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Emissions, efficient homes, recycling - how green is Brent?

PUBLISHED: 14:18 21 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:44 24 October 2019

Brent took part in the Car Free Day blocking streets from traffic so families could have fun. Picture: Brent Council

Brent took part in the Car Free Day blocking streets from traffic so families could have fun. Picture: Brent Council

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Brent's environment chief has admitted there is "more we can and must do" when it comes to tacking climate change consequences in the borough.

Brent's clean air officers in Kilburn High Road warning motorists of idling fines. Picture: Brent CouncilBrent's clean air officers in Kilburn High Road warning motorists of idling fines. Picture: Brent Council

Brent Council launched its "climate emergency" declaration in July promising to aim for carbon neutrality by 2030.

But according to a survey led by Friends of the Earth it is only performing at an average level, and in some areas it is falling well below what is needed.

Only 3 per cent of Brent is woodland and there is a severe lack of trees, which are crucial to absorbing carbon from the air.

Fewer than half its homes, 41pc, are properly insulated so they cost households more to run, resulting in fuel poverty - or dangerously low temperatures - for some people.

"One of the things Brent tells us about is what a good sustainable Civic Centre they have," Brent Friends of the Earth chair Ian Saville said.

Traffic in Chamberlayne Road. Picture: KRRATraffic in Chamberlayne Road. Picture: KRRA

"It's got a lot of stuff in it that makes it energy efficient but it's surrounded by a concrete desert of high rises in an unnatural environment. We don't doubt Brent's sincerity in wanting to do it but it really needs to start upping its game and moving much more quickly."

The motion for Brent to declare a "climate and ecological emergency" was put forward by backbencher Cllr Roxanne Mashari and accepted by full council.

She said: "Sometimes it's assumed that climate change is a national issue but there is so much local councils can do.

"The climate and environment emergency will impact food prices, our local green spaces and habitats, as well as how resilient our road and housing infrastructure is."

Brent's environment chief Cllr Krupa Sheth said: "In declaring a climate emergency, we acknowledged that there is much more we can and must do.

Cllr Krupa Sheth sowing wildflowers in one of 22 'wildflower meadows'. Picture: Brent CouncilCllr Krupa Sheth sowing wildflowers in one of 22 'wildflower meadows'. Picture: Brent Council

"Since passing the motion, we have embarked on a climate review across the entire council to take stock of where our carbon emissions are coming from, what we are already doing to reduce these emissions, and what more needs to be done.

"We are also working on plans for how we can involve the community in a bold new climate strategy which will be announced in the new year."

Brent Council's buildings produce 56 per cent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than they did in 2010, with emissions falling from 8,193 tonnes in 2010/11 to 3,626t this year. The council's vehicles accounted for 732t of carbon emissions in 2018/19, a reduction of 27pc since 2010.

By contrast, Camden Council - which has yet to publish this year's data - is several times higher, with 21,000t of CO2 being produced by its buildings in 2017/18.

Cllr Sheth highlighted some of Brent's green initiatives, including the launch of its Bee Corridor in the summer, comprising 22 wildflower meadows.

Brent's parks and spaces recently won 11 awards at London in Bloom but she did not say if Brent's green spaces, such as the park in Carlton Vale, would be protected.

A number of initiatives have been launched to tackle the borough's air quality including "no idling" campaigns and increasing surcharges on diesel cars.

As part of its climate emergency the council has set up an Air Quality task group chaired by Cllr Thomas Stephens, a backbench Labour councillor for Sudbury.

Giving this paper a sneak preview of his report, to be pubslished in December, he said: "At the moment we're following EU limits on air quality. These are actually quite conservative. It's expected the task group will go further and set health organisation targets. Other councils are doing that. Camden has a whole strategy on those limits. We need to be bolder."

He said the council was also working on proposals around Wembley and Wembley Stadium in particular and was talking to TfL and the FA.

"It's a national stadium next to an amazing Tube network yet people still drive in and they still drive through and they park in five or six big Quintain parking stations and also park illegally," he said.

"We're looking to go down quite heavily on that and see what the council can do about non-resident parking in that area. It annoys people living in Brent and it's people who should know better. It's people who should be able to take the Tube in."

He said he was unable to give firm recommendations but the report would go before cabinet in December and full countil in the new year.

Cllr Sheth added that encouraging people to reduce, resuse and recycle their waste "is a big challenge": 37pc of Brent's household waste, according to Friends of the Earth analysis of government data, is reused, recycled, or composted - more than neighbouring Camden (30pc) and Westminster (19pc) but less than Harrow (41pc). Barnet (37pc) matches Brent.

"We are doing our best to make recycling as easy as possible for residents," she said, "and have education teams from Veolia visiting households on a daily basis, to talk to residents about the importance of thinking about what they are throwing away.

"However, we need support at a national level and hope that the recently announced Environment Bill signals a concerted effort to introduce bold proposals to shift to a circular economy."

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