Eco 2021: More trees, more electric car chargers
'If we want to save our planet, we have to aim higher'
12 January, 2021 — By Cllr Oliver Cooper
As we build back better after Covid, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of either the long-term goals or what we need to do now to protect our environment.
As the head of policy for Tories for Climate Action, I was delighted that last year, the UK became the first country to commit to eliminate net CO2 emissions.
The UK’s track record gives every confidence we’ll get to net zero – between 2010 and 2019, the UK cut emissions by 28 per cent: a third more than any other G7 country. But it requires concerted action, locally as well as nationally.
First the good news. Figures released this Wednesday show that almost one in three cars sold in the UK is now electric: three times as many as just a year ago. This isn’t the future – this is the present.
Electricity is now mostly zero-carbon, with renewables nationally up eight-fold since 2010, so emissions can be almost completely eliminated by replacing petrol engines – and gas boilers – with electricity instead.
But this is being held back locally by a lack of infrastructure. Camden has half the number of chargers – and a fifth the number of rapid chargers – as Westminster. To catch up, we need an electric charger in every lamp-post, so cars can charge in every parking bay.
But it’s far from all-electric high-tech. Hampstead Heath’s trees absorb more CO2 per acre than the Amazon, so our precious green spaces – big and small – have to be protected as red lines. Camden should target a net increase in trees to combat both climate change and poor air quality.
When Camden Conservatives asked for this in 2018, Camden’s administration claimed that trees reduce air quality. I’m not sure they’ve ever seen a tree, but the evidence shows that a single tree can reduce air pollution around it by between 7 per cent and 24 per cent.
Recycling is also far too low in Camden and falling. At just 30 per cent, recycling in Camden is lower than it was a decade ago, when residents received bin collections at least twice a week, not once every other week.
Camden has gone backwards, and needs to use carrots to boost recycling, not just a stick of fewer bin collections and dirtier streets. Camden Conservatives tabled plans 15 months ago to make it easier to recycle at home, but despite us all spending a lot more time at home recently, Camden hasn’t yet acted.
The national commitment to net zero requires more ambition on electric cars, protecting our trees and green spaces, and boosting recycling. As the dictum goes: think global, act local. If we want to save our planet, we have to aim higher.