|XR Wandsworth Declare 'Open Rebellion' Against the Council|
Sustained campaign of non-violent direct action to follow
Campaign group, Extinction Rebellion (XR) has declared itself to be in ‘open rebellion’ against Wandsworth Council for what it describes as a failure to act on climate change. The council has robustly defended its position saying that the actions it has taken on the issue have been widely praised.
On Wednesday 7 April, four demands for addressing the climate emergency were posted on the doors of Wandsworth Town Hall.
One of XR’s Wandsworth members said, ‘With this small act of defiance, we declare that we are in open rebellion against Wandsworth Council.’
The group says a sustained campaign of non-violent direct action will follow.
Three speakers explained the four sets of demands, which are around air pollution, trees and green spaces, food waste collections and divestment from fossil fuels. The trees and green spaces demand, set out by 17-year-old Flo Jarvis, follows the recent chopping down of the black poplar in York Gardens despite a three-week tree occupation and ongoing protests by local residents.
A giant envelope containing a letter setting out the demands and addressed to Council leader Ravi Govindia was presented to a Council worker, who promised to deliver it to the Chief Executive. Earlier in the day all Councillors received an individual email setting out the demands in full.
Ir stated ‘We could not have been more pleased when Wandsworth Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019. But we have been dismayed by the lack of progress towards meeting the targets set out in the action plan.’
This marks the launch of XR Wandsworth’s ‘Wake Up Wandsworth!’ campaign, which will run for at least a year in the run-up to the local council elections. On the evening of 6 April, posters setting out the four demands appeared across the borough, with billboards in East Putney and Clapham Junction proclaiming: ‘Wake Up Wandsworth Council: Time to act on the climate emergency.’
A video setting out XR Wandsworth’s demands has been released to mark the launch of the Wake Up Wandsworth campaign.
A spokesperson for the group said, “Ahead of the next election of Wandsworth Councillors in May 2022, XR Wandsworth will assess whether the Council has met our demands. We look forward to sharing the Council’s successes – and will not hesitate to share their failures – with the electorate, using local press, social media and any other means necessary to ensure we reach every household in the borough. “
XR Wandsworth’s four demands to the Council are:
1 Reduce air pollution to within legal levels by May 2022 and call a Citizens’ Assembly to consider how to do this. Four out of ten of London’s worst air pollution hotspots are in Wandsworth.
2 Stop the destruction of mature trees and green spaces now and plant more trees and create new green spaces. It says the council must review all planning applications in light of the climate emergency.
3 Introduce food waste collection pilots now and roll out the scheme across the borough by May 2022.
4 Divest its pension fund from fossil fuels by September 2021 and increase investments in green infrastructure. Fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global heating, but Wandsworth Council’s pension fund has £103 million invested in them according to XR.
A council spokesman said, “The council is implementing a whole range of measures to help us achieve our ambitious target of becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030. This includes action to green our vehicle fleet and our pension fund, plant thousands of new trees, explore food waste recycling, support the switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles and introduce energy efficiency measures in our housing blocks.
“Our efforts have been applauded by Kevin Frea, managing director of Climate Emergency UK which has developed a database of what councils are doing to tackle climate change. Quoted in the Local Government Chronicle he said that unlike many councils which had done little or nothing to take concrete steps to achieve carbon reductions, 'Wandsworth for example are doing a lot.'"
The council published a climate change strategy in July 2019 and an annual action plan in January 2020, which has seen initiatives such as a climate change summit attended by 655 people, a successful bid for Green Homes Grant funding, financial support for e-cargo bikes, more bike hangers, a programme to replace the council's commercial vehicle fleet with lower emission vehicles and a move to purchasing zero-carbon renewable electricity.
In addition the council claims to have the third highest number of School Streets’ in inner London and the highest number of publicly available EV charging points of any local authority in the country.
With regard to the demand to reduce fossil fuel investment in the borough's pension fund the council says it is poised to go greener by reducing investments in carbon intensive industries and switching funding to renewable energy companies.
Cllr Govindia added, “These are examples of the real and concrete actions we have delivered, but as I am sure there are a few people tonight who still won’t take my word for it, let me refer to another independent report conducted on local authorities and their response to Climate Change. This time by UCL who evaluated councils on their administrative capacity to lower carbon emissions. A report which placed Wandsworth 3rd out of all Councils evaluated, ahead of Oxford, Nottingham, Sutton, Islington, Brent and Lambeth. So that is two independent bodies who judge us to be delivering real action against our climate change commitments; who judge us as out-performing other local authorities; and cite us as a good practice in terms of a council which has maintained momentum on addressing climate change without pausing it due to Covid.“
More details about the council's efforts to tackle climate change can be found here.