It’s time to vote for someone who ‘gets’ the climate emergency

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Worried about flooding locally, and climate change globally?
PETER UNDERWOOD, pictured right, a Green Party candidate, says that these issues should be a central in the London Assembly elections

Families and businesses are yet again being left to deal with the aftermath of another set of destructive storms and record-breaking floods. Meanwhile, our so-called political leaders are nowhere to be seen. If we want real action, then we need to elect people who understand the problem.

In the face of this national emergency, our Prime Minister has gone into hiding and just occasionally sent out one of his ministers to talk about how much money they have spent on flood defences.

It has been the wettest February in Britain for 30 years

What these ministers don’t point out is that only 1 per cent of government spending on infrastructure has gone on flood defences, while they spend far more on building roads and they have nothing to say on the causes of the storms and flooding.

Scientists are clear that as the planet warms, Britain will face stronger storms and heavier rainfall. If we want to stop the disasters we are seeing from getting worse and happening more often, then we need to be acting now to reduce our contribution to climate change.

But unfortunately, we currently have a set of politicians in power who don’t really understand the issue.

The former Conservative government minister who was recently sacked as the president of the upcoming climate conference in Britain admitted that Boris Johnson “doesn’t really get climate change”. He’s not the only one.

The Government’s record on climate change is appalling – announcing policy after policy that is moving us in the wrong direction. This is obvious when you see that their response to declaring that we are in a climate emergency is to set a target for action in 30 years’ time. It seems that they don’t understand what the word emergency means, either.

At a local level, the situation is no better. On the night that Croydon Council declared a climate emergency, they admitted that they are still investing council money in fossil fuel companies and Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour council, is still supporting airport expansion at Gatwick Airport.

Sutton, and Croydon, have 25-year contracts with Viridor to burn rubbish at the Beddington Lane incinerator

Last autumn the Croydon Extinction Rebellion group sent a letter to the council with a long list of policies where they were doing nothing or going in the wrong direction.

In neighbouring borough Sutton, the situation is equally bad with the Liberal Democrat council trying to delay any action on the climate emergency for 25 years. That’s probably because of the 25-year contract that they have signed to burn thousands of tons of waste that will make it virtually impossible for them to achieve the required reductions in emissions of climate-damaging pollution.

At London level, we have a Mayor who brags about spending a few million pounds on “environment” measures while spending far more than that building the Silvertown Tunnel which will increase car use and air pollution.

He is meanwhile overseeing cuts to public transport that make it more difficult for people to get around without using a car. And, just like our council leader, Sadiq Khan is still pushing Gatwick airport expansion.

Even when he announced the introduction of an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to replace the old congestion charge and cut pollution, he delayed its expansion until 2021. Even then ULEZ only goes as far as the North and South Circular roads – so he clearly feels that outer London boroughs like us in Croydon and Sutton don’t deserve clean air.

So faced with a set of politicians who don’t “get” climate change, what can we do?

The first action we should all be taking anyway is to look to reduce our own carbon footprint – using our car less, cutting down on meat and dairy in our diet, insulating our homes to reduce energy bills… But there are limits on what we can do as individuals. We can also lobby the existing politicians, join demonstrations and sign petitions to keep up the pressure on them to act.

But the obvious change we can make is to elect politicians who do understand climate change and do understand the actions we need to take to reduce it. The number of people voting Green increased at the General Election in December, and last year the country elected more Green Party councillors and Members of the European Parliament than ever before. But at the local level, we don’t yet have any Green councillors on Croydon or Sutton councils and we only have two Green Party members of the London Assembly.

Green ticket: Underwood with Assembly Members Sian Berry (centre) and Caroline Russell

At council level, the next elections are not until 2022. But there are elections for the Mayor of London and members of the London Assembly this May. Sian Berry has recently launched her campaign to become the first Green Mayor of London, and with such a split field of candidates, there is a real chance she could do it.

More than half a million people put Sian as their second choice for Mayor at the last elections when she came third. If those people put Sian as their first choice this time, then she could even win the election.

I am standing to be your assembly member for Croydon & Sutton and I am also on the list of candidates that could be elected based on the London-wide vote. I would be so proud to represent the boroughs where I have lived most of my life and I would love to be part of the Mayor and Assembly team that turns London into a shining example of what can be done to create a truly sustainable and happy city.

If you really “get” climate change and you are fed up of politicians who don’t, then this spring make sure you vote for politicians who do.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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