Campaigners call for environmental stewardship to become duty of individual councillors

Camden Town Hall. Photograph: Camden Council

Campaigners are calling for individual members of Camden Council to be given greater responsibility for their stewardship of the environment.

The Town Hall proposed minor consitutional changes in November, with the aim of integrating its declaration of a climate emergency into all of its activities.

However, campaigners from Camden Extinction Rebellion (Camden XR) and Climate Emergency Camden (CEC) made calls for the council to go further this week, including by making clear that councillors’ formal roles and responsibilities should impose a “duty” to protect the environment.

In a joint statement, Dr Joanna Macrae of CEC and Helen Shariatmadari of Camden XR said:  “We are joining forces to applaud the fact that [the council] is ready to change its constitution, to acknowledge the emergency is real, not symbolic, for Camden Council.

“We want councillors to not just have an opportunity to protect and enhance the environment, but a duty, so we’ve suggested and written an additional general policy.

“We’d like to ask each of you in the room today to really reflect for a moment what the other steps are that should be taken right now to help avert catastrophic climate change.

“Ask yourselves if the constitution gives yourself the powers that you need to make the decisions that need to happen.”

The two campaigners made further calls for a newly added constitutional clause, committing the Town Hall to protect the environment, to be placed at the top of the council’s list of founding statements, rather than its planned position at the bottom.

Lib Dem councillor Flick Rea (Fortune Green) agreed with the campaigners that the clause should be bumped up, calling its current placement “derisory”.

CEC and Camden XR also urged the council to form a scrutiny committee focusing specifically on the climate and ecological matters, with Green Party leader Cllr Sian Berry (Green, Highgate) agreeing with the deputations as “rigorous and correct”.

Cllr Abdul Quadir (Lab, Haverstock), chair of the audit and corporate governance committee, said: “Let me reiterate the council commitment to responding to the climate emergency.

“Changes to the constitution are a useful first step, not the last one, in setting out the role of councillors in the council’s environmental stewardship.

“We are broadly in support of the three amendments put forward by the deputees.”

The committee chair also announced the beginning of a new citizen-led panel to review the council’s progress in addressing the emergency, and will be asking the Town Hall’s solicitor to make a further report on XR and CEC’s recommendations.