discussing putting up thousands of electric vehicle charging points around Hackney by 2030 – with no exact number regarding how many in total.

Norman added: “We also know that nature-based solutions need to be inclusive of local communities to deliver these benefits. We’re therefore pleased to see that Hackney Council has committed to working with residents of the borough through activities like their green recovery engagement events. 

“While nature-based solutions, like tree planting, are an important tool in our fight against climate change, they need to be used in conjunction with other climate and conservation actions, such as reducing emissions. Hackney Council’s efforts to insulate local households, install solar panels on leisure facilities and encourage green transport options, like walking and cycling, are therefore welcomed by us.”

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