'The conversation won't stop at COP26', say Hackney leaders attending conference
- Credit: PA
Hackney’s mayor and environment chief are representing the borough at The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this week.
Mayor Philip Glanville and Cllr Mete Coban are attending on the back of speaking at a Green Recovery Community Engagement event.
The event brought together Hackney community organisations and leaders to discuss what a green recovery means ahead of the international summit currently meeting in Glasgow.
At the community event, the mayor said: “[It means] tackling the essential challenge of climate change, air pollution and getting to net zero.
“It has to be and it is a global challenge [and] it is a Hackney challenge.”
He continued: “But it is how you do that and embed social justice at its heart and if we don’t do that and we don’t bring it down to the local level we will fail.”
The mayor said some issues like energy security are national challenges but he added that energy poverty “is a very personal one to many Hackney residents”.
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While he went on to detail top-down strategy’s which the government could pursue to tackle the energy crisis, such as increasing benefits or bailing out energy companies, he took issue with an announcement that it plans to offer £5,000 grants to help 90,000 households install low-carbon heating systems like heat pumps.
The government announced the plans, which are to be rolled out over the next three years, in a bid to cut Britain’s reliance on fossil fuel heating.
But mayor Glanville called the move a “subsidy for the heat pump industry” and said it was “not up to the task”.
Despite there being 25million gas boilers in the UK, he said, the subsidy will only pay for around 90,000 homes.
He warned that it would likely only apply to homeowners, may not be affordable for many and would require adequate insulation to be installed first to keep homes warm.
“A different method would be to invest long term in insulation and retrofit," mayor Glanville said.
The mayor says the task of retrofitting all Hackney homes would cost around £2billion but added that by building a supply chain of small local businesses that money could be injected back into the borough.
He stated: “Ultimately when you come back down to the people in Hackney, [what's important is] can I afford to heat my home and will it be a safe and healthy environment to bring up my family?
"And I think that is the prism we need to look at in this discussion.
“When I go to COP26 and I talk about the role of local government it isn’t to then hoard power at a council level, it is then to distribute it and do the work.”
The mayor talked of a just transition for businesses and personal travel with “paths and choices every step of the way”.
He said those paths have the potential to further “embed the inequalities that we already see” or be “transformative”.
The mayor added: “I think if we look at each issue through that prism and make the case to government and businesses that it is about the local first, the community first, we can transform society and get to net zero, which is the ultimate aim of everything that we are trying to do."
At the community discussion Cllr Mete Coban, portfolio holder for energy, waste, transport and public realm talked of the important role of Hackney people in bringing about change.
“We need to do this working hand in hand,” he said.
He added: “Having grown up in Hackney on a council estate I full well recognise that lots of people may work in jobs that may not necessarily be the most eco-friendly. The last thing we want to do is impact some of our working class communities.
"Obviously we see social justice as a key part of everything that we are trying to achieve."
He also spoke of the "danger of COP26".
"It's great and it's that big moment when we all unite and get our ideas and really use that momentum to develop some of those ideas," he said.
"But I'm also quite conscious that a lot of people may be like: 'What happens after COP26?'
"One of the things Hackney has been extremely clear about is that the conversation for us doesn’t stop at COP."
Hackney Council plans to carry on the conversation at a citizens assembly early next year to develop its climate action plan with the wider community.