Updated: Mar 23, 2021
At the Council meeting held on January 16th, Hillingdon Councillors unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency. Whilst rejected, Labour's 'Mathers' ammendment offers a vision of what Hillingdon could become. The Council’s Climate Emergency motion, put forward by the Cabinet member Cllr Jonathan Bianco, has come about in the wake of Councils and Governments across the world making commitments to tackle the Global Climate emergency. It lays out two key targets:
‘To become carbon neutral across the Council services by 2030’
‘To achieve 100% clean energy across the Council’s services by 2030’
Whilst certainly a step forward, the motion does not go as far as many other similar London Councils (such as Westminster and Lambeth) in committing to robust measures to tackle the climate crisis. Whilst the motion recognises the importance of tackling the Climate Crisis, it is comparatively limited in its scope and works to minimise public scrutiny of the Council’s work. In this context, Cllr Stuart Mathers, Labour representative for West Drayton, put forward an amendment which would have addressed these issues. This amendment sought to ensure:
The Council applied its targets to its wider commercial supply chain
The Council reviewed their investment strategy to give consideration to Climate Change
The Council included young people in its consultation process
The Council was held accountable to its Climate change actions on an annual basis
The Council worked to worked with relevant outside agencies to ensure a Carbon Neutral Hillingdon by 2030.
The recommendations put forward by Cllr Mathers were not unreasonable: the suggestions had already been taken on by equivalent Councils across London hence can be shown to be reasonable and achievable. More than that, given the scale of the Climate Crisis, and the importance of taking action, it was necessary. The Council’s good intentions are one thing, but without specific commitments affecting key areas (e.g. the commercial supply chain and investments) and effective measures to hold them to account, good intentions can often disappear. Disappointingly, the Conservative group unanimously rejected the amendment. While their Cabinet Member for Housing and the Environment, Cllr Phillip Cawthorne, argued that this was for ‘purely practical reasons’, one might resonably be sceptical of this assertion given other councils have already supported many of the proposals it laid out. In the context of few firm commitments, now more than ever we need to work together to push our Council to go beyond the minimalist environmental standards laid out in its Climate Emergency motion: to fully divest from fossil fuels and apply its sustainability targets to its commercial supply chains. The Mathers amendment had a bold vision for what our borough could look like. Let’s go out and fight for it!