Council response to Extinction Rebellion protests

Campaign group Extinction Rebellion is holding three days of protests from today to Sunday, with events taking place across Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The plans include a two-day festival on London Fields, a march down Mare Street, disruption at Old Street Roundabout and Dalston Junction, and two protests outside Hackney Town Hall. 

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A joint statement on the protests

Hackney Council has a strong and pioneering record on taking the difficult steps necessary to reduce its own carbon footprint - such as eliminating single use plastics from Council offices and events, drastically reducing our energy-related emissions and investing in green vehicles - and supporting the borough as a whole to be more environmentally sustainable. We’ve invested widely in green infrastructure, parks and biodiversity, significantly reduced motor vehicle use on our streets, and provided residents and businesses with a huge range of support and opportunities to participate in the fight against global warming. 

“In February we declared a climate emergency, and last month passed a Motion to do everything in our power to deliver net zero emissions by 2040, ten years earlier than the target set by the Government, and in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s higher confidence threshold for limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial revolution average. This Motion represents one of the most robust, realistic and science-based commitments delivered by any Council. 

“We already use 50% renewable electricity for the Council and many local schools’ needs, and will reach 100% in 2020; are establishing a publicly-owned cleaner energy company that will see council-owned roof space used to generate renewable solar energy to power residents’ homes; rapidly decarbonising the Council’s vehicles and addressing motor vehicle emissions; decarbonising the built environment through changes to the planning system; investing extensively in green infrastructure to derive a wide variety of environmental benefits, from cooler streets to enhanced biodiversity; creating a model for drastically limiting the use of petrochemical plastics; and investing heavily in our waste service to reduce resource consumption and increase recycling. We are also reviewing some of our 2018 Manifesto commitments to see how they can be enhanced and/or delivered earlier.

“Hackney has a long and proud history of public protest, a spirit we embrace and something we have all been part of at various times. The central message of Extinction Rebellion is one we, and many Hackney residents, support. Whatever our differences on some of the detail, and what is realistically achievable and by when, there is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency and all need to act to address it. 

“Extinction Rebellion’s previous activities in Hackney, some of which we have attended and spoken at, have so far been well organised, peaceful and constructive, and often creative and inspiring. We hope this weekend follows a similar vein and they deliver on their promise that there will be no drug or alcohol use, no mess left behind, and that each protest will be properly managed and stewarded to keep people safe.

“However, large scale events attended by hundreds or thousands of people, as could be the case with their advertised plans for London Fields, if not lawfully organised and properly managed can expose people to a whole range of serious risks and divert police and Council resources away from other pressing matters. The Council in no way wants to shape or censor creative protest but we have to be mindful that, despite best intentions, large scale events not properly managed can unfortunately result in people getting injured, being made seriously ill, or exploited by those without regard to public safety.  

“The Council and police officers have a duty to protect the public and this, above all else, will be our priority this weekend. It is our role, where we have the powers, to stop events before they get out of control and put people in danger, or lead to public land or people’s properties being damaged, and we can't allow anything which creates a genuine risk of this happening. 

“The Council and the police have had constructive talks with the organisers and made clear that, though we have no issues with them protesting, their advertised plan for a music stage, festival and overnight camping in London Fields does not have permission and is illegal. We welcome that the organisers say they have taken this on board and will scale down the event plan for London Fields to keep it focused on education and sharing ideas, which we broadly support. We hope and believe they will honour this and we continue to have a constructive dialogue. We will be monitoring the situation and will take action where possible should we believe people are being put in danger.”

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

Cllr Feryal Clark, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care, Leisure and Parks

Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm


The Council’s Motion

In June, the Council agreed a Motion to ‘do everything within its power' to deliver net zero emissions across its functions by 2040, ten years earlier than the target set by the Government, and in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s higher confidence threshold for limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial revolution average.

The motion builds on the Mayor’s climate emergency declaration in February and, for the first time, documented formally both the extensive work on decarbonisation that has been undertaken since the 2018 Local Elections and the stretching targets that the Council will now begin working towards.

As part of the motion, the Council resolved to: 

  • To tell the truth about the climate emergency we face, and pursue its declaration of a climate emergency with the utmost seriousness and urgency.

  • Pledge to do everything within the Council’s power to deliver against the stretching targets set by the IPCC’S October 2018 1.5C Report, across the local authority’s full range of functions, including a 45% reduction in emissions against 2010 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040, and seeking opportunities to make a greater contribution.

  • Call on the UK Government to provide powers and resources to make the 2030 and 2040 targets possible.

  • Actively campaign to change national policy where failure to tackle the challenge of heating our homes without fossil fuels, fossil fuel subsidies, insufficient carbon taxation, road-building, and airports expansion, for example, has actively undermined decarbonisation and promoted unsustainable growth.

  • Support the campaign to create a just transition for workers and users and be part of the creation nationally of a million public sector climate jobs with particular reference to extending sustainable accessible and integrated public transport, retrofitting housing stock, energy democracy, heating and cooling from renewable energy and eco build, food and waste.

  • Involve, support and enable residents, businesses and community groups to accelerate the shift to a zero carbon world, working closely with them to establish and implement successful policies, approaches and technologies that reduce emissions across our economy while also improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens.

  • Produce an annual update to Full Council on the progress made against the Council’s decarbonisation commitments, and conduct an annual Citizens Assembly comprised of a representative group of local residents to allow for effective public scrutiny the Council’s progress and to explore solutions to the challenges posed by global warming.

  • Work with other local governments (both within the UK and internationally) to determine and implement best practice methods to limit Global Warming to less.


Examples of the Council’s work

Corporate Energy

In April this year we delivered 50% renewable electricity for the Council and many local schools. We are well on our way to switching to 100% renewable sources by April 2020. From 2020, we will also begin exploring the prospect of obtaining our renewable electricity from a defined source, rather than just through the wholesale market, through a Power Purchase Agreement, providing confidence that our spending on energy is directly increasing supply.


A Hackney Energy Company and community-based power generation

We’re establishing a publicly-owned clean energy company that will offer 100% renewable electricity to customers and maximise Council-owned roof space to generate renewable electricity.

We recognise that decarbonising the energy system won’t come from merely generating more clean energy; we also need to significantly reduce our own consumption and that of the borough’s residents. That is why we’re implementing an energy efficiency management system, have developed an asset management plan to ensure we do not let council properties below EPC rating C from 2030, creating a Council and Energy Company Obligation-funded thermal efficiency programme for private properties, and are committed to replacing all street lights in the borough with L.E.D technology by 2022.


Decarbonising our fleet vehicles

We are rapidly decarbonising the Council fleet of vehicles and addressing land transport sector emissions. We currently have over 40 electric vehicles, with a large proportion of our fleet running on biofuels, which reduces harmful emissions.

We’ve also increased the number of electric vehicle charging points in the borough from 16 to 53 in the past two years. By 2025, all households in Hackney will be within 500m of a charging point, and officers are currently working on how electric vehicle charging infrastructure can be extended even further.


Air quality and greener streets

We’re a leader in tackling London’s poor air quality, with one of the most extensive monitoring programmes of any borough, one of the greenest vehicles fleets, an ever-expanding School Streets programme, emissions-based parking permits and wide-ranging support for residents and businesses to reduce their emissions. 

We successfully lobbied TfL to expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to Hackney in 2021. 

We’re investing extensively in green infrastructure to derive a wide variety of environmental benefits, from cooler streets to enhance biodiversity. 

We’re in the process of developing even more ambitious proposals for tree planting than the 1,000 extra trees we committed to deliver in the 2018 Manifesto, which can absorb and screen harmful pollutants, as well as locking-in carbon dioxide, and providing a wide range of biodiversity, cooling, and drainage benefits.

We’re passionate about reclaiming our neighbourhoods for people, not cars. We’ve won funding from the Mayor of London to reduce traffic on Stoke Newington Church Street, and create a Liveable Neighbourhood in Hackney Central, improving its three dangerous junctions and reducing traffic in the area.

We’re London’s capital of cycling, with a higher cycling rate than any other borough, reducing journeys made by car, and far and away the largest amount of cycle storage of any London borough. This has been achieved through progressive policies to promote cycling, and an extensive traffic filtering programme to make it easier to cycle on our streets. 


Waste and recycling

We’re creating a model for drastically limiting the use of petrochemical plastics, and investing heavily in our waste service to reduce resource consumption and increase recycling. This is evidenced by our elimination of single-use catering plastics from the Town Hall, creating a Sustainable Procurement Strategy, and banning single-use plastic bottles from our running events. We also actively support real nappies and hosted the launch of the Real Nappies Bill; removed single-use plastics from the Hackney Service Centre cafe (reducing the number of single-use plastic items exported into the borough by in excess of 100,000); and we are developing a pioneering Low Plastic Zone in our Dalston town centre.

We recently submitted our proposed Reduction and Recycling Plan to the Mayor of London, containing ambitious proposals for reducing resource consumption and increasing recycling rates.

We have launched our first zero waste hub ─ a free community pop-up for residents to reuse, repair and learn new skills to help grow the circular economy in Hackney.

We are currently working on the most ambitious water fountains programme - covering streets, parks and green spaces, and public buildings, such as libraries and leisure centres - of any local authority in the country, with the aim of significantly reducing the amount of plastic waste generated in the borough.

We have recently promoted National Refill Day where we gave out free reusable water bottles to residents and businesses.

We’re working to improve recycling rates on estates. Our Estate Recycling Programme focuses on seven estates, and is improving waste and recycling facilities. The next phase of the programme will focus on 69 blocks. We’re also working on bringing a deposit return trial to one of our estates, appointing Green Champions to work with estate residents, and improving and increasing recycling facilities.

We worked with Virgin Sport to make sure that this year’s Hackney Half Marathon was the largest UK running race to eliminate plastic, delivering a reduction of 225,000 single-use plastic bottles in just one day.

We are creating an object lending library to reduce costs of living for our residents and help contribute to the kind of sharing culture that will be required to significantly reduce emissions from consumption.


Building design and standards

We’re decarbonising the built environment through changes to the planning system. The Council’s new borough-wide Local Plan (LP33) includes a series of new policies to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. These will help enable us to become a low carbon and carbon resilient borough, and include a requirement for major commercial development to generate at least 10% of their energy needs from renewable sources on site or in the local area.


Our work is getting national recognition

The Mayor was invited to give evidence on behalf of the sector on 10 June for the Select Committee enquiry into Waste and Recycling and called on producers to pay the price for the materials they put out into the market.

Deputy Mayor Clark’s toolkit on School Streets ─ stopping dangerous and busy traffic from polluting outside school gates and drop-off and pick-up time ─ helping other local authorities follow our lead. We will introduce 12 new School Streets by 2022 and currently have 8.72% of Hackney pupils travelling to school by car (as of June 2019) ─ this is down from 18.5% in 2008.