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Climate change and fossil fuels in Enfield

Polish students part of an international climate strike hold up signs at COP24, the United Nations conference for climate change negotiations in Katowice, Poland. Image: Monika Skolimowska/Getty Images (via Vox)

Better Streets members might have a variety reasons for wanting more walking, more cycling and less motor traffic on our streets – but for some of us, it’s concern about the effects of that traffic on the climate (in fact, road transport is now the UK sector that produces the most greenhouse gas). So we thought you might be interested in this guest blog post about divesting from fossil fuels to halt climate change, by Enfield resident Adam McGibbon.*

Katowice is a post-industrial city in Upper Silesia, Poland – the heart of coal country. Last month it played host to the UN annual climate change conference.

Much has been written about the talks, which failed to reach a meaningful outcome. I was there, having been given an ‘Observer’ pass by the UN. My low expectations for the conference were not even met.

I was shocked at the huge influence of fossil fuel companies in the talks – the very companies that have pushed us to the brink of climate breakdown. Just 100 fossil fuel companies have emitted 71% of all manmade greenhouse gases since 1988. Scandalously, we now know that fossil fuel companies knew about climate change as long as 50 years ago, and yet they hid the danger from the world and spent millions casting doubt on climate science and funding disinformation, all so they can continue to make money.

It’s scandalous that these people have a role in the UN process. US financier Michael Bloomberg has rightly said that promoting fossil fuel at a climate summit is like ‘promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.’ I was expecting fossil fuel companies to have influence in the talks, but the extent of their power shocked me. Coal, oil and gas companies participated in at least 31 side events during the conference. That includes events by Shell, Chevron, and the sponsorship of the whole conference by a huge Polish coal company. Official country delegations included former employees and lobbyists for fossil fuel companies. And this is just the influence we know about.

We need to break the power of the fossil fuel industry – and this begins at home.

Make no mistake – the reason why we’ve had more than 25 years of talks on climate change but little progress is because of the influence that the global fossil fuel industry wields in the UN process. They are aided and abetted by a small number of powerful rogue countries, in thrall to their domestic fossil fuel industries. Because UN negotiations require consensus, a small number of powerful countries can hold up all progress.

So what has this got to do with Enfield?

Simply put – to stop climate breakdown, to prevent millions of deaths from drought, flooding, food insecurity and forced migration, to build a clean energy future, we need to break the power of the fossil fuel industry. And this begins at home.

Freedom of Information requests reveal that Enfield Council’s pension fund, which council workers and teaching assistants in our borough pay into, has over £60 million invested in fossil fuel companies. (The Council disputes this, estimating their fossil fuel investments to be closer to £18 million). Across the UK, local councils invest £16 billion in the fossil fuel industry through their pension funds. This means that Enfield Council is directly funding the climate crisis.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has pledged to divest the City Hall pension fund and has urged boroughs to join him.

But all over the world, a mass movement is taking root, forcing respected institutions – universities, cities, government to divest their holdings from fossil fuels. So far, over $8 trillion US dollars have been divested from fossil fuels from over a thousand institutions, with more on the way every day. Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Waltham Forest councils have already pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has pledged to divest the City Hall pension fund and has urged boroughs to join him. Our three Enfield MPs, Joan Ryan, Bambos Charlambous and Kate Osamor have pledged to campaign for the Parliamentary Pension Fund to divest. Enfield Council should follow suit.

Divest Enfield is a growing group of local residents campaigning towards this. The best way to stop fossil fuel companies from holding back clean energy progress is to rob them of their power.

We know divestment campaigns work – in the 1970s and 80s, global divestment campaign helped to bring down the Apartheid regime in South Africa. And now, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was involved that campaign, has called for “an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for “an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.”

In Enfield, our campaign is growing. There is a growing financial imperative to divest, as well as a moral imperative. UNISON, one of the trade unions that represents Enfield Council’s staff on the Local Pension Board, has policy on campaigning to divest from fossil fuels. We know that people of all parties, people of faith and people of conscience support our campaign.

Either we destroy the global power of the fossil fuel industry by acting in every community, or we end up with a devastated future. This is one of the starkest choices ever facing humanity.

Divestment is one of the single most powerful acts that you can campaign for to create a better future.

Join us to make 2019 the year that Enfield Council starts being a leader, and stops funding climate change.

Adam McGibbon

*The views in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Better Streets.



Mayor launches new cycle plan for London – at Edmonton Green

From the left: Simon Munk, London Cycling Campaign; Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport; Nesil Caliskan, Leader of Enfield Council; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Clare Rogers, Better Streets for Enfield; Will Norman, Walking and Cycling Commissioner; Hal Haines, Better Streets for Enfield

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How’s it going on the Hertford Road?

The A105 scheme was not a one-off.  It was the first of several major routes in Enfield that will get the Cycle Enfield treatment, adding cycle infrastructure, remodelling junctions and making public realm improvements to miles and miles of A-road. Next up, and making good progress, is the Hertford Road or A1010 South route – from the North Circular up to Ponders End town centre. It will be followed by the A1010 North, from Ponders End to Waltham Cross.

When it’s finished, the Cycle Enfield scheme will have created a cycle network covering the A105, A1010 South, A1010 North, Enfield Town and an east-west link between Enfield Town and the A1010

Last month a group of us from Better Streets and Enfield Cycling Campaign got to ride the route with Richard Eason, head of Cycle Enfield. Here’s what we found. Continue reading

Planters arrive in the Fox Lane area

Yesterday the first planters for the Fox Lane area’s Quieter Neighbourhood were put in place, starting with The Mall and Selborne Road N14, as shown in the tweets below.

The Mall is part of the most heavily used rat run through the area, with thousands of cars going through every day – in our traffic counts we found more than one car every ten seconds at peak hours. So it was not a surprise to hear reports of a traffic jam this morning as rush hour traffic encountered the planters for the first time.

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Bowes ward petitions for a low traffic neighbourhood

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Could the Fox Lane area be a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’?

Last month Enfield Council announced that it will go ahead with its Quieter Neighbourhood plans for the Fox Lane area. So what are these plans, why does the area need them, and could they go beyond mere traffic calming to create a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’?

The Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood

Click on the image to see a larger version on Cycle Enfield’s website

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Police tackle Enfield “close passes”

This week the Metropolitan Police Cycle Safety Team came to Enfield to carry out a ‘close pass operation’ on The Bourne, Southgate. Their mission: to pull over and educate people who drive dangerously around people on bikes.

Good news for anyone who cycles in Southgate: the Met Cycle Safety Team on The Bourne N14. In the centre is team leader Rob; PCSO Antony is second from right

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Haselbury and Firs Lane neighbourhoods – last chance to have your say

These important Cycle Enfield consultations – on the Haselbury area in Edmonton, and a quietway through the Firs Lane area including Barrowell Green – are due to close on the 7 October. Please submit your comments now if you have any connection or interest in the area. You’ll find both forms via the consultation hub.

Proposed changes to the Haselbury Road shops area

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Enfield on World Car Free Day

You may or may not have noticed, but Saturday 22 September was World Car Free Day – and Enfield took part.

The London Play ad for street play on 22 September – using a photo taken on a play street in Enfield

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Hundreds ‘Tried-a-Bike’

Hundreds of people took two wheels (or sometimes three or four) on Sunday 2 September, in the try-a-bike area of Palmers Green Festival. Run by Enfield Cycling Campaign and Better Streets for the council’s Cycle Enfield scheme, the annual Try-a-Bike had its busiest year yet. By the end of the day close to 400 people of all ages had pedalled around Broomfield Park’s tennis courts.

A boy uses the handcycle – designed for wheelchair users but fun for anyone

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