The following update was delivered at Full Assembly on 30 September 2020.
Climate change and wider environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and air quality are my passions, and in the short space of four months I have already started to work on some exciting projects across the borough, which I look forward to updating colleagues on throughout the coming year as things take shape.
Often when people think of climate change and the environment, they think of fossil fuels, trees, wildlife, pollinators etc. all crucial things to consider, but actually it goes wider and is more deep rooted into our everyday lives than that.
It’s the developments we build, it’s the products we buy, the way we travel and the things we eat.
Historically when people think of Barking and Dagenham they think of Ford and industry, but in the future, I want to see the Leader’s vision realised where our borough is seen as ‘the green capital of the capital’.
This isn’t without it’s challenges.
Something which is often missing from the climate change debate is how its impacts will disproportionately affect traditional working class communities such as those in Barking and Dagenham,
Yet our communities are often hard pushed to adapt, especially after a decade of Tory cuts to local government budgets, public spending, and support for those that need it most.
It’s hard to shop ethically when you’re trying to provide for your family on a shoestring, and it’s hard to justify and find the time to visit Britain’s national parks with so many other pressures.
That is why as a local authority we have to look at an ethos from the past to improve our future – before the 1840’s there were no public parks in Britain. The Victorians introduced the idea of bringing the countryside to the city – encouraging communities to enjoy and feel a sense of ownership over the outdoors.
In the coming months I will be working on a number of comms projects that seek to engage and empower our residents to explore and enjoy our parks and open spaces. I have also been in touch with some of our neighbours to look at best practice on how we establish active ‘friends groups’ which will seek to educate and instil in our residents a greater sense of ownership over their local parks and nature reserves.
In addition to this I am liaising with colleagues in BeFirst about increased cycle infrastructure. Making the most of new funding streams available due to the pandemic. Trying to pull something positive out of these difficult times.
I’ve been building relationships with our Ranger Service, horticultural teams and external partners to help increase canopy cover which will deliver a wide range of benefits to our residents.
Next month I’ll be on site with the cosy homes team, safety guidelines permitting, to see the invaluable work they are doing to retrofit and insulate homes across the borough – as around 30-40% of carbon emissions come from the built environment nationally.
Lots of this work has already been set in motion by Cllrs Ashraf and Geddes – for example the Gascoigne regeneration project is now seen as a benchmark for sustainable development, and the Wild and Free in LBBD project has already seen local families venturing into our parks in greater numbers.
With that – I’m really excited to see what achievements we can make together in the coming year.