How Tower Hamlets intends to reach its net zero target

'We are on track to deliver 50 ‘School Streets’ which close roads outside schools during pick up and drop off times in order to improve air quality and promote active travel.'

Climate change

Cllr Asma Islam is the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning at Tower Hamlets council

Tower Hamlets became one of the first councils in London to declare a climate emergency in March 2019, committing to being a net zero carbon council by 2025 and a net zero borough by 2045. Despite criticism at the time that the declaration represented little more than virtue signalling, Tower Hamlets is making significant progress towards these two net zero goals.

As the council’s cabinet member for environment, in March this year I hosted the borough’s first Climate Emergency Summit which brought together key organisations from across the borough to discuss how we can use the collective power of public, private and voluntary sectors to accelerate progress towards net zero.

The council itself is only responsible for three per cent of Tower Hamlets’ carbon footprint so it’s vital that we work with our partners to reduce emissions. Following the Climate Emergency Summit, we set up a working group tasked with developing a joint action plan to outline the first steps on our journey towards a net zero Tower Hamlets.

With COP26 having come to an end, I’m delighted that Tower Hamlets is in a position to launch this action plan and I hope it will act as an example of joint working on this extremely important issue to other local authorities across the country.

The action plan commits us and our partners to various actions including increasing biodiversity through community greening and growing projects, creating a network of Community Carbon Champions to promote climate emergency initiatives throughout our diverse communities, and engaging education providers and local businesses in the green jobs and skills agenda.

While the council is helping to bring organisations together to jointly tackle the climate emergency, we are also taking significant steps to reduce our own carbon footprint. Since 2019 we have used one hundred per cent renewable energy, we’re on track to plant 1,000 street trees during the current administration, we have given the go-ahead for 400 new EV charging points and upgraded ninety-eight per cent of our street lighting to more efficient LEDs.

We are also on track to deliver 50 ‘School Streets’ which close roads outside schools during pick up and drop off times in order to improve air quality and promote active travel.

This week Tower Hamlets was named the most eco-friendly local authority in England and I was pleased to see recognition for the great work which is happening across the borough. We scored particularly highly on average resident carbon footprint, energy efficiency of our homes, and spending on the environment.

Challenges remain, however, particularly with our recycling rate which is below the national average. This is something we’re looking to improve through behaviour changes to reduce contamination and to inform hard-to-reach groups about how to recycle.

As world leaders continue beyond Cop26 to make crucial decisions about the future of our planet, I hope that they share the same level of ambition as Tower Hamlets.

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