‘Doing our bit to protect future generations’.

Doing our bit to protect future generations – doing nothing is not an option! Today Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell writes:

Two weeks ago we had a freak tornado in Barking. I was relieved to hear no one was injured or forced to move out of their home. But the online videos of damaged roofs, fallen walls, smashed car windows and wheelie bins being blown down the road were scary. 

I was there within minutes of the event, along with staff from the council, making sure people get the help they need. On the other side of the borough, we had flash flooding because the Becontree was built a century ago without storm drains. These are just two examples of how our community is being affected by extreme weather caused by climate change and pollution.

It should be clear to all of us that we’re in the middle of a climate emergency. Unless we act now it will be too late to do anything about it. It won’t be easy and will involve difficult decisions. But we risk everything if we do nothing. If we don’t act, extreme weather will become the norm, and people’s homes and businesses will be at risk, and lives could be lost.

We need to acknowledge that whilst this is not going to be popular with everyone and will involve making some lifestyle changes – we’ve got to act now. Doing nothing is not an option.

If your kids or grandkids have asthma, you’ll know their frustration from having to stay inside or use an asthma pump on days when air pollution from busy roads is bad. There have been instances of kids dying because they live too close to roads filled with toxic air from dirty, polluting vehicles. Addressing this is not a war on motorists, it is a recognition of the need for a better living environment.

Older people are also at risk because of the extreme weather caused by climate change. Every time we get a heatwave, they cannot cope with the temperatures and there is a risk of death. The same goes for the winter when extreme lows hit. 

The council is taking the first steps to promote a green agenda to help protect people across the borough. We’ve recently expanded our recycling programmes, putting up devices to measure emissions and we’ve appointed a Member Champion for Climate Change. We’re also installing more electric vehicle charging points, planting more trees and yes, we are charging a little more for parking permits for the most polluting vehicles – and the fact of the matter is, it works out at less than a pound a week for most people. 

But the truth is the things we do locally are shaped by what is happening nationally and internationally. We need to bring pressure upon governments and industry around the world to get them to clean up their act, too. 

There is a consensus across all levels of government and across party lines that we must do something about emissions and pollution. Boris Johnson himself has said we need to get CO2 emissions under control, and even put it in his manifesto. As Mayor of London, he brought in the ULEZ, the new Routemaster buses and Boris Bikes. Now he’s running the country, some would say he’s hiding behind local councils and letting them take all the tough decisions. 

We all know there’s a future with jobs in the green economy. But the council cannot do it alone. The government needs to help fund the change by bringing in a green car scrappage scheme and invest more in public transport. They also need to retrofit homes and make them more energy efficient as we’re already doing in Barking and Dagenham. We’ll be lobbying for this and calling on them to do more in the coming months ahead of the UN Climate Conference in November. 

We need to act now to prevent needless deaths and disabling diseases which shorten lives and affect the most vulnerable. Whilst I understand people may find it difficult, we’ve got to embrace change for the good of the community and the planet. 

Councillor Darren Rodwell.

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