Building back better by tackling climate change

Tottenham & Wood Green Friends of the Earth on a climate demonstration
Credit: Quentin Given

By Quentin Given, Coordinator, Tottenham & Wood Green Friends of the Earth

The COVID-19 pandemic is – literally, with our masks – in our face, but the greater threat of climate breakdown has sadly not gone away, and the unprecedented heatwave in the Arctic is only more evidence of this.

At the same time, the pandemic has shown us that nations can take drastic action in the face of emergencies, ripping up spending rules and restricting many activities. People can change their habits – witness the explosion of cycling during lockdown.

So, as part of the wider Build Back Better campaign, our local Friends of the Earth group sought to lobby David Lammy MP to pursue a greener, fairer route to recovery. At the end of June, eleven of us met him on Zoom to express our concerns.

Half of the climate-wrecking CO2 emissions in Haringey come from energy use in our homes, many of which are old and energy inefficient.

The biggest job locally is to improve our homes. The government has announced some funding for this but we will need much more. This would create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally, with well over 1,000 workers required in Haringey.

We also need to reduce air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions from traffic – reducing space for motor vehicles and encouraging walking and cycling.

There is a real danger that we will go back to planet-wrecking business-as-usual, or even worse if people avoid public transport and drive in larger numbers. As David Lammy has emphasised, this is an equalities issue – COVID-19 hits poor people and those from ethnic minorities more.

Globally BAME people are suffering more from climate-related droughts, floods and hurricanes. We need everyone to be pushing the government to act faster.

David Lammy thanked us for the meeting, and responded quickly, writing to the Prime Minister the same day, urging a green and fair recovery. He said in the letter: “There can be no racial justice without climate justice.”

We have had success in persuading Haringey Council to adopt its climate action plan and move its billion plus pension funds away from fossil-fuel companies. We will continue to press the council and MPs for stronger climate action.

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