Croydon’s citizens’ assembly met for the first time last Thursday at Stanley Halls, South Norwood, to share their thoughts on the climate emergency in their borough.
The assembly has been put together by Croydon Council with the ambition to become London’s greenest borough.
The session came as the first meeting of the UK wide climate assembly took place on Saturday in Birmingham, with 110 participants.
Constituency support officer Louis Carserides, 29, who sat on the assembly, said: “People want to know more about what they can do in their community.
“They also said they wanted local businesses and bigger ones to take the lead so that they can feed into that.”
“The aim was to identify what climate change meant to people. The responses from the members were mostly about air pollution and how to reduce it.”
The assembly’s 72 members were selected by The Campaign Company, an independent research organisation.
“People on the assembly were approached outside of shops and in the street, not selected on a political basis,” said Mr Carserides.
“I’m wearing two hats here because I was approached like this and then I started approaching people to be on it as well,” he continued.
Criticism has been directed at the council over why environmental organisations were not consulted to be part of the assembly.
Mr Carserides said: “I think if you have professionals, they can captivate the attention and there is not much space for members of the public to speak.
“Here the goal was to give people an opportunity to talk, for the everyday people to have a say.”
Praising a diverse audience, amongst whom members of Extinction Rebellion, he continued: “Although there was some skepticism about the event at first, the conversation opened.
“There was actually a climate change denier on my table, and I did not try to change his mind.
“However, with him, in order to get going, we focused on practical things which can be done in the borough.
Councillor Tony Newman, Leader of the Council, said: “The launch of our citizens’ assembly is the next key step in our ambition as a council to work with local residents and ensure together we all play our part in addressing the climate crisis and building a truly sustainable Croydon for all.”
Further meetings are set to take place before the end of February at Braithwaite Hall and Shirley Hall.
The results of the findings will be communicated to the newly-formed Climate Crisis Commission, which will meet in March and will give its “recommendations to reduce the borough’s carbon footprint” to the council.
“Hopefully, people from the assembly and other green organisations will want to take part in the commission,” said Cllr Newman.
“We’ve got some some fantastic organisations in Croydon but the idea of the assembly is to get people who are not generally asked to give their opinion.” said Cllr Newman.
According to a study from the environmental company Friends of the Earth, Croydon’s performance on climate change is better than most, compared to other similar local authority areas.
In this borough, carbon emissions mainly come from housing, followed by transport and industrial and commercial activities.
Croydon council aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, and has already developed green schemes such as the installation of electric charging points, new bin collections, and substantial parking permits discounts for greener cars.
“This is a climate crisis but also a health crisis,” said Cllr Newman.
“We’re working with Sadiq Khan and his team at City Hall to make the city greener through the development of electric and hybrid buses and the expansion of the tramway.
“In the long run, it is about getting people out of their motor vehicles.”
So far in London, only the six boroughs of Brent, Camden, Croydon, Kingston, Lambeth, and Newham have decided to take part in a citizens’ assembly scheme to tackle climate change.