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Climate change emergency? Not here!

On 8 October, City Corporation’s Court of Common Council adopted its Climate Action Strategy. This is good news, on the face of it, as the Strategy commits to City Corporation to achieving net zero carbon from both direct and indirect emissions in the Square Mile within the six years between April 2021 and March 2027. However, less than two months ago, the target date for achievement was March 2025. Additionally, the Strategy includes reducing all other direct emissions from outside the Square Mile to net zero by 2040.

No explanation has been offered for that 40% slippage but it could be that, after spending around £200,000 on consultants, officers were required to adjust the recommendation by the three members tasked with overseeing the preparation of the Strategy. We will probably never know because City Corporation has refused, under FOI, to disclose the final report from Arup which, apparently, underpins the Strategy.

No matter, the Strategy has an annual budget over the six-year target of almost £10 million in capital spend and £1.5 million for revenue, seemingly without adjustment for inflation. The August version of the Strategy quoted the budget in net terms but, coincidentally, after I suggested the budget should quoted gross to cover the risks of not achieving net, the gross budget has been used.

As a result, comparing net budget over five years and gross over seven is difficult to do with any accuracy. For the Barbican Estate, there are several areas where the Strategy will have a financial impact but, so far, there are no specific items which will have a cost impact on lessees. However, there are areas where the difference between gross and net could fall adversely on them and we should be looking to our Ward members to ascertain what these might be.

Although the Court adopted the Strategy, it rejected Natasha Lloyd-Owen’s motion to declare a Climate Emergency with immediate effect. An emergency in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the urgent need to keep global temperatures within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels. The motion included nine commitments to support the declaration. Natasha’s amendment to the motion intending to guarantee the budget was also rejected.

Those commitments included prioritising climate change as the City’s major existential risk; regarding the Strategy’s budget as a minimum; protecting that budget come what may; setting a clear road map to the 2027 and 2040 targets; regular assessment of funding sources to achieve targets as soon as possible; the immediate adoption of Lord Lisvane’s recommendation that a “green impact assessment” should accompany every policy or project proposal submitted to a committee; to implement a new Biodiversity Action Plan by April 2021; to carry out meaningful consultation a wide range of City residents, workers, students, alongside engagement with wider communities, particularly young people; and, if there’s evidence of a projected increase in global temperatures of more than 2 degrees, to increase investment in climate resilience before 2030 to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Of the resident members – I have a little list – seven, as well as the Chair of Barbican Residential Committee - were included in the 59 opposing the motion. Bizarrely, six of them had previously voted to extend the time for consideration of the motion. Perhaps it’s fortuitous for them that the Court decided to put next year’s Ward elections back to 2022.

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